A Comparative Analysis of Learning Experience in a Traditional vs. Virtual Classroom Setting

By Ashkeboussi, Rahim | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

A Comparative Analysis of Learning Experience in a Traditional vs. Virtual Classroom Setting


Ashkeboussi, Rahim, Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

This paper, based on an empirical analysis, compares students' attitudes and performance for a graduate Financial Management course, which was taught through two different modes (online and traditional) of course delivery. In an attempt to overcome the shortcomings of other studies comparing different modes of education, this study designed a similar learning environment for both online and traditional groups. Over three semesters a questionnaire, addressing four major criteria or indices (Web utility, interactivity, learning experience, and overall satisfaction) that captured nineteen attributes (variables), was distributed to both groups. After computing the indices and analyzing the collected data, the study concluded that there is no significant difference between the two groups of students' attitudes and performance.

Introduction

Instruction involves the development and communication of knowledge through a viable medium. The medium around which teaching/learning has transpired has undergone a variety of changes in form over the years, from home schooling to traditional classroom (face-to-face) to distance education and its new form, computer mediated communication (CMC), known as the "virtual" classroom.

In a traditional medium (classroom setting), instruction is accomplished through lecturing and interaction of students/students and students/faculty. However, recently with technological advancements in computing and the advent of the Internet, computers as a mere instructional tool are being transformed to a medium through which the instruction is being delivered. It is observed that the application of computers in instruction has resulted in a more active involvement of students in their own learning. Barr (1990), in support of this notion, in his discussion of educational reform, states that learning should be more "independent, individualized, interactive, interdisciplinary, and intuitive", and that computer-based classrooms support such learning.

The rise of online course offerings by colleges around the world has created both excitement and skepticism among students, educators, administrators, employers, and government officials for different reasons. Based on a survey 1 by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, the use of asynchronous Internet-based technologies in teaching has grown from 22 percent of institutions in 1995 to 60 percent of institutions in 1997-1998. The survey also points to a 33% rate of growth, within the same time period, among the higher educational institutions offering courses through distance education. A revolution in higher education is in the making.

Naturally, such dizzying growth in online course offerings breeds controversy. Among the hotly debated issues concerning the quality of learning are whether:

   1. The extent of learning that normally takes place in a traditional
   classroom could be replicated online; and

   2. Virtual classrooms allow the same amount of interactivity as their
   traditional counterparts.

Currently, online classes are taught in different formats. Some classes integrate a bulletin board and email on a Web page through which assignments are communicated to students. Students are required to use the email or bulletin board to explicate their completed assignments, pose their questions, and most importantly interact with one another. Other virtual courses offer online external links and assignments plus computer chat rooms on a real-time basis. This allows students to discuss group projects among each other, or get together with the instructor at designated times and discuss their questions and progress in the course. Some traditional classes also supplement their courses with Web-based resources. In either case, online capabilities have produced a pedagogical side benefit as a result of greater accessibility to the instructors and course contents, and the vast resources of the Internet. …

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