Effects of Human Factors in Engineering and Design for Teaching Mathematics: A Comparison Study of Online and Face-to-Face at a Technical College

Article excerpt


The focus of this study was to examine four characteristics for successful and unsuccessful students enrolled in basic mathematics courses at a technical college. The characteristics, considered to be in part effects of human factors in engineering and design, examined the preferred learning styles, computer information systems competency, on-screen reading ability, and keyboarding proficiency. Students self-selected one of two course delivery formats, online and face-to-face, for a basic mathematics class. The measures of the four characteristics were collected for each combination of class format and success. The study found that the class format and success status relative to the measured characteristics individually did not produce significant differences. There was a significant interaction of the factors noted for the social preferred learning style suggesting that successful face-to-face students had a weaker preference for a social learning style than non-successful students did. Two hundred eighty-eight students participated in the study.

Abbreviations: Georgia Virtual Technical College (GVTC), Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET), Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), Multiple Intelligences (MI), Readiness for Education at a Distance Indicator (READI), Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), face-to-face (ff), online (ol)

1. Introduction

1.1 Demographics

Students enrolled In the course MATH 1012: Foundations of Mathematics participated In this study. The course emphasizes the "...application of basic mathematical skills used In the solution of occupational and technical prob- lems. Topics Include fractions, decimals, percentages, ratios and proportions, measurement and conversion, formula manipulation, technical applications, and basic statistics."There are five math prerequisites with the last one prior to this course being elementary algebra. A third of participants In the study were male and two-thirds were female (figure 1 ). A majority of the participants were enrolled In health-related majors (figure 2). Although most majors were popu- lated with female students, there were certain male-dominated majors such as firefighting, welding and automotive related areas as depicted In table 1.

1.2 Background

Although no short catch phrase can adequately char- acterize the scope of the human factors field, such expression as designing for human use and optimizing working and living condi- tions would give partial Impression of what human factors Is about (Sanders & McCormick, 1993). In this study, the effects of learning styles, computer Informa- tion systems competency, on-screen reading ability, and keyboarding proficiency are partly Influenced by the design of the medium used. The medium here Includes the on-line devices and face-to-face devices or tools that make learning acces- sible. Although the words 'human factors'or'engineer- ing design'will not be used throughout the paper, It should be noted that they do have a significant contribution towards Improv- ing learning.

The Georgia Virtual Technical College (GVTC) has Identified three categories of Internet use In connection with classes: online, hybrid, and Web-enhanced (GVTC, 2002). The online category courses are delivered entirely over the In- ternet while the hybrid and web-enhanced categories use predominantly the traditional face-to-face format for Instruction. While hybrid courses use a face-to-face format with some class sessions conducted online, the web- enhanced courses on the other hand are face-to-face for every contact hour but use online resources to enhance learning.

There are two schools of thought on how students learn over the Inter- net. One maintains that no difference exists In student learning whether set In an online-type class or a face-to-face type class, while the other suggests student learning In online classes differs from that of face-to-face. Regardless of the approach taken, the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommuni- cations (WCET) found most studies to date reflected no significant difference In constructs being analyzed between face-to-face and online classes (2006). …