Student Perceptions of Online versus On Campus Instruction
Teaching without the teacher's personal presence in the classroom to provide direct instruction is a modern day miracle of 21st century education. Computer-related course instruction has made a tremendous impact on the provision of instruction and student learning at colleges and universities (Piotrowski & Vodanovich, 2000). Distance education opportunities have brought the classroom from the university setting to the home, allowing students the privilege to pursue college degrees without the inconvenience of actually traveling to campus for course completion. Literally thousands of students are earning college degrees with little or no traditional college participation and/or interaction with professors or other college students.
The Internet is currently the advanced technological mode used to support distance education course presentation in higher education (Owston, 1997; Rossman, 1992). Published literature supports the advantages of Internet use for instruction. Chamberlin (2001) offers the suggestion that by taking advantage of the pedagogical strengths of on campus and online teaching, instructors can offer students the greatest chance to discover their strengths and weaknesses as learners and the best opportunity to find their path to achieving success. Distance education Internet based instruction translates to the fact that students spend less time in the college classroom and are able to complete course work at their convenience in the privacy of their own homes. Less money is spent on travel since class attendance is often not required or is optional. Additionally, more seats are often available in classes taught by distance education, which tends to reduce the concern that some students have regarding course closure due to high enrollment. Chamberlin (2001) further states that online communication can diminish student inhibitions regarding communication by removing psychological and social barriers to student-teacher and student-student interactions.
While there are advantages to instruction provided through distance education, perceived disadvantages appear to exist. Many students learn best through direct interaction provided by professors and other students. Distance education often prohibits this interaction, making learning and direct involvement less personal. The socialization so traditional to standard college attendance is often lacking, especially if instructors fail to utilize available opportunities for student interaction through various online software packages. In addition, students who lack the technological skills required for various types of distance education may fear approaching learning situations provided through nontraditional modes. Problems related to privacy issues, technological difficulties, and technology rather than content focus have been noted (Piotrowski & Vodanovich, 2000).
The College of Education and Professional Studies at Jacksonville State University provides numerous opportunities for distance education among its various program offerings. One of the most recent opportunities for nontraditional course presentation is through Blackboard. Blackboard is a Web-based server software system that offers industry-leading course management, an open architecture for customization and interoperability, and a scalable design that allows for integration with student information systems and authentication protocols (Yaskin & Gilfus, 2002). Blackboard provides a structured format for teachers to post announcements, assignments, course documents, faculty credentials, and course notes for easy student access. Opportunity for direct communication between teacher and students through Email, Discussion Boards, and the Virtual Chat Room make Blackboard attractive as the chosen distance education format for online instruction for many universities. …