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The purposes of this quantitative study were to explore the effects that classmate photographs have on the level of online community and connectedness experienced by online graduate students and by students who take only online-only courses vs. those who have an on-campus presence. Control and treatment groups were used to compare the levels of community and connectedness between graduate students who repeatedly viewed photographs of their online classmates and graduate students who saw no photographs of their online classmates.
Students in 18 online graduate courses at one central U.S. university were surveyed to determine if a relationships existed between repeatedly viewing classmate photographs and online community and connectedness. Rovai’s Classroom Community Scale (CCS) (2002b) and the Online Community and Connectedness Survey (OCCS) (Glisan, 2006), which was developed for this study, were used concurrently. The CCS provided a measure of online community and connectedness and the OCCS added insights through a collection of student opinions.
Study results included detailed descriptive data to provide an overview of student opinions and a series of ANOVAs comparing CCS scores according to photos, oncampus presence, online-only presence, age, gender, and length of experience with online classes. The measured community and connectedness did not show significant differences in community and connectedness due to the viewing of classmate photos nor due to on-campus vs. online-only student presence. However, results suggested that students in the treatment classes held the opinion that they had a higher level of community and connectedness. The opinions that were gathered using the OCCS also showed that the majority of subjects felt they had more community and connectedness in face-to-face classes than in online classes.
Adviser: Allen L. Steckelberg