Student-to-Student Interaction Revisited: A Case Study of Working Adult Business Students in Online Courses

Kellogg, Deborah L. and Smith, Marlene A.
Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, Vol. 7 Issue 2, pp. 433-456

Faculty teaching in online environments are universally encouraged to incorporate a variety of student-to-student learning activities into their courses. Although there is a body of both theoretical and empirical work supporting this, adult professional students participating in an online MBA program at an urban business school reported being at best indifferent and often negative regarding these learning activities. A case study was performed to explore how pervasive this attitude was and the possible reasons for it. Through various sources of data and exploration, we discovered that common interactive modalities are not associated with either perceived learning or satisfaction. A content analysis of a data analysis course revealed that 64.5% of responses recalled student-to-student interactivities when responding to a “learned least from” query. We identified three possible reasons for these negative responses: time inefficiency, interaction dysfunction, and flexibility intrusion. We conclude that, although some working professional students probably do learn from student-to-student interactivity, the costs incurred may be too great. If working adult students present a different profile than those students typically represented in academic research and thus have different needs and expectations, we may need to rethink the design of online education delivered to them.