Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Students' Perceptions of Online Learning: A Comparative Study

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Students' Perceptions of Online Learning: A Comparative Study

Article excerpt


E-learning has grown tremendously over the past several years as technology has been integrated into education and training. "E-learning" may be defined as instruction delivered electronically via the Internet, Intranets, or multimedia platforms such as CD-ROM or DVD (Hall, 2003; O'Neill, Singh, & O'Donoghue, 2004). Since many users today have access to direct Internet connections, e-learning is often identified with web-based learning (Hall, 2003). Many writers refer to "e-learning," "online learning," and "web-based learning" interchangeably, an approach that will be taken in this paper. E-learning can be implemented in a variety of ways, such as through the use of self-paced independent study units, asynchronous interactive sessions (where participants interact at different times) or synchronous interactive settings (where learners meet in real time) (Ryan, 2001).

Estimates suggest that the amount of money U.S. companies spent on the IT-based delivery of training grew from $3 billion in 1999 to $11 billion in 2003 (Koprowski, 2000). In addition, the worldwide market for e-learning is projected to be more than $18 billion by the end of 2005 (Moore, 2001), with some organizations projecting that over half of their training and education will be delivered electronically over the next five years (Gold, 2003). Colleges and universities also continue to increase their web-based course offerings to appeal to audiences such as working adults who otherwise have limited access to higher education (Haugen, LaBarre, & Melrose, 2001; Liaw & Huang, 2002; McEwan, 2001) and as curricular and organizational changes demand new ways of delivering education to individuals (O'Neill, Singh, & O'Donoghue, 2004; Schleede 1998). Projections suggest online offerings will continue to increase significantly in educational as well as corporate settings in years to come (Meyen, Aust, Gauch, Hinton, & Isaacson, 2002).

Although e-learning (and various blended approaches that integrate online components into traditional classes) continues to grow rapidly, it still remains at an early stage of development. Consequently, developers and deliverers of online learning need more understanding of how students perceive and react to elements of e-learning (since student perception and attitude is critical to motivation and learning) along with how to apply these approaches most effectively to enhance learning (Koohang & Durante, 2003). This research assesses the perceived effectiveness of the use of online learning modules in two undergraduate information systems (IS) business courses, an elective course and a required course. The results raise important considerations about using online learning for business and IS instruction.

Literature Review

What we know about learning is an important starting point for exploring the use of technology and the design and success of online and blended learning. The basis of effective online learning is comparable to the foundation of effective learning in general. Among the many theories surrounding how people learn, this paper focuses on three aspects of learning, which in turn are tied to the use of the online learning components integrated in the two courses of the study.

Learning theory suggests that learning is promoted or enhanced (1) when students are actively involved in the learning, (2) when assignments reflect real-life contexts and experiences, and (3) when critical thinking or deep learning is promoted through applied and reflective activities (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Driscoll 2002). Each of these aspects of learning are briefly reviewed, with a subsequent discussion of how the online learning components integrated in the two courses were chosen with these dimensions in mind.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that a student's active involvement in the learning process enhances learning, a process often referred to as active learning (Benek-Rivera & Matthews, 2004; Sarason & Banbury, 2004). …

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