Effects of Online Courses in STEM on Institutional Integration
Improving the instructional curriculum is a top priority for online instructors. Stakeholders of online science education initiatives firmly agree that additional research is needed to address many issues facing the proliferation of online science courses in the United States. To that end, aggressive steps must be continually taken to develop quality educational methods designed to promote both academic and social growth. Previous research has demonstrated that students who report a higher degree of university involvement and peer interaction also report a higher level of satisfaction with the academic experience. The current study analyzed the perceptions of academic and social integration of undergraduates enrolled in online and traditional science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses using the Institutional Integration Scale (IIS). The Institutional Integration Scale was devised to measure peer-group interaction and student-faculty interaction during a college semester and is based on the seminal work by Tinto that focused on student persistence and commitment to degree attainment. The IIS consists of five subscales: peer-group interactions, interactions with faculty, institutional and goal commitments, academic and intellectual development, and faculty concern for student development and teaching. Both the Peer-group Interactions Subscale and Interactions with faculty Subscales demonstrated significant, yet direct negative effects suggesting that online students perceived reduced interaction between fellow classmates and the instructor during their online course. Future research and teaching strategies designed to promote student interaction in the online environment are recommended in the article.
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