Student Perceptions of Management Courses Delivered Via Distance Learning Technologies
Gupta, Sanjay, Schnake, Mel E., Academy of Educational Leadership Journal
Schools of business are increasingly adopting distance-learning technologies for the delivery of courses and even complete degree programs (Hildebrand, 1995). This trend has resulted from the rapid developments in information technology, the ability of schools of business to reach students in distant locations, and the sharing of costs and expertise across multiple locations (Webster & Hackley, 1997). A recent survey indicated that more than half of the 2, 215 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S., offer distance learning courses (Gubernich & Ebeling, 1997; Vasarhelyi & Graham, 1997). In addition, the growth of part-time, non-residential, non-traditional students has further increased the demand for distance learning (Hubbard, 1997; Green, 1996). Given it's relatively recent development, little research exists examining the effectiveness of, and student reaction to, these methods of course delivery.
While there are differences between schools in the specified information technologies employed, a typical distance learning technology involves audio, video, and graphic links between two or more locations. Instructors and students typically use all of these media during the delivery of the course. These technologies offer several specific benefits. First, it allows the sharing of information and costs among multiple sites, giving schools that implement distance learning programs a competitive advantage (Webster & Hackley, 1997). Second, it provides educational opportunities for distant or disadvantaged locations, giving schools that offer distance learning programs an opportunity to tap new market segments (Walsh & Reese, 1995). Third, it introduces students to the information technology used by businesses (Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1993).
Lengnick-Hall and Sanders (1997, p. 1335) recently suggested a definition of high-quality management education as a program that yields "(1) high levels of learning (e.g., increased knowledge, skill, and understanding, (2) high levels of change or intention to change behavior (application of new knowledge and skills), and (3) highly positive reactions (e.g., satisfaction with the course, the method of instruction, and the value of what was learned and intentions to recommend the course to others." This expanded definition of high quality management education recognizes participant reactions as an important component. Webster and Hackley (1997) examined student reactions in 29 distance learning courses at six North American Universities. The study included a variety of courses (accounting, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, political science, and sociology) but did not include any management courses. Results suggested that technology reliability and quality are related to learning outcomes. This study also provided evidence that a more interactive instructional style (as opposed to straight lectures) is related to learning outcomes and student attitudes toward distance learning courses. However, it remains to be established whether similar results will be obtained with students registered for management distance learning courses.
DISTANCE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
A wide variety of delivery formats are used in distance learning courses. Delivery mechanisms include interactive videos, television, Internet-based courses, compressed video, cable television and satellite broadcasting (Potashnik, 1998; Chadwick, 1995). Some formats permit one-on-one interaction between instructor and student (e.g., interactive videos, television, and satellite broadcasting), while others permit virtually no interaction (e.g., Internet-based courses, print media based courses, and complete on-line courses). Each format offers and presents unique advantages and disadvantages. The present research focuses on distance learning employing an interactive television format via satellite-broadcasting at a regional state university of approximately 10,000 students. …