DBA ProgramTake-home Article CritiqueJanuary 2018 Meaningful Learning from Sustained Online Communication: A Reflection with a Group of AdultsInitial assessmentImportance of the studyThe learning process changed in the past three decades especially for higher education. From delivering direct instruction and face-to-face to using technology to expand distance education, to the acknowledgment of online communication. In addition, critical thinking skills are viewed vital for learning in the educational process.By doing literature research from the oldest article used by the researchers (the year 1992) until the year of publishing the article (the year 2013) identified more than a thousand experimental studies of online learning. Several learning theories are particularly relevant to the advantages and disadvantages of online interactions and many others related to the models used.

However, very limited research examined the challenges of analyzing and assessing higher education learning in online discussion boards. The problem statements agreed with the title and seemed to be of scientific significance. The problem was clearly visible to the reader in the same field, and it did not require several readings to establish why the researchers felt this study needed to be done. PurposeThis research tested hypotheses about “how to evaluate students learning through the examination of the knowledge constructed by them to ensure that learning is occurring?”The purpose was clearly and concisely stated and agreed with the title. However, the researchers did not mention if they took approval for the study from any ethical board, nor mention if a consent is required or taken from participants. ObjectivesSpecifically, the study sought to evaluate a group of high education students from the perspective of online learning using an online social tool.

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The authors’ objective was answerable. Although the authors did not depict the null hypothesis in the article, we can infer it from the introduction and the objective. This hypothesis was testable and served to help explain the problem.Review of LiteratureThe authors cited good review of literature; in addition, several appropriate references were used in the introduction section to indicate the importance of the research. These statements contributed to the overall understanding of the subject and to the reasoning for establishing the problem statement. The authors clearly point out the gaps in the existing learning online discussion board.  Quality of the journalThere is no information that this article published in peer review journal.  The article is a chapter in a book (chapter 15; pages 208-216).

The book title is Information Systems Applications in the Arab Education Sector. The editor is Fayez Ahmed Albdri who is one of the researchers in this article. The book is published by www.igi-globla.com. According to Thomson Reuters Citation Index, IGI Global considered as one of the “leading academic publishers of books, journals, encyclopedias, teaching cases, proceedings, and databases.

” However, publishing this article in a peer-reviewed information technology journal or educational journal would make totally different consideration and evaluation of the article.Conflict of interest & authors qualificationsThere was no conflict of interest which may bias the presentation or interpretation of results. The study was not sponsored by an organization that may influence the design or results. Although there is no information about the authors in the article, further search for the researchers resulted that they looked experts in their field and qualified to run such study.

Assessment of the study methodsThis is a case study following qualitative research methods developed by Yin in 1994 using participant-observation. When qualitative case study applied correctly, it becomes a good method for researchers to explore phenomenon within the context, evaluate programs, and develop interventions. A case study was chosen by the researchers because the case was evaluating the discussion threads by graduate students, but the case could not be considered without the context, the online discussion boards, and more specifically the graduate students and classroom settings. In the research settings, the critical thinking was measured and utilized.

The researchers were successful to minimize common pitfalls associated with case study related to narrowing the question which leads to many objectives.Since it is a case study there is no control group design. No random assignment was used in assigning participants which affect the generalizability of the results. In addition, drawing strong cause/effect from case studies is very difficult. In summary, there are three major disadvantages of conducting a case study.

The first, case study is based on the experience of one individual. A second disadvantage of these studies is that they cannot use to test for valid statistical association (no comparison group). Finally, case serious studies can merely raise the question of an association.The methods used to gather the data for this article were clearly explained. The data gathering procedures were explained. The instruments, inclusion and exclusion criteria, and development were not well explained, however, the reliability coefficients were not given.

The population used was not mentioned. No clear information about the participants like race, sex, and age. No discussion of the statistical techniques was given in this particular section. The sample size of the participants was not mentioned in the study. Reliability and validity issues were not addressed.

The internal validity of the design is low with threats that need to be addressed.  Instrument and maturation are important threats in this study. Regression to the mean, i.e. the tendency of extreme measures to move to the mean when measured a second time, could at least explain some of the effects.

Another threat to the internal validity of the study is the possibility of collector bias. The validity of the measurement in the case study is still questionable. In general, selection of case study report is acceptable for this kind of study.

However, the authors must put more efforts in the study design to answer the study question.Assessment of the findings and discussionsThe authors did not begin by relating their findings back to the overall purpose of the study. The study is lacking statistical tests. The discussion section did not address the most important study limitations. Although the authors explained the four categories related to cognitive processes: observation, insight, deliberations and learning from others, they did not mention how they can reduce confounders.

Like all questionnaires, the way the instrument is administered can influence the final score. For instance, if the participant is asked to answer the questions and she/he knows that the answer will be included in the study, the participant might elicit a different response compared to not aware about the study (Hawthorne effect).There is no specific section for the result. The findings were well organized, sectioned, and reported objectively. Examples of the discussion were mentioned and explained thoroughly.

The diagram and table were well organized. Assessment of the summary, and conclusion SummaryThere was brief summary given before the conclusion section.Discussion and ConclusionsConclusions and implications were formulated with the knowledge that further studies are required to generalize the results. The conclusions were based on the findings and logically stated. The preliminary nature of the study does not provide conclusions that can be generalized into recommendations for other groups. Recommendations”The model still requires further development and validation and specifically on how we can determine if students are learning from each other.” The recommendations were limited to a call for additional research in the area. These are good recommendations.

Based on the type of the study, it is questionable to generalize the findings beyond this group.List of ReferencesThe format used for listing references was consistent and all references given were cited in the article. Two of the literature cited were from conferences which are not a reliable resource. The other references are from well-respected peer-reviewed journals and respected textbooks. The evidence cited in the article is from variety of sources with different publication years. However, the recent reference is published in 2005.The researchers added additional reading and key terms and definitions which is common practice for a chapter in a textbook.

Overall CritiqueThis was a good research project, particularly for a case study article. For the most part, it was well written and well organized. The study found some strengths of using qualitative methods for evaluating higher education students learning using online social tools.I would advise the editor to accept the study with revision. While the study has merit, the methods need to be re-evaluated.

  The sample size detailed statistical procedures must be mentioned. After correcting these important steps, we will have a very interesting study with a significant contribution to the field of andragogy.   


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