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24 p.

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Educational Technology Research and Development

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While literature suggests that college students may be less reluctant to seek help in online rather than traditional courses, little is known about how online instructors give help in ways that lead to increased student help seeking and academic success. In this study, we used theories and research on learning assistance and scaffolding, teacher immediacy, social presence, and academic help seeking to explore through a cross-case study design how three online instructors differed in their use of cognitive and social supports and how those differences related to student perceptions of support, help seeking, and performance. Primary data sources included all course postings by the instructors, interviews with the instructors, observational field notes on course discussions, student interviews, and final student grades. Archived course documents and student discussion postings were secondary data sources. Data analysis revealed that while all instructors provided cognitive and social support, they varied in their level of questioning, use of direct instruction, support for task structuring, and attention to group dynamics. This variation in teaching presence related to differences across the courses in student perceptions of support, student help seeking in course discussions, and final course grades. Implications for online teaching and suggestions for further research are offered.


Accepted version. Educational Technology Research and Development, Vol. 57, No. 2 (April 2009): 169-192. DOI. © 2009 Springer. Used with permission.

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