An investigation into student engagement with an online collaboration platform (Edmodo) in a high school environmental science course

Olson, Peter G.
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University of Delaware
The purpose of this investigation was to examine student engagement with the online collaboration platform (Edmodo) by analyzing the quality and quantity of their online posts while assessing their performance and attitudes toward its use within an introductory high school Environmental Science class as they participated in two webquests. Students from one College Preparatory class consisting of mixed level abilities and consisting primarily of 9 th and 10th graders participated in this investigation. All students participated in teacher provided instructional interventions between the first and last webquests while completing the same webquests and unit exams. Data sources included: student online communication, pre - post data from an attitude survey and student performance on final unit exams. Analysis of the data consisted of an examination of the quality and quantity of student communication (online posts) during the completion of these units. I used three existing analytical frameworks (rubrics) to analyze the quality and quantity of the student online posts. Noting that none of them accounted for some student posts noted in this study, I adapted Uzuner's rubric (2007) by adding three additional indicators. The new indicators were: Content Information Resources for Computer Links, Content Information Resources for Pasting of Pictures and New Information, and Organizing. The main conclusions derived from this investigation were: 1. Student online posts became more diverse as the study progressed, but stayed relatively stable across the two webquests. 2. The Educationally Valuable Talk / Educationally Less Valuable Talk (EVT/ELVT) and the Evaluating Students' Online Discussions (EOD) Rubrics were found to be effective for analysis of student online posts. The EOD rubric was the easiest and most practical for teacher use. 3. Despite conducting the study at the end of the school year, the students maintained interest and engagement during the online learning platform exercise and viewed its use in a positive manner. 4. Higher unit exam scores, even when broken down into multiple choice and essay components, showed a positive correlation with groups who posted most often and those groups with the greatest variety of posts. This investigation suggests that the use of online collaboration platforms could potentially be useful to classroom teachers not just as a motivator, but also to help close the learning gap for special needs students. Edmodo appeared to provide a flexible and user-friendly environment that encourages student learning and engagement in this study, which was limited to one science class. Based on my findings, I recommend further experimentation with Edmodo. The experience gained in implementing and evaluating this online collaborative tool will enable me to expand its use to other courses and support other teachers in my school/district by adapting it to their needs.