Effect of Student Attitude to Course Format on Learning Performance: An Empirical Study in Web vs. Lecture Instruction

Article excerpt

This study investigates student attitudes about Web vs. lecture formats and how they affect learning outcome. Differences in attitudes to formats among various ethnic groups and ESL students are also examined. Attitudes toward Web along with learning strategies were measured using a survey and learning performance by test scores. Findings suggest that students tend to enroll in the format according to their attitude and learning strategies. When they don't, learning outcomes are adversely affected. There were no statistical differences in attitude to Web due to ethnicity. ESL students who were recent immigrants preferred the Web format. The conclusion is that matching course formats with students' attitudes and learning strategies enhance learning performance.

Today the widespread availability and versatility of the Internet offer an exceptional opportunity to provide education anywhere, anytime at overall costs far below those of early distance education and traditional instruction modes. While correspondence studies, radio, television and video-conferencing were alternative formats to distance education courses during the last three decades, the Internet is taking the center stage today as the preferred format (Sopova, 1996; Porter, 1997). It is becoming increasingly important to study how the Web courses affect the overall learning outcome, as compared to traditional lecture methods. Administrators who propose that students learn equally in any format unintentionally employ the agricultural-botany paradigm that all students respond to a course as consistently as plants react to fertilizers (Willis, 1994). In real life, even when course format and content are the same, individual students learn differently. One reason for this outcome can be attributed to differences in background variables such as attitude to the course format, learning strategies, ethnicity and English as Second Language (Billings, 1989; Hoeksema, 1995; Ede et al., 1998; Rong and Preissle, 1998).

Objective

The objective of this paper is to examine how students differ in their preferences towards course formats. The two formats used in this study are Web and lecture. Further, the study also investigates how student attitudes towards these course formats affect their learning performance. The relationship between attitude to course format and the student's learning strategy is also studied. Finally, differences in attitudes to Web among various ethnic groups and ESL students are examined. The results have implications to both educators and administrators. It can help educators in designing courses that fit the individual's background, attitudes and learning methods they employ. Administrators can allocate resources and schedule courses in formats that maximize learning outcomes.

Literature Review

During the evolution of the distance education technologies, several areas have been researched. The major ones related to this study are, i) attitude, ii) learning strategies, and iii) ethnicity.

Attitude

In a study on students' attitude to distance learning, Wilson (1990) found that students were initially skeptical about the effectiveness of television as delivery format. However, in the end they were willing to try out additional courses in the distance learning method. An unintended positive outcome of the satellite course was that the students felt they had gained a greater sense of personal responsibility and higher self-confidence as a result of the distance education experience.

Gee (1990) explored the impact of student's attitude to instructional settings on academic achievement. Learning outcome was found to be positively affected by student preferences to course formats. In a study involving graduate students, Smith and McNelis (1993) found that students with negative feelings towards distance education received lower grades. These students found the technology to be distracting in the beginning of the course. …