Online Education in the Broader Context: Are Live Applied Mathematics Classes Superior to Online?

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper presents research showing that students taking an online applied mathematics course in operations management are scoring as well (two percent higher) on the same tests being given to the live class sections. Statistical analysis of the data collected so far indicates that on three of four tests given to all of the students (online and live) that there is no statistical difference in the scores. This study details the course management system, especially the WebCT testing setup that has been used in all of the class sections for this study, in addition to the data from 155 students that have taken the course from the same professor and coauthor of this paper.

Introduction

Comparisons between online and live classes are often difficult, because of different testing situations and other significant differences in the way live and online classes are delivered. Many articles, including a provocative paper presented in last year's ABEAI 2004 Conference "The Impact of Course Content in Selecting Business Online Classes" (Letterman, 2005), have suggested that "quantitative business courses (should) be offered in the traditional class format or partially online" as contrasted to a wholly online environment. Concerns for the online teaching of quantitative courses include, among other things, that teaching quantitative material online is difficult, problematic, and substandard. The authors of this paper would not have argued any differently a year ago. The focus of this paper is to present an ongoing case study of test scores of online verses live students, who are taking the same operations management class from the same professor, using the same text, syllabus, and other course materials, but, most significantly: the same course management system (taking the same tests with the same testing procedure online using WebCT).

The class being studied is MGMT 3450, an Operations Management class offered to juniors and seniors that is largely an applied quantitative mathematics course, which also includes some statistics. This paper will also discuss in detail how this particular OM class is being delivered, both online and live, and how that course management system is affecting the outcome of the students. This ongoing study has evaluated 155 students from the fall of 2004 to the end of the summer of 2005 in seven class sections (three online classes and six live sections). So far, the online sections have out performed the live sections by 2.49 percent on the four tests given each semester.

Background

The Business School at UVSC (Utah Valley State College) decided to risk offering a third year operations management class online in the fall of 2004, emphasizing quantitative OM skills in applied mathematics and statistics. The School of Business at UVSC has been concerned about the lack of quantitative skills of high school students coming into the business school, and the low scores of graduating business students on quantitative subjects on the senior exam given to graduating business students at UVSC. Statistics and applied mathematics have been two of the main problem areas identified by the School of Business in its graduating seniors, so the school has been working on bolstering quantitative subjects and integrating those subjects throughout the curriculum.

Part of that effort to improve student quantitative skills was to increase the rigor of the MGMT 3450 class in operations management. A new text was sought out--a text with quantitative rigor (Operations Management, 8th Ed., William J. Stevenson, 2005). A former OM instructor was reassigned in this process, while another instructor was given the majority of the OM sections. That same instructor was given the task of developing a pure online OM class to be offered in the fall of 2004. Class development occurred over the summer of 2004.

As that instructor, who is also one of the coauthors of this article, developed the online OM class, he decided to develop and use WebCT testing in all of his OM classes, both online and live. …