As the institution of higher education repositions to move forward in the e-learning paradigm, quality issues that directly impact student performance are of paramount importance (Husson & Waterman, 2002; Sweat-Guy & Buzzetto-More; 2007b).
The most recent Sloan Consortium report confirms that enrollment in online courses have increased to an estimated 2.4 million (Simonson, 2006). Arbaugh (2000) asserts that this online trend is due to a variety of factors such as "technological advances in both course software and computing capacity, competitive pressures from external stakeholders and alternative sources of education, and more flexibility for students". This widespread increase of online courses in colleges and universities across the globe has sparked continuous debate among educators and researchers alike. Regardless of whether a course is hybrid or fully online, there is much debate about what makes these courses effective learning experiences for students.
Proponents of online education argue that this mode of instruction provides flexibility and convenience as well as increased student learning and satisfaction (Brunner, 2006; Buzzetto-More & Sweat-Guy, 2006; Kuo, 2005; Yip, 2004). In contrast, critics emphasize high dropout rates, absence of nonverbal cues, insufficient levels of interaction, and decreased student achievement as reasons to censure the online format (Hirschheim, 2005; Kock, Vervile, & Garza, 2007).
Despite the popularity of online learning, relatively little research has examined the influence of teaching styles and methodology on objective measures of student learning (DeNeui & Dodge, 2006). Accordingly, this study was designed to examine the effects of instructional strategies, described by Sweat-Guy and Buzzetto-More (2007c) as methods or approaches used to achieve learning objectives, on student performance in two upper-level business courses developed in traditional and e-learning environments. The following research questions were postulated for this study:
* Are there performance differences based on delivery method?
* Are there performance differences based on course?
* Are there performance differences based on instructional strategies?
Johnson and Aragon (2003) argue that student performance is directly impacted by the quality of instructional design. When developing online courses, Johnson and Aragon recommend a conceptual framework that represents a holistic perspective which includes instructional strategies that look beyond the traditional paradigm of instruction.
Chen (2007) suggests that instructional design strategies should be modified in order to preserve the quality of learning. Accordingly, she used a blended approach combining objectivist and constructivist instructional strategies in her design of an intensive summer online course and found that students had positive learning experiences and were highly satisfied with their learning outcomes. Chang (2007) investigated the effects of a self-monitoring strategy on student performance in a web-based language learning course and found similar results. Students who applied the self-monitoring strategy outperformed students who did not apply the strategy.
In contrast, the study conducted by Sweat-Guy and Buzzetto-More (2007a) examined the impact of instructor-centered versus learner-centered instructional strategy on student learning in two online courses. The results revealed no significant difference across treatment groups.
A review of literature reports on a number of primary research studies that have provided comparable data on student performance between traditional and e-learning environments, citing the latter with more promising results. Connolly, MacArthur, Stansfield, and McLellan (2007) conducted a quasi-experimental study to investigate student performance in 3 masters-level computer courses that were developed and delivered in online and traditional formats. …