Processes and strategies used by Health Sciences Center faculty to incorporate interaction, communication, and community building in online courses



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The introduction of online education has increased access to higher education. This has been illustrated through the efforts of the Sloan Consortium, where they have shown substantial growth from 2003 to the time of writing. Along with the growth in the enrollment numbers of students enrolled in online courses, the annual growth rate of online enrollments has far exceeded the annual growth rate of total enrollments. However, a significant concern for higher education institutions is the lower retention and higher dropout rates in online courses. The low retention rate and high dropout rate can be attributed to the lack of student satisfaction in the design and delivery of the online courses. Several studies have shown that student satisfaction and retention rates in online courses were lower than in face-to-face courses. Because of this, it may be time to look at the process that online courses go through during the development, delivery, and maintenance procedures. This qualitative study sought to explore the processes and strategies used by Higher Education faculty when designing and creating online courses, which included interaction, communication, and a social presence. This study focused on the faculty's approach when creating online courses as well as the faculty perceptions of interaction and communication within an online course. This study used a collective case study design to examine the quality assurance processes that lead to quality online courses. Participants were full-time faculty members within the School of Nursing at a multi-campus institution based in a large metropolitan community located in the northwestern portion of Texas. The study results indicated that faculty recognize the importance of interaction, communication, and community building in an online course. The results also showed that faculty know best practices for incorporating interaction and communication in online courses. However, the faculty seem to have differentiated views of the best practices for including community building into online courses. The results of the study suggest several implications and recommendations for higher education practice. Implications include higher education faculty must ensure there are multiple methods for interacting and communicating in online courses. Faculty must emphasize instructor presence and communicate with their students utilizing a variety of tools, and the interpretation and implementation of community building should be consistent in online courses. The recommendations to the practice of higher education based on this study's findings include providing a variety of ways for students to communicate within online courses, faculty creating an online presence in their online courses is critical, faculty need to standardize best practices for providing community building on online courses. Recommendation for future research includes a qualitative study examining faculty's perceptions and practices on interaction, communication, and community building that encompasses several schools at an institution. A qualitative study to explore faculty perceptions and practices on interaction, communication, and community building at multiple community colleges.



Distance Education, Interaction, Communication, Community Building