The Effect of Student Background in E-Learning-Longitudinal Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Management philosopher Peter Drucker forecasted: "Universities won't survive. The future is outside the traditional campus. Distance learning is coming on fast."(Drucker, 1997)

Even though online education is being offered by many colleges and universities, the successes of such programs remain a challenge. Administrators recognized that "if we offer the class, students will sign up" is an untrue statement. They are in the process of re-assessing their online education. A number of online degrees and programs have been cancelled due to low enrollment, low retention rate, and high withdrawal rate (Bird, 2006). These and other factors have left businesses with suspicious views of the value of online education.

Hence, there is a need for a better understanding of online education. Both universities and employers are often doubtful of efficacy of online education. Many implementations (early as well as current ones) are developed by posting lecture notes and transparencies on the Web. Additionally, some implementations do not consider various learning theories resulting in online courses that post lecture material without considering the effects of the change in the communication channel (i.e., from Face-to-Face to Online).

"A working assumption throughout academic life that is almost never stated is that anyone with a Ph.D. can teach well enough for any college students he might be required to teach" (Buckley, 2002).

This paper differentiates between learning and teaching. Learning is often the result of student activities, while teaching is mainly the instructors' activities (Joyce, 2004). Learning is measured as a grade in: a final test, the difference between grades in the final test and grades in the pretest, and the final letter grade. The pre-test is administered at the start of the academic term. The final letter grade in the course includes additional course assignments and other activities. This paper does not investigate teaching effectiveness.

This study compares how students' backgrounds influence the learning outcomes in two delivery Modalities-Online and Face to Face (F2F) education--in order to identify some of the factors that affect learning outcome. Students background include type of students--traditional and nontraditional (adult students who started working after high school and returned to get a college degree). Students enrolled in the class majored in Business Administration, Computer Science, and Organizational Management. Two sessions (online and Face to Face) of the same undergraduate class--Management of Information Systems--were offered over several academic terms. The F2F sessions of the course were typically offered either early afternoon twice a week for two hours or once a week at night for four hours. All F2F sessions were offered in a computer lab. The online sessions were offered "anytime, anywhere."

The next section describes prior research, followed by research design and methodology, findings, and lastly analysis of findings. The paper ends with a conclusions and future research.

Prior Research

Distance online education is defined as "a general term used to cover the broad range of teaching and learning events in which the student is separated (at a distance) from the instructor, or other fellow learners" (Hoyle, 2007). Relevant research consistently demonstrated three distinct generations in distance education. Historically, distance education started in the 1840, with the use of correspondence--students and instructors making use of the traditional United States Postal Service to communicate: assignments, homework, and examinations. The United States was the only country in the world that offered distance education via correspondence (Public Broadcasting System, 2005). The second was the use of video and audio--the American educators were fascinated with the new media and technology; which started with radio, followed by one-way audio, two-way audio, one-way video, two-way video, television, videoconferencing, and later, microcomputer. …