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Using electronic mail to enhance instructional immediacy: Effects on college students' achievement and instructor evaluations

, Purdue University, United States

Purdue University . Awarded


A quasi-experimental design was employed using intact laboratory sections of an introductory educational technology course. Each teaching assistant (TA) who taught two computer-lab sections had one experimental group and one control group, assigned randomly by coin toss, for a total of 12 pairs. The remaining four lab sections were randomized by coin toss into the treatment and control groups. There were eight treatment sections and eight control sections with approximately 14 students in each. Six of the nine TAs taught paired sections; three TAs taught single sections. The independent variable was the presence or absence of “supplemental” electronic mail (not directly related to course content or procedures) intended to promote a sense of social presence between the instructor and the student. The dependent variables were the normal course assessment scores and instructor evaluation ratings collected in an introductory-level, undergraduate educational technology class at a large university. Over the course of a full semester, students in the experimental groups received e-mail messages that appeared to come directly from their computer-lab TA instructors, although they were actually written and sent by the researcher. Approximately half were informational - relevant to the teaching profession - the others were humorous. The two types were sent alternately and at irregular intervals; each message was identified with the appropriate instructor's name and section e-mail address. Control groups did not receive these supplemental messages. The basic hypothesis was that in those computer-lab sections receiving supplemental e-mail, course grades would be higher for the students and instructor evaluation ratings would be more favorable for the TAs. All analyses of the treatment’s effect on course assessments were statistically nonsignificant. The two-way ANOVA, examining the effects of treatment and TA, showed no interaction between them. The main effect of treatment was statistically nonsignificant, but the main effect of TA was statistically significant for quiz points, total lab project points, and the final exam. The statistically significant finding related to TA suggests that which TA students had in the laboratory portion of the course did have an effect on several components of the overall course grade.


Aaron, R.L. Using electronic mail to enhance instructional immediacy: Effects on college students' achievement and instructor evaluations. Ph.D. thesis, Purdue University. Retrieved February 20, 2019 from .

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