Evaluating Deaf Education Web-Based Course Work

Article excerpt

SOME U.S. universities use Web-based formats to offer most of the course work required to become a certified teacher of the deaf. Yet little research exists on how students judge the content and delivery of such courses compared to on-campus instruction. Parton (2005) described previous research concerning this topic as descriptive rather than empirical, and called for data-based investigation. In the present study, 108 consumers of online courses at one university were surveyed. A questionnaire was developed from a literature review and experiences of the author, who has taught long-distance courses since the early 1990s. Responses pertained to as many as five deaf education professors and 12 deaf education courses. Most students were intelligent, hearing, experienced consumers who appreciated Web-based course content and delivery The majority (65%) felt that they did not know the instructor as well in on-campus courses. Further research is planned.

While some universities currently use Web-based formats to offer the majority of the course work required to become a certified teacher of the deaf, there is little research to determine how students judge the content and delivery of such courses compared to those they attend on campus. Although there has been some study of deaf education courses offered via videoconferencing, there has been little investigation of the use of Web-based deaf education certification programs or deaf education online courses offered as a part of primarily campus-based programs.

Parton (2005) reported that the majority of the relevant research regarding Web-based learning in deaf education was descriptive rather than empirical, and called for data-based investigation. Research is needed to determine if stu- dents can be effectively trained to be- come teachers of the deaf, given that entire deaf education programs are now being offered as series of Web- based courses over the Internet. In ad- dition, it is important to compare hearing and deaf trainees as to their ex- periences with Web-based course for- mats - the findings of which might hold important insights for effective training in the field. For example, Long, Mallory and Davis (2003) found that undergraduates who were deaf or hard of hearing and taking non-deaf educa- tion courses using videoconferencing felt that the online learning format provided important communicationrelated advantages (compared to oncampus classes).

In the present study, I surveyed consumers of Web-based deaf education courses, identifying characteristics of the study participants as learners and obtaining their opinions as to the content and delivery of online courses offered by faculty at one university. Responses to survey questions pertained to as many as ñve deaf education professors and a dozen courses taught by them in recent years. Investigations by researchers whose methodology contributed to the design of the present study are summarized below.

Parton (2005) credited the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) with the earliest use of technology (in the 1960s) to offer distance-learning options for deaf college students enrolled in a variety of majors, but not deaf education. Parton regarded NTID faculty as contemporary leaders as well, using video-streamed instruction delivered over the Internet.

I first used technology with longdistance options to train teachers of the deaf in the early 1990s. I began by offering course work that involved the use of videoconferencing and doing research on such course work's effectiveness (Luetke-Stahlman, 1994, 1995). Funding came primarily from a federal personnel grant for which I wrote a proposal and which was awarded while I was teaching at a university in the Midwest. At that same time, others were using Web-based technology to enhance courses - for example, communicating with students using e-mail or electronic bulletin boards (Larwood, 2005) - and, more recently, to increase students' knowledge of the lexicon and grammar of American Sign Language (ASL; Buisson, 2007).

When I first began offering longdistance deaf education course work to those who did not live close enough to drive to my "on-campus" courses, trainees had to reside in the state and be able to come on a particular afternoon at a specific time to an educational service center that was typically within about an hour's drive of their homes. As a career professor in deaf education and as a parent of deaf children, I had experienced the benefit of making concepts visible and not solely dependent on the English language. I put this knowledge to use when I adapted traditionally offered campus courses for interactive/compressed video and, later, for the Web. At first, I taught basic courses from a studio at the university equipped with videoconferencing equipment. I requested that I be filmed so that overheads and demonstration materials could be seen as I lectured. "Using this technology, educators . . . can see, hear, and converse with their students and colleagues throughout a state" (Luetke-Stahlman, 1995, p. 37).

During this period, I formally studied 13 students enrolled in two different deaf education courses (methods and Deaf studies) taught by two different professors of deaf education and utilizing videoconferencing. Group 1 consisted of eight urban students and two rural students. Group 2 consisted of two urban students and one rural student. One of the students was deaf. Information was both signed and spoken. Several geographic sites were involved. The students in the Deaf studies course as well as those in the methods course changed their opinions about the use of the technology in a positive direction when attitudes surveyed at the beginning of the semester were compared with those at the end. The compressed video format was found to be a preferred alternative to correspondence study because of the live interaction (LuetkeStahlman, 1995).

Richardson and Woodley (2001) compared the perceptions of hearing students and students with a hearing loss who were enrolled in a distance education program that utilized broadcast television in Britain. Three percent of the students used sign language as a primary means of communication. Both groups rated the quality of the classes highly. The participants were not training to become teachers of the deaf.

Richardson, Long, and Foster (2004) also studied the use of videoconferencing, comparing hearing and deaf students who did not sign and who were not training to become teachers of the deaf. These researchers' work is representative of most of the investigations that have been published, in that it featured study participants who were undergraduate students at institutions such as NTID that offer programs especially designed for students with hearing loss, the lack of a comparison group of hearing peers, and the inclusion of participants who were not training to become teachers of the deaf. Richardson and colleagues analyzed the responses of 28 students with hearing loss who did not sign and 12 hearing students who served as a comparison group. All were taking courses that involved videoconferencing and text-based dialogue. The participants responded to a subset of questions from a questionnaire measuring academic and social integration (Kember, 1995). There was no significant difference between the deaf and hearing participants with regard to academic engagement.

Richardson and colleagues (2004) found that students were highly motivated and engaged with faculty at their institutions, but that the deaf study participants expressed difficulty in communicating with course peers. That is, they expressed feelings of physical and social isolation but felt that online learning provided important communication advantages when compared to traditional courses for which an interpreter was required (Long et al, 2003). The students with hearing loss were rated as self-reliant in the analysis of the Kember (1995) questions, and some commented that they found communication easier than in a campus-based setting; they were able to avoid many ofthe problems encountered in traditional settings (e.g., securing interpreters, depending on interpreters, taking notes). Richardson and colleagues (2004) concluded that the results might have been different had some of the study participants relied on sign language. The researchers noted that it was "not clear whether the findings of such studies would generalize to the experiences of students with a hearing loss taking courses in mainstream institutions of higher education" (p. 69).

Research has not been published recently regarding deaf education and Web-based course work. However, professors in deaf education are using this format in their teaching, and are sharing program descriptions with their colleges or universities (White & Smith, 2007). For example, when I was still at a university in the Midwest, I adapted two on-campus deaf education courses and offered them for 2 years in a completely Web-based format. In addition to students living in the local area, students in urban and rural communities throughout the United States and Canada and as far away as Taiwan took these courses to obtain certification, a master's degree, or a pay raise, or because they wanted to increase their knowledge of a particular deaf education topic, for example, bilingual research and strategies (De Garcia, 1997).

I currently teach many Web-based courses over the Internet at a university located in the south-central United States. Courses are offered on Blackboard, an e-course management system that is used to offer Web-enhanced and Web-based courses. I have now adapted at least a dozen deaf education courses for this format and presently teach almost entirely online. In a preliminary data collection (Luetke, 2008), several questions were asked of 67 students who were either enrolled in two deaf education courses I taught in the spring 2008 semester (i.e., Literacy, Multiply Handicapped Deaf) or were alumni, having taken a course previously in deaf education from one or more of ñve deaf education professors. Five students indicated that they were hard of hearing, three that they were deaf and "oral," and six that they were deaf and used sign as a primary means of communication. Including the state where my university was located, the survey respondents lived in 11 states. Thirtythree of the respondents were taking courses toward deaf education certification, 2 1 for a second master's degree other than one in deaf education, 11 toward a master's in deaf education, 5 in order to get a pay increase, and 4 for other reasons. There was no limit to class size, and the university had only recently developed a general evaluation tool to assess all courses offered online by its faculty

Method

Participants

The participants in the present study were 108 graduate students enrolled in either a deaf education course I taught in a Web-based format at a university located in the south-central United States, or university alumni (who had taken such courses in the last 5 years, not all of which I had taught). Some students were or had been enrolled in more than one course.

The study participants in Group A consisted of 15 of 17 students enrolled in a research and deafness course. This was 14% of the total number of those who participated in the present study Group B consisted of 25 of 30 students who were enrolled in a language and deafness course. This was 23% of those who participated in the study Group C consisted of 17 of 18 students who were enrolled in a course on multiple handicaps. This was 16% of those who participated in the study. Group D consisted of 51 former students; they constituted 47% of the total number of participants in the study The members of Group D had taken one or more Web-based deaf education courses from among five professors at the university (i.e., Research; Multiple Handicaps; Methods; History, Trends, and Education of the Deaf; Literacy Development for the Deaf; Pre-practica; Parent-Professional Communication Strategies; Problems Teaching Speech; Teacher-Friendly Assessment; Professional Papers; Problems Teaching Language; and Audiology. Thus, about half the students were current students (53%) and about half were alumni.

Materials

A survey consisting of questions based on information found in a review of relevant research and my experiences teaching long-distance courses was sent to all students enrolled in my three summer 2008 courses, as well as an alumni group. The survey consisted of 27 questions for hearing respondents, and 28 for respondents with a hearing loss.

Analysis and Results

Four volunteers collected the surveys from the four groups of participants and tabulated the responses in an Excel file for use by the research staff at the university. Thus, university professors did not see individual student responses to the survey and were unable to identify the responses of particular students in their courses. Responses were figured as percentages and compared to each other using Pearson chi-square analysis. Significant comparisons are reported below. Information was available across all participants as well as for those in one of the four groups. Data are reported for all participants unless otherwise noted. Percentages reported may not equal 100% due to rounding.

The study participants responded to five possible choices with regard to their current grade point average Those who had begun graduate school that summer reported they did not yet have a GPA (23%). Three percent had a GPA between 2.0 and 2.5, 6% had a GPA between 2.6 and 3.0, and 15% had a GPA between 3.1 and 3.5. More than half of the respondents (55%) had a GPA of 3.6 or higher. The GPAs of participants who were deaf or hard of hearing (57% of whom had a GPA of 3.6 to 4.0) did not differ significantly from those of hearing participants (56% of whom had this same GPA range).

Some study participants gave more than one reason for taking a Webbased deaf education course. Most (73%) were enrolled because the particular course was required for a master's degree in deaf education from our university. Another 20% were obtaining deaf education certification (of whom 5 students, about 5% of the entire sample, also were earning a master's degree in the field). Three of the participants (about 3% of the sample) were motivated by a pay raise and one (about 1%) was obtaining a master's degree in a related field.

Most of the study participants (78%) had normal hearing. Eight percent rated themselves as hard of hearing and 14% as deaf. Of the 22% who rated themselves deaf or hard of hearing, almost two thirds (or 14% of the entire sample) listed sign as a primary means of communication.

Forty-nine percent of the study participants were 25 years of age or younger. The 51% of the sample who were older than traditional college students were distributed as follows: 18%, ages 26 to 30; 23%, ages 31 to 40; 10%, over age 40.

Some 32% of the study participants had one to six campus-based deaf education courses. Most participants (80%) had taken or currently were taking six or more Web-based deaf education courses. These percentages do not total 100% because respondents were in various stages of their education or had graduated.

The study participants chose from three responses with regard to their distance from the main campus (which was located about an hour's drive, north of a large metropolitan area). The majority lived in the state (28% in the metropolitan area and 31% in the state but too far, by their judgment, to drive to campus for classes). The remaining 41% lived in either .Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, New York, or North Carolina. Most participants (68%) indicated that they lived in urban areas; the other 32% responded that they lived in rural communities. The percentage of deaf respondents who lived in urban areas was greater than the percentage of hearing respondents who lived in such areas.

Study participants' responses to the next set of questions reflected experiences with me as well as other deaf education professors. In this section of the survey, students were asked about the various features of Blackboard they found beneficial across the course they had taken. On a Likert scale, respondents gave a rating of 4 or 5 (i.e., very beneficial) to the sections labeled (a) Course Information (where faculty typically posted the syllabus; 78% gave the feature a 5); (b) Course Documents (where PowerPoint presentations, case studies, research articles, examples of assignments, etc., might be posted; 81% gave this a 5); (c) Assignments (85% gave this a 5); (d) Announcements (88% gave this a 5); and (e) Discussion Board (92% gave this a 4 or a 5).

Some professors posted PowerPoint presentations; 60% of the respondents gave these a rating of 4 or 5. Two professors assigned "peer partners" for assistance and sharing of assignments; 57% of the respondents rated this course design feature as a 4 or a 5. A few respondents (7%) mentioned that the employment of a graduate assistant had been beneficial.

Next, students were asked to use a Likert scale rating to signify the degree to which course questions and concerns were addressed sufficiently by one of their instructors using e-mail. About 12% indicated that they felt that questions and concerns were not addressed adequately (a score of 1 or 2 on the Likert scale), about 25% did not have an opinion one way or the other, and about 64% felt that professors used e-mail in a satisfactoiy manner. Two respondents offered comments about the importance of responding to students in a timely manner when courses were Web based, noting that a same-day response was preferred and that 3 days was too long to wait for a reply to an e-mail.

When asked about the motivation to finish a degree that involved having to take courses offered online, study participants could choose more than one reason among several that were provided; therefore, percentages for this question total more than 100%. Respondents stated that they liked that they did not have to be at a certain place at a specific time (69%); that they were taking a Web-based course because there was no such course offered in their area (62%); that taking the course fulfilled personal goals (60%); and that doing course work online reduced their gasoline and auto maintenance expenses (16%). Other reasons (4%) included not having to sit through an on-campus course. Older respondents were more likely than younger respondents to say that they enrolled in Webbased courses so that they would not have to be in a certain place at a specific time.

A question requesting that respondents list negative factors was optional. About 80% of respondents did not respond. Among those who did, 16 mentioned the lack of direct contact with the instructor and classmates, which might have been helpful in understanding course expectations and content, and which would have enabled questions to be asked and immediately answered, and supports such as visual aids, group discussions, and study groups to be used. Phonetics was given as an example of a skill that had been difficult to learn "alone" online. Three respondents indicated that they had difficulties with self-motivation when isolated from the instructor as they worked on the assignments from a Web-based course.

Eight respondents found it difficult to submit assignments to a peer partner before the assignments were due to the professor, while respecting the "time zone" of their peer. Two of these same respondents indicated that they saw benefit in having a partner. The others did not feel that their peer partner gave their work the same degree of attention that they gave to their peer's, so as to be as helpful in earning all possible points on an assignment upon submission to the instructor for final grading.

Four respondents reported that the lag time in faculty responses to e-mailed questions was a negative factor in their experience of Web-based instruction. One commented that she had a professor who "didn't communicate at all," although her other instructors had been "fine" in this regard.

Two respondents mentioned that it was difficult to pay for the courses (for which students at this university were charged about $100 more than they were for on-campus courses, but for which out-of-state tuition was not charged). Two others mentioned that difficulties with their personal computers made Web-based learning a challenge, and two expressed the feeling that they spent too much time on the computer doing course work. Another two were challenged to find and meet Deaf people or visit a Deaf club. A firsttimer stated that the Blackboard format took getting used to, another that having to use a proctor to take a test was problematic, and yet another that having to travel multiple times to the state in which the university was located to take certifying exams was difficult for those who chose to be certified in a state other than their own.

Most study participants (80%) responded that they perceived my Webbased courses to be more work than if the same class were offered on campus. Thirteen percent thought they were less work, and 8% felt that they were about the same amount of work. The result of chi-square analysis when older and younger students were compared was that older students found my courses significantly harder than did those who were 20 to 25 years of age (p = .003). The result of chi-square analysis when deaf and hearing respondents were compared was that those who were deaf or hard of hearing were significantly more likely to rate my courses as harder (p = .004).

These are some comments associated with the impression that my courses were "more work":

More work but worth it because you can be flexible and do it when you can.

I often spend more time just trying to find out what the assignment is and what is expected than I do actually doing the assignment. Usually the frustrations are born out of trying to do an assignment without actually knowing what I am supposed to do.

With on-campus courses all you have to do is ask questions while you are in class and listen, but online you have to repeatedly go back to the syllabus and try to put the puzzle together. I spend a lot of time doublechecking things, or reading instructions that could be said in class and understood in a minute .... Once the project is over, the assignment appears easy, but the student can't see the end from the beginning.

These are examples of comments indicating that my courses were "less work":

If on campus I would spend less time studying and more time driving/ sitting in traffic.

If it were an on-campus class, I would probably take more time with peers outside of the class period for discussions.

Less time, due to the lack of lecturing. I can move at my own pace and read as quickly as I want and get ahead.

Study participants were asked if they thought that courses I offered were easier or harder than other Webbased courses they had taken. Almost half (48%) of the respondents judged them to be harder (on the basis of a Likert scale rating of 4 or 5), about 30% judged them to be at about the same level of difficulty, and about 22% considered them easier. Comments accompanying ratings of 3 included "They're all about the same level" and 4As this is my first session at [the university] , can't compare."

Comments made after ratings of 4 or 5 included "Harder but not inappropriate" and "Some instructors didn't have me do as much, but others were more confusing and not good at explaining what was expected." Another respondent wrote that "the courses you teach and the manner you teach leaves little room for guessing what is required." Two participants noted that the courses were harder but were more applicable to the actual teaching of deaf students. Another commented that my classes were harder but "in a good way, because you expect more from us." Another mentioned that "more critical thinking is involved with your courses." Another respondent found that the Web-based courses at the university were "challenging in different ways."

Study participants were asked if they felt they got to know the instructor less well in Web-based courses. Most (65%) replied that they felt that this was true. About 20% gave a Likert rating of 3; about 10% provided a 1 or 2 rating, indicating that they felt they got to know faculty as well in Webbased courses as in on-campus ones. Among the comments were these two: "The number of e-mails from the instructor in one Web-based course was more than the face-to-face conversations I have had [with my teacher] in an on-campus course," and "You definitely do more than is required to try to make a connection with us."

About half the study participants responded that they felt that "online instructors have not been accessible through the telephone, e-mail, or virtual chats." About 35% gave a middle rating on a Likert scale; about 10% felt that they had the access they needed to their Web-based professors. Most respondents (78%) reported that they used e-mail to correspond, but 12% enjoyed virtual chats and 11% had had a telephone call that they judged to be useful. The result of chi-square analysis when deaf and hearing participants were compared was that deaf students were significantly more likely to use e-mail to communicate than hearing students (p = .03).

A large majority of respondents (76%) said that when they wanted to know more about a topic, their online professors had been helpful in supplying answers and resources for obtaining additional information. Some (15%) had never asked, or indicated that this question did not apply to them. The results of chi-square analysis, when students who were more experienced with Web-based courses were compared to those who had taken fewer course online, was that those who had taken more Web-based courses felt that professors guided them appropriately when they wanted to know more about a topic f = .05).

Study participants were asked if they felt that the content of a particular course was compromised because it was delivered in a Web-based manner. Thirty-six percent thought that it was not; 47% thought that it was (as indicated by a Likert scale rating of 5). When the responses of those who gave a 4 or a 5 rating were combined, it was found that the majority of students (67%) thought that the content of the online course had been compromised compared to an on-campus offering. The result of chi-square analysis when study participants living in rural areas were compared to those living in urban areas was that those living in rural areas were significantly more likely not to rate course content as compromised because it was delivered online f = .001).

In answer to the last question to which all study participants were asked to respond, "Do you feel that content of this Web-based course is sufficient in training you to become a teacher of the deaf or be a better teacher of the deaf?" 44% of respondents provided a Likert scale rating of 5 and 27% a rating of 4, indicating that a total of 71% felt that the content was satisfactory

An additional question was asked of study participants who used sign as a primary language: "Does taking a Webbased course help you to avoid problems with traditional courses involving note taking, interpreters, communication with faculty, etc.?" Seventy-seven percent responded that it did. Yet at least one student expressed frustration when DVDs were not captioned, even if a transcript was provided. Another noted, "Yes, as a hard of hearing student, online courses take the pressure off of listening." Another stated, "Yes, I found it better to read the information online than to communicate through interpreters with teachers who don't know sign. Note takers aren't needed for online courses!" A bilingual student commented, 'ASL is my primary language. It was my first language as well (? have Deaf parents and a Deaf daughter), but I have no problems with English so taking courses online doesn't pose any problems for me. It helps me avoid using interpreters." One respondent said that the issues listed had not been problems either in her on-campus courses or those she took online.

Discussion

There is a paucity of available research comparing the learning experiences of hearing and deaf students enrolled in Web-based college courses. In addition, the few studies that are available utilized participants who were undergraduates at institutions offering programs especially designed for deaf students who were not training to become teachers of the deaf (e.g., Richardson et al, 2004; Richardson & Woodley 2001). The present study was conducted to provide teacher trainers in the field of deaf education with information from consumers with regard to the design and delivery of required courses offered in online formats, and thereby, add to the empirical literature in the field, as suggested by Parton (2005).

The characteristics of the majority of study participants are listed in Table 1. The group as a whole represents intelligent, hearing, experienced consumers. There was no significant difference between the GPAs of deaf students and those of hearing students, a finding that supports a conclusion by Richardson and Woodley (1999, p. 68) that college students with hearing loss "seemed to be just as capable of adopting approaches to studying that were appropriate to higher education as were students without disability."

Because at least some deaf education courses have been available online for about 5 years, most consumers surveyed (80%) were very experienced with Web-based course delivery, having taken six or more deaf education courses in this format. Among the study participants, more alumni had taken courses online than students enrolled in current courses.

The respondents in the present study, as well as those I surveyed in 2008 (Luetke, 2008), took Web-based deaf education courses for a variety of reasons, but in many cases because they were working on a deaf education master's degree. Most (78%) had normal hearing, and with the exception of a few significant comparisons (e.g., more deaf students lived in urban areas compared to hearing students), there were not enough deaf respondents to the survey to allow a statistical comparison of the responses of participants with a hearing loss and those who were hearing. Several previous researchers noted the importance of making such a comparison; this is especially important when the goal is to train more teachers of the deaf who are deaf themselves.

Most of the study participants were about the same age as those in previous studies. However, I found that older students were more likely than students of traditional college age to indicate that they enrolled in Webbased courses because such courses did not require them to be in a certain place at a specific time. This may have been the case because students of traditional college age typically reside on campus and take their courses there and may not be married, have children, or be working in jobs as much as their older peers. More research is needed in with regard to this variable if training new teachers of the deaf who are older is of importance to deaf education faculty.

Judgments regarding features of Blackboard that study participants found beneficial were not particularly informative, and there has been no other research with regard to them in deaf education. Questions pertaining to them could be improved in future investigations.

The fact that deaf respondents corresponded with their instructors primarily via e-mail is not surprising, as most such consumers use text messaging and e-mail as standard means of daily communication. Most students in the present study, both hearing and deaf, were satisfied with e-mail as the primary means of correspondence, although its occasional lack of timeliness was emphasized by at least one student, a disadvantage supported by my own experience over the last decade. Students do not want to wait for clarification of an assignment or to find out whether they will be allowed to retake a quiz when e-mailed correspondence is delayed.

It was disappointing but not surprising that most students (65%) felt that they did not get to know the instructor as well in Web-based courses compared to those offered on campus. This finding should motivate all who teach in Web-based formats to do more than is required to try to make a connection with those who enroll in their courses. Suggestions for ways for students to get to know their instructors better included personalized telephone calls and conversations using video relay equipment involving both hearing and deaf students. Both these interventions are being implemented and studied empirically in my current courses.

Most respondents (about 80%) did not provide a negative reason for taking a Web-based course, but those who mentioned the lack of direct contact with the instructor and peers echoed other responses I have heard in more individualized discussions. One such student commented:

While I prefer face-to-face instruction and interaction with a teacher and classmates, my work schedule and family responsibilities did not allow me to attend an on-campus program. Yes, there are things I miss from the on-campus experience, but all in all I feel I will be sufficiently prepared to face the responsibilities of a [teacher of the deaf] when I complete the program (J. Holland, personal communication, July 24, 2008).

Such comments are important ones for faculty looking for ways to improve delivery. Such comments explain in part why the majority of students (67%) in the present study felt that the content of a particular course was compromised because it was delivered in a Web-based manner. Future study might focuses on Webbased courses of different sizes to find ways of changing this outcome. At a recent meeting for grant recipients hosted by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, I discussed class size with four deaf education professors who taught Web-based courses (e.g., methods). All reported no more than 7 to 15 students per course, while the participants in the present study were enrolled in courses with more than twice that many students in one case, and more than 20 students per course in another. Even though online delivery seems to be gaining popularity, class size is a variable worthy of further investigation.

Program content was judged to be satisfactoiy by the majority of consumers (71%). One student said:

My feeling is that I will be a wellrounded [teacher of the deaf] upon completion of this program; the content I needed was not sacrificed in the Web-based format. What I believe gets missed in the online course is the immediate give-and-take of classroom discussion - most importantly, the spontaneous question-and-answer sessions with the professor (T. Houpt, personal communication, July 23 ,2008).

More research is needed to determine whether or not students can be effectively trained to become teachers of the deaf when Web-based options are compared with traditional on-campus classes.

Seventy-seven percent of study participants with a hearing loss said that taking a Web-based course helped them avoid the problems with note taking, interpreters, and communication with faculty sometimes experienced in on-campus courses. This information supports previous findings of Long and colleagues (2003), and might hold important insights for effective training in the field. Unfortunately, questions pertaining to "selfreliance" and "academic engagement" (Richardson et al, 2004) were not analyzed in the present study and could not be compared to previous work.

The present study had several limitations. Data were collected from students enrolled at one university, and only five professors were involved. Also, only 22% of the respondents were deaf or hard of hearing. Two questions were specific to only one professor. These questions were concerned with whether the Web-based course in which the student was presently enrolled was perceived to be more difficult than other deaf education courses offered on campus or more difficult than other online courses offered in deaf education at the same university.

Responses were useful in improving deaf education course offerings in the fall semester. For example, I now call all my online students every other week, and I have reduced the number and types of assignments required. Given the increased interest in courses offered in Web-based formats, it seems logical to use consumer feedback to improve deaf education courses offered over the Internet.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the following student volunteers: Monique Beatty Elaine Hernandez, and Holly Kiddington. - The Author.

[Sidebar]

Table 1

Majority Characteristics of the Survey Respondents

Most were intelligent (as indicated by the fact that 55% had a GPA of 3.6 or higher).

Most (73%) had enrolled because the course was required for a deaf education master's degree.

Most (78%) had normal hearing.

Most (51%) were 26 to 40 years old.

Most (80%) were experienced with Web-based deaf education courses.

Most (68%), regardless of hearing status, lived in urban areas.

Most (59%) lived in Texas. (The other 41% lived in six other states.)

Most (69%), especially older students, enjoyed not having to be at a certain place at a specific time.

[Reference]

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[Author Affiliation]

BARBARA LUETKE

LUETKE IS A VISITING PROFESSOR IN THE

DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNICATION

SCIENCES AND DISORDERS, TEXAS WOMAN'S

UNIVERSITY, DENTON.