Student Perceptions of Various E-Learning Components

Article excerpt

Background

In 2005, the regents of the University System of Maryland instituted a policy that all students enrolling in a Maryland State University beginning in the fall of 2007 take on average 12 of their credits through out-of-classroom experiences and other nontraditional means with the definition of out-of-classroom experiences including: e-learning, internships, student teaching, and a host of other activities. This initiative not only stimulated the growth of e-learning in the State of Maryland but also sent a message to the larger educational community that the Maryland system has recognized that some online learning is an enhancement to students' higher-education learning experience even when those students are full-time on-campus residents (Lorenzetti, 2005).

Established in 1886, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) is a historically black, land grant institution and a member of the University System of the State of Maryland. The student population is approximately 4000, represented by a make up that is 74% African-American, 15% white, and 11% international, primarily coming from the continent of Africa and/or from the Caribbean region. The freshmen retention rate is 64%, and the graduation rate is 42.6%.

The institution is located in a rural region of Maryland, has an open acceptance policy, and is one of the most affordable four-year institutions of higher education in the State. With the institution's inexpensive tuition and minimal enrollment criteria, the University attracts a large number of students from a lower socio-economic background than is found in colleges and universities across the State (Ukoha & Buzzetto-More, 2007). The Department of Business Management and Accounting is one of the largest departments on campus and is currently undergoing accreditation with the American Association of Colleges and Schools of Business International (AACSBI). The Department has approximately 420 majors, offering programs that include Business Administration, Marketing, Finance, Accounting, and Business Education. It was chosen for this study because of its size and adequate socio-economic representation of the larger student body.

Online leaning at UMES is facilitated by the Center for Instructional Technology which was created in 2006. The Blackboard CE 6 system, formally known as WebCT version 6, is the course management system utilized, and to date the University offers copious numbers of web-enhanced courses, numerous hybrid courses, and approximately thirty distinct fully online courses.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), while small in number, graduate the preponderance of African Americans who earn college degrees in America (Hubbard, 2006). While, they constitute only 3 percent of U.S. colleges and universities, they enroll 28 percent of all African American college students and graduate 40 percent of the Black Americans who earn doctorates or first professional degrees (Hubbard, 2006). Their students have reported high levels of engagement, (Fries-Britt & Turner, 2002), satisfaction, and instances of good practices (Seifert, Drummand, & Pascarella, 2006). At the same time, their student population is shown to have a high percentage of first generation, low income, and under prepared students (Ukoha and Buzzetto-More, 2007).

HBCUs have been shown to successfully promote the college success of African Americans by fostering an environment that encourages student engagement, retention, and success (Flowers, 2002; Laird, Bridges, Homes, Morelon, & Williams, 2004; Outcalt & Skewes-Cox, 2002). A number of studies have examined and compared various aspects of the undergraduate experience of African-Americans at HBCUs versus the experience of African Americans at majority institutions and found that HBCUs, despite frequently fewer resources, are better at supporting African American undergraduates, resulting in higher graduation rates and more positive learning outcomes for students (Bohr, Pascarella, Nora, & Terenzini, 1995; DeSousa & Kuh, 1996; Flowers, 2002; Flowers & Pascarella, 1999; Watson & Kuh, 1996). …