The Impact of Learning Styles on Student Achievement in a Web-Based versus an Equivalent Face-to-Face Course

By Zacharis, Nick Z. | College Student Journal, September 2010 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Learning Styles on Student Achievement in a Web-Based versus an Equivalent Face-to-Face Course


Zacharis, Nick Z., College Student Journal


This study investigated the relationship between students' learning styles and their achievement in two different learning environments: online instruction and traditional instruction. The results indicated that a) students in the traditional learning group had higher, but not statistically significant higher, levels of achievement than students in the online learning group, b) a student's learning style had no statistically significant effect on their course grades in any of the two instructional methods, and c) there was no significant interaction between the learning style and instructional method.

Introduction

Since the advent of the Web, the faculty of mathematics and computer science at a large (> 20,000) Greek technological university is consciously reconceptualizing the design of its courses, using knowledge gained in successive phases of integration to expand access, to provide flexible learning environments, and to meet the ever expanding needs of graduate students. Through the years, Introduction to Programming using Java--COMP 120, a required core course for all computer science majors, has evolved from a traditional lecture based course to a fully interactive online course. During the course, students are introduced to object oriented programming concepts and techniques, through short classroom lectures and many laboratory tasks, and are engaged in extended learning activities and collaborative work using the online environment to test their knowledge and complete their projects.

The course web site on Moodle LMS supplements face-to-face classroom instruction by providing students with access to all lecture material, interactive textbook modules, laboratory modules, homework assignments and solutions, self-diagnostic quizzes and old tests, study guides, discussion boards, journal articles, and a wealth of other resources. Using the online environment students can choose to view a recorded lecture or interact with a narrated Flash-based presentation, or read a step-by-step description of every activity that took place in class and run an interactive simulation. Self-check exercises, focussing on specific language points, are designed as true/false, multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank, in order to engage students, either in the classroom or from any location with Internet access, in active learning by practicing the concepts they have learned in class and in the tutorials.

Since the course was launched in 1998, student attendance of COMP120 class lectures was optional while participation in the laboratory sessions was mandatory. This requirement was a serious barrier in the way of success for working students, very often resulting in failure or withdrawal from the course. In order to provide the levels of flexibility and convenience that appropriately address the diverse educational needs of the large numbers of students working part-time or full-time, a major redesign was undertaken in 2006 to update existing resources, create new online laboratory modules and test several technologies capable to imitate the interactive nature of COMP120 lab sessions.

After several successful experiments on the implementation and effectiveness of virtual pair programming and online synchronous instruction, the department reconsidered the closed form of laboratory sessions and decided to offer a fully online version of COMP 120. During the 2008 Fall semester, the 161 first year students who enrolled in COMP 120, could receive either online or traditional/face-to-face instruction. Students could work from home or from an on-campus computing lab, using screen sharing applications (such as Microsoft NetMeeting) or collaborative editors (such as Eclipse, with various plugins) for virtual pair programming, and a web-conference environment (Centra Live) that enabled them to participate in virtual, instructor-led, laboratory sessions.

Despite literature on the effectiveness of online instruction, little is known about the influence of learning styles in online learning. …

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