Asynchronous Learning Networks and Student Outcomes: The Utility of Online Learning Components in Hybrid Courses

Article excerpt

The current research focuses on the impact that learning management systems (LMS), specifically the Blackboard interface, are having on courses in psychology. Blackboard provides instructors with access to a powerful web-based instructional platform. One of the main benefits to students is the unfettered access to virtually anything an instructor presents in the classroom. For example, access to syllabi, course notes, interactive demonstrations, handouts, audio or videotaped lectures are all possible via this interface. Currently, few empirical studies have examined the impact of LMS on objective measures of student learning. The current project examines the relationship between the frequency of usage of these various utilities and student performance in a hybrid class. Results revealed a significant positive partial correlation between overall usage and their exam scores. The implications of these findings are discussed with respect to the current course; however, a discussion of the broader pedagogical implications is included as well.

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By now it is obvious to most in higher education that technology is transforming education delivery in profound ways. Duderstadt (1999) correctly asserts that the most significant technological development is the way that the former constraint of time and space has been removed by networking capabilities. Though some faculty remain skeptical about these changes, few can deny that these technologies are transforming the way learners learn and the way teachers teach. Recent statistics clearly indicate that access to various online educational opportunities is increasing. A study by the National Center for Education Statistics surveyed 4,130 two and four-year degree-granting institutions and found that 56% (2,320 institutions) offered distance education courses of some type during the 2000-2001 academic year. An additional 12% (490 institutions) indicated plans to offer distance education courses at some point in the next three years. It should be noted that these percentages reflect numerous varieties of distance education and not just online technologies, however, the study did reveal that of the 68% of the institutions are either currently offering or planning to offer distance education in the next three years, 88% plan to increase or start offering courses using asynchronous computer based instruction as the primary mode of delivery.

Furthermore, total enrollment in distance education courses went from 754,000 in 1995 to 1.6 million in 1998 (Harasim, 2000) and, according to the most recent data, over 3 million students enrolled in distance education courses in the 2000-2001 academic year (Waits & Lewis, 2003).

Because of the relative age of the field of online learning there is still much disagreement about the different types of online learning. In the past it has been lumped with other distributed learning modes such as correspondence courses and courses delivered via television etc. However, with the advances in technology, primarily increases in internet bandwidth, online technologies have increasingly become an integral piece of both distance education delivery and traditional, face-to-face courses. Interestingly, there is not one standard definition of what constitutes an online course. Most definitions or categorizations have to do with the ways online technologies are integrated into various courses. For example, Harasim (2000) identifies three modes of delivery; Adjunct Mode, Mixed Mode and Totally Online Mode. Adjunct Mode is described as traditional face-to-face courses that utilize online utilities to enhance course content. The difference between Adjunct mode and Mixed mode is the degree to which networking is integrated into the course. Whereas adjunct includes a few networking utilities that are added on as conveniences to the regular course, mixed mode courses include networking utilities as significant and well-integrated components of the overall course. …