The study was conducted in three courses, Psychology 150 (PSY-150), Business 110 (BUS-110), and Computer and Information Science 110 (CIS-110) at Wake Technical Community College, a large community college located in North Carolina. Within each course, students were assigned to either an intervention or comparison course section (PSY-150: 16 intervention sections and 20 comparison sections; BUS-110: eight intervention sections and nine comparison sections; and CIS-110: six intervention sections and eight comparison sections). The PSC-150 and BUS-110 sections included in the study were from the fall and spring 2017-2018 academic year and the CIS-110 sections were from the fall and spring of the 2018-2019 academic year.
The study sample demographics are as follows: 60% of students were female and 31% were Black. One-tenth (10%) of students were Hispanic. About half (48%) were eligible for Pell grants. The average age of students was approximately 26 years old.
Students in the intervention condition were enrolled in a Project COMPASS section of the course. Project COMPASS uses a series of technology-enhanced strategies including live-streamed student gatherings and live text chats to support increased student-teacher and student-student interactions and improve social, cognitive, and teaching presence in the online setting. The technology tools included use of web conferencing, web messaging with automated features, video presentations, video chat, and desktop sharing. As part of the project, instructors were trained in the use of these technologies and strategies, as well as strategies designed specifically to support minority students. Each course lasted one semester, which was approximately 16 weeks.
Students in the comparison condition were enrolled the in the same courses, but taught by teachers who had not been trained in the Project COMPASS protocol.
Support for implementation
Project COMPASS instructors were required to complete a 30-hour training program focused on best practices for online teaching, including online course design, instruction, accessibility, and communication. Other support included biweekly lunches to discuss challenges with implementation; topics discussed included texting tools, tips for Blackboard use, and video editing. Also, implementation support was provided by an instructional designer, instructional technologist, and media production assistant. Additional resources included training, video captioning, course formatting, as well as access to a repository of resources such as instructional guides, activities, and assessments.