Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Influence of Structure and Interaction on Student Achievement and Satisfaction in Web-Based Distance Learning

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Influence of Structure and Interaction on Student Achievement and Satisfaction in Web-Based Distance Learning

Article excerpt

Introduction

Recent advancement in the web and multimedia technology is changing the way of teaching and learning. Because of the technologies' flexibility and diversity, distance learning programs using internet and multimedia contents also have proliferated (Menchaca & Bekele, 2008). In web-based distance instruction, one of the critical issues is how to design, develop and manage instructional programs to get effective, efficient learning that is attractive. For thousands of years, learning and teaching always took place in close proximity, and this has become firmly anchored in human consciousness. Learning and teaching at a distance is, therefore, regarded as something extraordinary and a kind of defect. Educators have tried to make every effort to get over this spatial separation. The first pedagogic approaches specific to distance education aimed at finding ways by which spatial distance could be bridged, reduced or even eliminated. The question was asked: what must be done to make distance equivalent to proximity in distance education? The pedagogics of distance education is derived basically from the efforts to answer to this question.

One answer to this question is making and managing the best learning materials as possible, which require little to no teacher's interaction. Educators at traditional distance universities have put forth the most effort and funds in the professional development and production of qualitatively excellent teaching materials for the purposes of self-study, which were distributed by post and then by web-based cyber instruction programs these days (Peters, 1998). They have tried to include the effect of teacher's interaction into well-structured course and material for self-learning. Moore (1993) conceptualized this as structure, because he regarded the main feature of making and managing programs as the structuring of the learning and teaching. Also many studies have presented elements and rationale for course/contents structure as well as instructional strategies for structuralization (Bischoff et al., 1996; Carr-Chellman & Duchastel, 2000; Chen, 2001a, 2001b; Chen & Willits, 1999; Lee, 2004a; Ostlund, 2008; Peters, 1998; Saba, 2005; Saba & Shearer, 1994). Researchers emphasizing structure in distance learning seem to believe that well-structured material can overcome the absence of teachers.

Others say, however, that it is not sufficient simply to enable students to study in isolation with the help of distance learning materials. Students must be able to discuss with their teachers and other students in order to learn, because this is the real foundation of academic teaching (Daniel and Marquis, 1979; Moore & Thompson, 1990; Morris, Mitchell, & Bell, 1999; Sewart, 1982; Verduin & Clark, 1989). They say that a person's grasp of the acquired and assimilated knowledge can only develop in discussion through interpersonal interaction (Garrison, 1993). But interpersonal interactions at a distance have not been easily achieved until the advent of the computer and network technology. Now educators' and developers' attention has turned to converting distance learning into a more interactive one than ever as computer and web technology become widely available. As a communication medium, the web discussion board presents many possibilities to effective interaction, which is not encountered in traditional instructional environments or in print publications. So many studies on interaction in web-based learning persist positive pedagogical effects of interaction and present various interaction strategies for better learning (Beuchot & Bullen, 2005; Dennen et al., 2007; Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005; Kehrwald, 2008; Novitzki, 2005; Russo & Campbell, 2004; Tu & McIsaac, 2002; Weaver, 2008).

These two perspectives, structure and interaction, bring educational policy and priorities into conflict with each other; they are characteristics of distance education on the whole and are the source of many disputes as Lee (2004b) indicated. …

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