Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

A Comparison of Online and Traditional Computer Applications Classes

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

A Comparison of Online and Traditional Computer Applications Classes

Article excerpt

With working adults occupying an increasingly large percentage of our college population and with greater numbers of students having computer and Internet experience prior to entering college, opportunities are being made to better meet their needs, interests and work schedules through online classes. In fact, according to International Data, "the e-learning market, which includes Internet and Intranet courses, will grow from $4 billion to $15 billion worldwide [between 1998 and 2002]" (Del 2000).

Although students who enroll in online classes generally like the flexibility and convenience they offer, "there continues to be concern about instructional quality" (Terry 2000). Many question whether students in online classes learn as much or receive the same quality of instruction as students in the traditional classroom.

This study compares online instruction and traditional or in-class instruction in terms of both student perceptions and student performance, as measured by grade distribution. The survey groups for this study consist of 94 students from the traditional classes and 37 students from the online classes. A breakdown of groups by gender, age and employment status, as shown in Tables 1-3, reveals that of the three factors, the biggest difference between the two groups during the 1999-2000 academic year was in employment status.

Table 1

Average Age
Traditional Class    23
Online Class         27

Table 2

                     Male        Female
Traditional Class    36%         64%
Online Class         39%         61%

Table 3

Employment Status
                     Full-time   Part-time   Unemployed
Traditional Class    33%               60%           7%
Online Class         56%               28%          16%


Since it was first offered in summer quarter 1998, approximately 200 students have completed The Division of Business Administration's online Fundamentals of Computer Applications course (CISM 2201) at Macon State College. The course includes basic computer concepts and terminology, as well as instruction using Microsoft Office application software.

Enrollment in the online course requires students to have a 2.5 grade point average, Internet access, and a computer with MS Office software. Online students attend an initial class meeting or orientation session during which they meet the instructor and each other and have the opportunity to ask questions. They are also told about hardware and software requirements, informed of course expectations and the importance of being self-directed, and are provided software training to become familiar with the online course materials and operational mechanics. In addition, they receive information typically provided on the first day of traditional classes, such as a syllabus, overview of the textbook, instructor office hours, testing procedures, etc.

In the traditional classes, students are informed during their first session that online classes are available should they qualify and prefer that instructional format.

Course Evaluations

In an effort to assess student perceptions of CISM 2201 instruction, as well as increase course effectiveness and student learning, students are asked to evaluate their class experience. At the end of each semester during the 1999-2000 academic year, on-campus surveys were administered in class and the online surveys were administered via e-mail.

As on the traditional class evaluation form, online students are asked to evaluate the course contents, availability of the instructor, their understanding of the class organization and the grading process. Unlike the traditional form, however, the online evaluation form also asks students to compare the quality of learning in an online class versus that in the traditional class, as well as their reasons for taking the online course. …

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