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Join us for the 8th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium, April 22-24, 2015 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, Dallas, TX
CFP will open October 1, 2014

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Watch the Keynote Address
Reclaim Learning: A Domain of One's Own
Keynoter Jim Groom, University of Mary Washington, shares innovations that support the ethos of open environments for online teaching and learning. 

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Save the Dates

22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Effects of Belongingness and Synchronicity on Face-to-face and Online Cooperative Learning

Andrew Saltarelli (Stanford University, USA)
Additional Authors
Cary Roseth, PhD (Michigan State University, USA)
Session Information
April 10, 2014 - 3:30pm
Evidence-based Learning
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Lone Star C4
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 7
Virtual Session
Best in Track

Theory and research emphasize the role of face-to-face (FTF), synchronous interaction and belongingness between students, but little is known about its effects in computer-mediated settings.

Extended Abstract

Belongingness between students promotes motivation and achievement in face-to-face (FTF) settings, but little is known about its effects in online, computer-mediated settings. This study addresses these issues by testing whether belongingness has additive or buffering effects on constructive controversy, a cooperative learning procedure designed to create intellectual conflict among students. One hundred seventy-one undergraduates were randomly assigned to a 3 (initial belongingness: acceptance, mild rejection, control) x 3 (synchronicity: FTF, synchronous online, asynchronous online) experimental-control design. Findings suggest that belongingness and synchronicity have additive effects on online cooperative learning, and that acceptance buffers but does not offset the negative effects of asynchronous communication.

Proposal Description

Theory and research indicate that satisfying belongingness needs promotes motivation and achievement in face-to-face (FTF) settings (e.g., Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Deci & Ryan, 2000). It remains unclear, however, whether these effects generalize to online educational settings where social interaction depends on computer-mediated communication (CMC). Previous research (see e.g., Roseth, Saltarelli, & Glass, 2011) suggests that CMC may thwart students' sense of belongingness and, so doing, undermine motivation and achievement. This study addresses this issue by testing whether satisfying belongingness needs prior to learning has additive or buffering effects on FTF and CMC versions of constructive controversy, a cooperative learning procedure involving intellectual conflict among students (Johnson & Johnson, 2009).

As the number of online course offerings continues to soar (Allen & Seaman, 2010), it is important to understand the ways in which online communication technologies moderate the processes underlying pedagogies found to be empirically efficacious in FTF settings. By examining these mechanisms (e.g., belongingness, motivation), this study moves beyond the online versus face-to-face (FTF) instruction debate to examining specific ways in which to best integrate pedagogy and technology (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

MANOVA results confirm previous findings that asynchronous CMC may hinder processes (e.g., belongingness, motivation, cooperative perceptions) integral to cooperative learning. Results also suggest that meeting belongingness needs prior to starting an online cooperative learning activity (in both FTF and CMC settings) leads to increased motivation, cooperative perceptions, and achievement. In addition, meeting belongingness needs ameliorated but did not completely offset the negative effects of asynchronous communication.

For practice, these findings - in addition to extant theory and research - strongly suggest that educators should consider ways in which to meet students' belongingness needs, especially prior to engaging in cooperative learning activities. Additionally, meeting belongingness needs may be one way to ameliorate negative outcomes in asynchronous online learning contexts.

During this session, key methods and results of this study will be quickly disseminated. In addition, participants will participate in an actual, abbreviated constructive controversy activity. If possible, those with computers will complete the activity online using our customized website while others will do it face-to-face. At the conclusion, both groups will debrief and compare and contrast their experiences using different communication media. Finally, I will share quick, lightweight activities that are proved to meet students' belongingness needs (see e.g., Walton et al., 2012).

Session Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will understand more clearly the need for theory-based and experimental-control and studies in online learning. Specifically, participants will learn that many educational technology studies lack generalizability because they atheoretical or too tool-focused. Thus, participants will better understand how extant educational and social psychological theory can be leveraged to reveal the mechanisms most affected by online technologies.
  • Participants will learn to conduct online cooperative learning activities. Specifically, they will learn to facilitate constructive controversies, a five-step cooperative learning procedure involving intellectual conflict among students (Johnson & Johnson, 2009).
  • Participants will learn to use a website that can facilitate online asynchronous cooperative learning activities.
  • Participants will learn quick and easy, research-based techniques for increasing belongingness between students.
Lead Presenter

Dr. Andrew Saltarelli is an instructional designer for the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning. Working with faculty from all disciplines, he provides expertise in online course development and design. Having served as an in-person and online university instructor, Saltarelli has extensive experience in learner-based course design and the integration of digital technologies.

In his research, Andrew seeks to systematically investigate the intersection of social psychology and instructional technologies. Specifically, he seeks to understand how instructional technologies differentially and dynamically interact with the social psychological processes underlying teaching and learning. His main research interests involve examining the ways in which student-to-student relationships and computer-mediated communication affect motivation and achievement in online cooperative learning.

Cary Roseth is an associate professor of educational psychology and co-director of the educational psychology and educational technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. His research focuses on how the presence of others – especially peers – affects academic achievement, motivation, and social behaviors. He is also associate editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology and chair of the cooperative learning special interest group for the American Education Research Association.