This study was an examination of student online activity and mathematical beliefs and attitudes while learning mathematics online. One purpose was to study the actual use and perceived effectiveness of online learning activities when learning mathematics. These online learning activities included both synchronous and asynchronous activities. The main focus was to study the impact of such interactions on high school student mathematical beliefs, perceptions, and course achievement when the sole learning environment takes place online.
Online synchronous activities are those that occur in real time such as web-conferencing and chat rooms, whereas asynchronous activities, not restricted by time, include online content, threaded discussion board, and e-mail. To create a baseline for comparison, the actual usage data of synchronous and asynchronous activities were collected and measured to determine which mode of instruction had the greatest impact on student learning.
The researcher developed a self-reported questionnaire that included beliefs about learning mathematics and perceived effectiveness of the online content. Students were questioned about the relevance of e-mail dialogue, threaded discussion boards, and live web-based instruction. The sample included high school students attending a California virtual school who were enrolled in algebra, pre-algebra, and geometry courses.
An in-depth analysis included observations of the interactions that occurred during synchronous and asynchronous activities. Descriptive statistics summarized student activity, perceptions, beliefs and course achievement. Multiple regressions, including a mixed hierarchical step-wise algorithm, were performed to reveal significant predictors of overall course achievement and overall learning perception associated with learning mathematics online. Finally, multiple linear path analyses were used to identify the factors, direct and indirect, that influence not only student perception but also actual achievement in the mathematics course.
Overall, students favored online interactions as a modality for learning mathematics. Algebra students favored the benefits of live online synchronous activities when learning mathematics, whereas geometry students favored the freedom of asynchronous online interaction. The major predictors for overall course achievement included the time spent interacting with the online content and the number of synchronous sessions attended. Finally, throughout three courses, the differences in course achievement between male and female students were not statistically significant.