Student perceptions of computer-mediated communication tools in online learning: Helpfulness and effects on teaching, social, and cognitive presence
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AbstractDistance learning continues to be used in the context of teacher training in special education. Distance learning is experienced through computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools via the Internet, or online learning. Little research has been done to evaluate student perceptions of the helpfulness of CMC tools in online learning. This quantitative study utilizes an online survey of graduate and certification teachers in training for special education. The survey evaluates student perceptions of CMC tool helpfulness, social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence. Descriptive and inferential statistical analyses are used to evaluate mean differences for different combinations of CMC tool usage and for possible relationships between tool helpfulness and social or teaching presence. Additional demographic variables of gender, level of study, registration status, concentration of study, prior online courses taken and years of teaching experience are also evaluated for possible relationships with social, teaching, and cognitive presence. Results suggest that participants were comfortable with using CMC tools and perceived e-mail, discussion forums, news forums, web-conferencing, and text chat as helpful tools for social and teaching presence communications. Participants using discussion forums perceived higher teaching and cognitive presence than those using only web-conferencing. Participants using both discussion forums and web-conferencing perceived higher cognitive presence than those using only web-conferencing. Results of standard multiple regressions indicated that 31% of the variance in teaching presence (24% of variance in social presence) was accounted for by knowing helpfulness scores on e-mail, discussion forums, and news forums. Discussion forums were most helpful for promoting teaching presence. E-mail was most helpful for promoting social presence. There were no statistically significant mean differences among groups based on gender, level of study, registration status, concentration of study, or years of teaching experience. Results suggest that perceptions of teaching and cognitive presence may decline as the number of online courses taken increases.