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H809 – Reflecting on Hiltz/Meinke’s paper (A1.5)

February 7, 2011

Here is the second part of the activity, the reflection and below are the reflective questions we are asked to consider.

  1. What counts as evidence in this work?
  2. How do the two explicit research questions relate to the design of the research?
  3. In what ways is the wider literature used in the paper?
  4. What views of education and learning underpin the research?

Hmmm, good questions – next questions 😉 I guess answering this questions really require some reflection, some deep reflection.

Ok, what counts as evidence? Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion (Wikipedia, 2011). I would say that the results provided in the tables count as evidence. Data collection rested primarily on pre- and post course questionnaires. Calculated with statistical means they provide objective data. However, the Exhibit 1 or the quotes from students can count as evidence as well, although this evidence is more subjective. Hence, results and data achieved from qualitative or quantitative research can be used as evidence.

How do the two explicit research questions relate to the design of the research?

This question is quite tricky. If I understand the question right this questions asks us if the research they conducted answered the research question 😕 Not sure if I simply talk, or better to say write, nonsense.  Ok, let’s start with the two research questions.

  1. Is the Virtual Classroom a viable option for educational delivery? (On the whole, are outcomes at least as good as those for traditional face-to-face courses?)
    They wanted to test whether it si possible to use computer-mediated communication (CMC) systems to improve access to and effectiveness of post-secondary delivery.
  2. What variables are associated with especially good and especially poor outcomes in this new teaching and learning environment?
    They wanted to explore whether students characteristics, implementation techniques and settings influence outcomes.

Table 1 provides  objective behavioural data based on midterm examination grades and the final course assignment. They answer part of research question 1 that the outcomes from the VC are at least as good as those for traditional face-to-face courses? If the VC is a viable option for educational delivery is not so readily answered, although both authors claim that the overall outcomes were favourable and that both access to and quality of the educational experience were better than those in traditional classrooms.

Regarding the second research question about which variable are associated with good or bad outcomes is even in my opinion not really undermined by objective data. Both authors claim that student characteristics have a great influence on outcomes and that those students with poor academic skills and self-discipline, which are cognitively immature are likely to experience less favourable outcomes in this new teaching and learning environment, contrary to their more determined and cognitively mature peers. However, this is not visible in the exam grades. Hiltz and Meinke also claim that their findings are course-dependent and depend also on the implementation environments. They also conclude that students in advanced courses, who are more experienced, were more likely to come with better develop study skills and thus may achieve better results.

In what ways is the wider literature used in the paper?

Hiltz and Meinke (1989) use the wider literature to underpin their perspectives and results. They use e.g. Bouton and Garth 1983, Whipple 1987 to reinforce their own views of education and learning. Bouton et al. states that ‘knowledge is not delivered to students, instead it emerges as active dialogue among those who seek to understand and apply concepts and techniques’. The authors also use Harasim’s (1987) view that CMC facilitates communication and that the asynchronous communication enables all students to deal actively, at their own pace, with the concepts, skills and ideas in a course, to undermine their concept of independent, active learning. However, the authors also use the wider literature to confirm the limitations and obstacles they observed during the research. Hiltz and Meinke use e.g. McCreary and Van Duren 1987, Perry 1970 to confirm that participation depends on making students comfortable with the new medium, but it is also related to cognitive maturity and that new types of skills are required to teach in this new way (Hiltz 1988b). Hence the wider literature is used to back up their own research.

What views of education and learning underpin the research?

Collaborative learning is one of the concepts favoured in the Virtual Classroom (VC). Students are required to take ownership of their learning to learn independently, individually or in collaboration with others. The role of the teacher/instructor changes, s/he is not longer the expert who imparts knowledge. The VC assumes a more student-centred instead of teacher-centred learning.


Hiltz, S.R. and Meinke, R. (1989) ‘Teaching sociology in a virtual classroom’, Teaching Sociology, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 431–46.

Wikipedia (2011) Evidence [online] (accessed 06.02.2011)

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