ANALYZING TEXT COHESION IN ONLINE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS: IMPLICATIONS FOR STUDENTS WITH READING DIFFICULTIES
INTRODUCTION. As online learning increases, making text comprehensible to all learners presents challenges online course designers and teachers. The purpose of this study was to determine the cohesion properties of text from English language arts courses from three large online learning vendors. METHODS. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to determine
congruence between the environments with respect to the five indices in the Coh Metrix 3.0 text measurement tool (Narrativity, Syntactic Simplicity, Word Concreteness, Referential Cohesion, and Deep Cohesion). RESULTS. Vendors may have calibrated their text using traditional tools like the Flesh-Kincaid scale. However, each of the courses had aspects of cohesion that needed
improvement to provide an optimal advantage to students with disabilities or who have reading comprehension difficulties. Further, the two biggest factors that explained the variance in this study were Word Concreteness (the degree to which the words can be pictured) and Deep Cohesion (whether the connectives support inference). Importantly, these are also two aspects of texts that present the most challenges for students with disabilities. DISCUSSION. If all students are going to be successful with online courses, then vendors should move beyond simple reading level as a measure of text difficulty and plan course texts for students with more and different kinds of support for students who have reading difficulties that affect comprehension. Future research should perform similar analyses on content areas such as social studies and science.
Additional studies should also look carefully and qualitatively at the complexity of the content itself and not just the text. Finally, additional research might look at how students with various reading challenges engage with online course texts using multiple data collection and analysis techniques.