Internet-Based Instruction: A National Survey of Psychology Faculty

Article excerpt

Survey responses from a national sample of psychology faculty (N = 150) found that respondents generally held favorable attitudes toward the Internet and incorporated online technology for instructional purposes. The specific usage of the Internet for teaching purposes was somewhat fundamental (e.g., e-mail, dissemination of course syllabi, literature searches). Respondents indicated that the primary drawbacks of Internet-based instruction were the substantial time requirements involved and a lack of formal training for faculty.

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Computer-based instruction is a dominant area of research focus in education (e.g., Gueldenzoph, Guidera, Whipple, Mertler, & Dutton, 1999). Interestingly, online education, despite its attributes, has been viewed as a potential threat to traditional instruction (Eamon, 1999; Piotrowski & Vodanovich, 2000; Ridley & Husband, 1998). Yet, it is noteworthy that relatively few studies have discussed the impact of Web-based instruction on the field of psychology (e.g., Sherman, 1998), although there has been some recent attention on the advantages that the Internet could offer for the sub-discipline of clinical psychology (Smith & Senior, 2001). However, the research focus, to date, has been largely on the impact of the Internet upon pedagogical needs of psychology students (Maki, Maki, Patterson, & Whittaker, 2000; Pious, 2000; Varnhagen, Drake, & Finley, 1997).

But, what are the attitudes of faculty in psychology toward Web-based instruction? One recent empirical study (Vodanovich & Piotrowski, 1999), using a sample of industrial-organizational psychology faculty, found that the advantages of online instruction (i.e., information availability, remote access, convenience) were counterbalanced by several critical drawbacks (e.g., time commitment for course design, sparse training for faculty). Indeed, more data, preferably on national samples, are needed in this area. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to determine the attitudes, usage patterns, and perceived drawbacks of psychology faculty regarding Web-based instruction.

Method

Our sample was selected from psychology programs in the United States and Canada listed in the 2000 Graduate Study in Psychology catalog (American Psychological Association.) A two-page questionnaire was mailed to the Chair of each department (N = 500) with the request to distribute the survey to the one faculty member most involved in online instruction. The survey included a brief section on personal attitudes toward Internet use, didactic applications of specific online functions, and the pros/cons of Internet use for instructional purposes. The respondents were asked to respond to each question by completing a series of 5-point scales with a rating of" 1" indicating a negative or low response (e.g., none/very ineffective) and a "5" depicting a positive score (e.g., extensively/very effective.) A total of 150 usable surveys were returned for an adjusted response rate of 30 percent. The response sample characteristics were as follows: 86% males, 12% females; 19% Assistant Professor, 21% Associate Professor, and 60% Full Professor. The respondents taught at the university-level for a median of 20 years.

Results and Discussion

Generally, our findings indicate that psychology faculty hold favorable attitudes toward the Internet and incorporate online technology for instructional purposes. That is, faculty indicated that they use the Internet in their teaching to a large extent (M = 3.6), that their general view toward the Internet for instruction is quite positive (M = 4.3), and that they perceive its use as an effective educational tool (M = 4.0). These ratings are somewhat higher than those obtained by Vodanovich and Piotrowski (1999) in a similar survey based on a national sample of industrial-organizational psychologists. Perhaps this is an indication that psychology faculty are becoming even more accepting of the Internet as an evolving instructional technology. …