Assessing Teaching Presence on Computer Conferences - System Dynamics

System Dynamics Model



Teaching Presence

Content Analysis

Theoretical Framework


Unit of Analysis

System Dynamic Model





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When thinking about qualitative research methodology for education, the choice would likely be case study, observation, interview, focus on particular individual, program, or event (Lee, Driscoll, & Nelson, 2007). Some scholars argued that online discussion is an ongoing matter. Any session would have lasted a period, e.g., fifty minutes, two hours, etc. Furthermore, for asynchronous online discussion, a discussion might proceed a quarter or a semester. Therefore, time is a factor that should not be neglected when examining teaching presence, a dynamic behavior, in computer conference (Saba, 2007). The weakness of the case study method prevents a reliable solution; interviews lead to a descriptive model that is too complex for the human mind to solve reliably (Forrester, 1991).


“System dynamics uses concepts drawn from the field of feedback control to organize available information into computer simulation models. . . (to have) insights into behavior of social systems.” (Forrester, 1991) As a pioneer researchers of using system dynamic as a method for researching topics in higher education, Saba and Shearer (1994) “assumed a systemic and dynamic relationship between dialogue and structure, and suggested how a learner and a teacher . . . could control the level of transactional distance in a purposeful instructional selling.” They collected data through discourse analysis then import the data in the form of number indicating the frequency of each category to STELLA, a simulation software for system dynamics. By injecting system dynamics model into educational research, researchers could identify a pattern of teaching presence that has been a problem and increase the possibility of eliminate the problem. Using patterns of teaching presence, researches could also understand how new insights, knowledge, perspectives result from instructional scaffolding (Zhu, 2006).