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Article of Volume 7, Issue 3, September 2012

Online class size, note reading, note writing and collaborative discourse

Authors: Mingzhu Qiu, Jim Hewitt, Clare Brett

Abstract: Researchers have long recognized class size as affecting students’ performance in face-to-face contexts. However, few studies have examined the effects of class size on exact reading and writing loads in online graduate-level courses. This mixed-methods study examined relationships among class size, note reading, note writing, and collaborative discourse by analyzing tracking logs from 25 graduate-level online courses (25 instructors and 341 students) and interviews with 10 instructors and 12 graduate students. The quantitative and qualitative data analyses were designed to complement each other. The findings from this study point to class size as a major factor affecting note reading and writing loads in online graduate-level courses. Class size was found positively correlated with total number of notes students and instructors read and wrote, but negatively correlated with the percentage of notes students read, their note size and note grade level score. In larger classes, participants were more likely to experience information overload and students were more selective in reading notes. The data also suggest that the overload effects of large classes can be minimized by dividing students into small groups for discussion purposes. Interviewees felt that the use of small groups in large classes benefited their collaborative discussions. Findings suggested 13 to 15 as an optimal class size. The paper concludes with a list of pedagogical recommendations and suggestions for new multimedia software features to enhance collaborative learning in online classes.

Keywords: Class size, Note reading, Notewriting, Collaborative discourse, Mixedmethods study

Citation: Qiu, M., Hewitt, J., & Brett, C. (2012) Online class size, note reading, note writing and collaborative discourse. ijcscl 7 (3), pp. 423-442

DOI: 10.1007/s11412-012-9151-2

Preprint: Acrobat-PDF qiu_hewitt_brett_7_3.pdf

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