Evaluating Deaf Education Web-Based Course Work

Article excerpt

SOME U.S. universities use Web-based formats to offer most of the course work required to become a certified teacher of the deaf. Yet little research exists on how students judge the content and delivery of such courses compared to on-campus instruction. Parton (2005) described previous research concerning this topic as descriptive rather than empirical, and called for data-based investigation. In the present study, 108 consumers of online courses at one university were surveyed. A questionnaire was developed from a literature review and experiences of the author, who has taught long-distance courses since the early 1990s. Responses pertained to as many as five deaf education professors and 12 deaf education courses. Most students were intelligent, hearing, experienced consumers who appreciated Web-based course content and delivery The majority (65%) felt that they did not know the instructor as well in on-campus courses. Further research is planned.

While some universities currently use Web-based formats to offer the majority of the course work required to become a certified teacher of the deaf, there is little research to determine how students judge the content and delivery of such courses compared to those they attend on campus. Although there has been some study of deaf education courses offered via videoconferencing, there has been little investigation of the use of Web-based deaf education certification programs or deaf education online courses offered as a part of primarily campus-based programs.

Parton (2005) reported that the majority of the relevant research regarding Web-based learning in deaf education was descriptive rather than empirical, and called for data-based investigation. Research is needed to determine if stu- dents can be effectively trained to be- come teachers of the deaf, given that entire deaf education programs are now being offered as series of Web- based courses over the Internet. In ad- dition, it is important to compare hearing and deaf trainees as to their ex- periences with Web-based course for- mats - the findings of which might hold important insights for effective training in the field. For example, Long, Mallory and Davis (2003) found that undergraduates who were deaf or hard of hearing and taking non-deaf educa- tion courses using videoconferencing felt that the online learning format provided important communicationrelated advantages (compared to oncampus classes).

In the present study, I surveyed consumers of Web-based deaf education courses, identifying characteristics of the study participants as learners and obtaining their opinions as to the content and delivery of online courses offered by faculty at one university. Responses to survey questions pertained to as many as ñve deaf education professors and a dozen courses taught by them in recent years. Investigations by researchers whose methodology contributed to the design of the present study are summarized below.

Parton (2005) credited the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) with the earliest use of technology (in the 1960s) to offer distance-learning options for deaf college students enrolled in a variety of majors, but not deaf education. Parton regarded NTID faculty as contemporary leaders as well, using video-streamed instruction delivered over the Internet.

I first used technology with longdistance options to train teachers of the deaf in the early 1990s. I began by offering course work that involved the use of videoconferencing and doing research on such course work's effectiveness (Luetke-Stahlman, 1994, 1995). Funding came primarily from a federal personnel grant for which I wrote a proposal and which was awarded while I was teaching at a university in the Midwest. At that same time, others were using Web-based technology to enhance courses - for example, communicating with students using e-mail or electronic bulletin boards (Larwood, 2005) - and, more recently, to increase students' knowledge of the lexicon and grammar of American Sign Language (ASL; Buisson, 2007). …