Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Distance Learning in a Core Business Class: Determinants of Success in Learning Outcomes and Post-Course Performance

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Distance Learning in a Core Business Class: Determinants of Success in Learning Outcomes and Post-Course Performance

Article excerpt


One of the most rapidly growing areas in college education is the offering of distance learning courses (Pina, 2008). For example, in the ten year period leading up to 2007, enrollment of students in some form of online learning coursework had increase some 4.4 times, and online-only students had increased an incredible 11.5 times (State University System of Florida, 2008), and Although there exist today numerous online colleges, an increasing number of traditional college institutions are introducing and expanding distance learning courses and programs for their students in addition to offering courses in a traditional classroom setting. In these dual mode institutions, many students take both traditional and online courses. Although recent research, particularly in the area of education, has compared distance learning courses with their traditional counterparts in terms of learning outcomes from those target courses (Spooner et al, 1999) , far less is known about how students fare once they have moved beyond those target courses. Distance learning courses offer benefits to both the students who take the course and the institutions offering them. For students, it allows for asynchronous learning and frees them from the need to be in a specific location when learning. At the same time, some have expressed concerns about the quality of education that students receive in distance learning classes relative to their peers taking similar courses in the traditional classroom setting (Carr, 2000 & Schoech, 2000).

The purpose of this paper is to explore and compare the determinants of student learning outcomes in distance learning courses with traditional classroom-based courses. The major contribution of this paper is that we not only compared learning outcomes of traditional versus online students, but we also followed their academic performance in the semester after they left the course of interest to see if either teaching method had any lasting effect on learning outcomes


The target course for this study was Management 101, an introductory course that is required for all management students, but also taken widely by students outside of the school of management. Many of these students cannot physically attend class so instruction is delivered online asynchronously as well as in a traditional classroom setting. The online courses are delivered using the Blackboard software system with traditional instructional design methods to construct the course. The course content is identical when delivered online as on campus. The asynchronous delivery accommodates the various time zones and geographical challenges for students. The software allows for electronic posting of content to supplement the textbook, electronic submission of assignments, discussions, and online testing.


From a student standpoint, there are at least two advantages to being able to take courses online. In most cases, distance learning courses are asynchronous, allowing students to fulfill course requirements at a scheduled pace, rather than having to attend class at specific times, such as is the case for traditional classroom-based courses. Such flexibility of scheduling improves students' abilities to schedule coursework around family, work, and other obligations. In addition to more flexible scheduling, distance-learning courses typically offer students flexibility of location. In being able to take a course via distance learning, students are no longer confined to living near to the campus from which the course is taught.

While there are still conflicting opinions on distance learning, now a research base supports the value of online distance education. According to Prestera & Moller (2001), "Today's computer-mediated communication tools are used to create rich learning environments where many-to-many relationships can flourish. …

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