Distance Learning Environments at One Emerging Research Institution in Texas: The Relationship between Instructor Support, Student Interaction and Collaboration, and Learning



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This study involved surveying enrolled students and teaching faculty in online or distance education courses at one emerging research institution in Texas. As research on the collaborative nature of the online environment, instructor support, and overall student satisfaction in the online class, this study should allow for a better understanding of how each item impacts student learning in the online classroom.
There seems to be a lack of relevant research that looks at student-to-student interaction, collaboration, and communication as it affects learning, and also compares these factors with instructor support and satisfaction in the online environment. Each interaction cannot be studied in a vacuum. This research study looks at the various interactions discussed as a single unit, because they all impact student learning and satisfaction in the online environment the various interactions were studied together. The results of this study show a change in the long-held belief that student interaction and collaboration, the social aspect of online learning, is as important to students as reported. Student respondents to this study indicated that being more autonomous for their learning and seeing personal relevance to the subject matter was more important to them than the social nature of the online classroom. Students also indicated that an increase in faculty support would positively impact both student learning and student satisfaction. The reverse was true for faculty respondents: faculty believed that strong student collaboration and interaction would have a positive impact on overall student learning and satisfaction.