Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Students' Experiences with Different Course Delivery Modalities: On Campus, Online, and Satellite

Academic journal article Journal of Human Services

Students' Experiences with Different Course Delivery Modalities: On Campus, Online, and Satellite

Article excerpt


In an effort to adapt to the technological advances of this century, the training of human services professionals has grown from traditional classrooms and satellite programs to online education. Many human services programs are under pressure from their universities and students to expand into online education. This study examined 252 students' experiences and perceptions of their Bachelors of Science program as it transitioned to offering courses online in addition to on campus and satellite sites. Students' narrative responses reflected 4 themes: convenience, interactions, learning preference, and technology. These themes and their implications for educators and students are discussed.


The training of human service professionals has always been about engaging individuals to help others on the front lines of professional service. This education has developed gradually from certificate programs to associate degree programs and to bachelor and doctorate degree programs, but historically this has always been accomplished in face-to-face formats replicating the context for providing services to individuals (Neukrug, 2014). As education as a whole has become more aware of meeting the educational needs of diverse students, the methods used to provide education have changed and begun to embrace online instruction (Allen & Seaman, 2011). The rapid growth in online programs has been in response to the demands of students unable to attend traditional programs face-to-face (Chandras & Chandras, 2010).

Up to this point, the field of human services has not engaged in research to explore the use and effects of online education with students. However, several of the fields closely related to human services, including counseling and social work, have begun to engage in this inquiry. Within the past several years, counselor education has embraced this trend and both courses and entire accredited programs are now offered online with success (Burt, Gonzalez, Swank, Ascher, & Cunningham, 2011; Flamez et al., 2008; Layne & Hohenshil, 2005; Reicherzer, Dixon-Saxon, & Trippany, 2009). Likewise, social work has expressed a need to embrace new technologies that facilitate online education and indicated that these approaches are here to stay as technology has become the driving force behind education overall (Blackmon, 2013; Moore, 2005).

As technology has grown more accessible, the provision of and demand for online education has grown and continues to expand (Coogan, 2009; Kiernan, 2003). Approaches to online education have moved from being only asynchronous text or video-based toward synchronous and asynchronous approaches that foster interactivity and learning (Allen & Seamen, 2010). According to the Sloan Consortium Survey of Online learning (2011) one third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course and these numbers are continuing to grow.

In response to the needs of students at a distance and with new access to enhanced technology, the Bachelors of Science program in Human Services (HMSV) at the university initiated offering its full program of 14 courses online in the spring of 2012. Previously, courses had only been offered on the main campus or through video conferencing via satellite broadcast at remote campuses across the country. Each of the 14 courses of the curriculum in the HMSV program is now offered on campus and online every semester. This type of rapid expansion in online course delivery creates multiple challenges for faculty and students. The learning curve for faculty can be steep as transitioning from classroom to online involves not only adapting course content and delivery but also learning new technologies and an overall shift in pedagogy (Kreber & Kanuka, 2006; Keengwe & Kidd, 2010; Smith, 2005; Zhao, Alexander, & Perreault, 2003). Concerns about student learning and the efficacy of online education are often raised; however, research continues to demonstrate the equality of online and traditional education (Hauck, 2006). …

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