As the U.S. demographics change from a predominantly agrarian society to one that is more urban, technology has shown tremendous advancement. This advanced technological progress occurred dramatically in higher education, including agricultural education, resulting in significant changes in the educational needs of today's students and teachers.
Teachers at institutions of higher education communicate differently as evidenced by the vast increase in the use of electronic mail systems and online teaching materials and activities. The impact of increased use of advanced computer technology on students' perceptions of their own levels of competence, however, remains unknown.
Through the use of the World Wide Web (WWW), professors may reach their students, both on and off campus, thereby appealing to a more diverse audience of students. Several studies have compared online education to traditional education.
Ward and Newlands (1998) stated that the WWW and its Internet links can aid in the learning process. Surprisingly, C.D. Baggett (personal communication, May 8,1999) found that over 1/2 of the students enrolled in a university introductory agriculture course had not received formal instruction in Internet use, electronic mail, presentation graphics, or computer programming. Nonetheless, there are many courses that can be designed to take advantage of the use of the WWW to enhance course curricula.
During the summer of 1999, we decided to implement several learning strategies in a microcomputer applications course. Strategic course planning and developing modules were used while transforming the course from a traditional to an online course. This involved creativity and was thought provoking.
During this transformation process, lectures, worksheets, assignments, quizzes, tests, and discussion materials were adapted for web delivery. For the traditional course, subject matter was delivered by lectures and demonstrations.
We wanted to compare the levels of learning attained by students enrolled in an online course to those in the traditional course. Throughout the development and implementation process, the overall scores in the online course were higher than those scores in the traditional course. This may have been attributed to the fact that students were able to complete assignments at their convenience as well as spending more time to complete assignments. However, students enrolled in the traditional course rated the course higher than students enrolled in the online education course.
Personal interaction, which occurs in a traditional classroom, setting may have influenced student's perceptions of both the qualities of the course and the instructor. Also, student's decisions to take online courses, may be an important consideration for instructors designing or updating courses.
Technology is continuously changing, as is agricultural education. It is imperative that students in all fields of education continue to become skillful in technology usage.
Although many students enjoy the convenience of instructional delivery in an online course, there are potential negative consequences. For example, an instructor cannot see a confused expression on a student's face when the student does not understand the content of the material covered. …