Online technical communication: Pedagogy, instructional design, and student satisfaction in Internet-based distance education



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Texas Tech University


In response to the growing popularity of internet-based instruction in technical and professional communication, this dissertation is the first study to offer a comprehensive examination of pedagogical designs for such instruction. To answer the study's primary research question—How should program directors and instructors design curricula and employ technologies to best deliver technical communication courses and their associated literacies online?—two different pedagogical designs (one presentational, the other interactive) are compared in the study. The presentational design is most similar to traditional paper-based correspondence courses: materials are provided online; students work independently and at their own pace; and student/teacher interactions are restricted to student-initiated questions and teacher feedback on assignments. The interactive design employs three additional communication features—a bulletin board, a chat room, and an internet-based collaborative writing application—in the course's technology mix. Through these technologies, students interact with the instructor on a regular basis, comparable to the interactions onsite students have with their writing instructors. From these two designs, data was gathered on the formative and summative assessment opportunities each design afforded, on student grades as a result of the opportunities, on student literacy demonstration and achievement, and, finally, on student satisfaction with each design. This data was then analyzed to determine which design was most effective. The results of this study did not definitively demonstrate that one design was superior to the other, although the interactive design did appear to promote increased literacy achievement. In fact, both designs seem to have their advantages, depending on the course's literacy goals, students' needs, and institutional constraints, such as class size and instructional load. Because neither pedagogical design in this study was clearly better than the other, the study suggests that a variety of effective designs are not only possible but desirable. Based on these findings, the study recommends an online instructional continuum ranging from presentational to interactive designs. Using this continuum as a starting point for planning a distance course, instructors can locate their own pedagogical and student needs and create an individualized design that best delivers instruction to satisfy these needs.



Teaching -- Aids and devices, Internet in education, Instructional systems, Computer-assisted instruction