Experienced Faculty Rate Distance Education Most Effective for Achieving Many Student and Administrative Outcomes

Experienced Faculty Rate Distance Education Most Effective

 

Kelley A. Conrad, Doctoral Program Faculty for IO Psychology,

Herman Van Niekerk, Associate Dean of Instruction Doctoral Business Programs,

University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies, and

Cornelius Brown, Deputy Sector Navigator

for the California Community College Chancellor Office

 

            At the beginning of 2017, the US National Center for Educational Statistics projected there were 17.3 million students in colleges and universities in the United States and 3 million in post baccalaureate programs.  Students take classes in various types of classrooms but the three main ones are traditional face-to-face classrooms, online classrooms, and mixed classrooms using face-to-face and online approaches.  However, what instructors do in their classrooms and if or how the type of classroom structure affects student outcomes have not been studied extensively.  We found a few qualitative studies where instructors described their approaches and techniques in interviews. We also found some disagreements about key terms used to describe classrooms and teaching.  Barr and Tagg (1995) found student-centered approaches more effective than teacher or content centered approaches.  Hiebert and Grouws (2006) described the effects of teaching on student learning as open ended.  We found one direct comparison exploring student learning comparing online with traditional environments (Angiello, 2010).  In addition, the U.S. Department of Education published a meta-analytic study (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010)  reviewing more than a thousand studies of online learning which reported “on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction” (p. ix).  Unfortunately, we found no studies that specifically explored all three of the main classroom types with respect to important student and administrative outcomes.  Developing a better understanding of effects of varying operationalization of the college classroom can contribute to improved effectiveness in teaching and education. 

Method

Problem Statement

As part of a larger survey investigating how teachers develop grades for students, we examined instructor ratings of the three major classroom structures for differential effects on 38 key teaching and administrative outcomes.  Our research question was, “How do experienced college and university instructors rate the three major classroom formats for effects on student and administrative outcomes?”

Participants

Participants were solicited by email from several academic faculty ListServs and the attendance list from the 2016 DT&L conference.  The final sample was a convenience sample of 148 experienced faculty responding as having taught more than 15 college or university classes.  All indicated they were trained and knowledgeable about their university procedures.  All participants received and agreed to informed consent though the opening page of the survey. 

Design

            Our study was descriptive quantitative design utilizing a section of an online survey exploring the perceptions of experienced faculty about the effects of type of classroom on student and administration outcomes.  Our survey consisted of 38 questions on assessment and grading, a ranking of 15 assessment practices, evaluations of 35 types of assessments, ratings of the influences of 8 factors that affect grades, and 6 changes in educational environment that affect grades.  Also included were demographic factors and two brief open ended questions.  The demographic and descriptive data collected enabled the comparison of key student and administrative outcomes for the three classroom types.  Only those data are included in this study and report.

Approval

            The research was approved by the University of Phoenix Institutional Review Board and the Committee on Research.  Admission to the survey was controlled by Survey Monkey item programming that did not permit a participant to proceed to the survey questions if they did not electronically sign the informed consent document.  Participation was voluntary. 

Results

            Sample Demographic Characteristics

Gender

Frequency

Percent

Females

108

72.9

Males

36

24.3

Other

4

2.8

Years Teaching

Frequency

Percent

1-3

9

6.1

4-9

22

14.9

10-14

43

29.0

15+

72

48.6

Missing

2

1.4

 

            The survey was administered to lists of instructors from US colleges and universities.  The following were the regions represented and number of respondents from that region: New England (11), Middle Atlantic (15), East North Central (16), West North Central (24), South Atlantic (40), Mountain (18), Pacific (22), and Missing (5).

Outcome Items by Classroom Type

Instructors judged distance instruction highest in comparison with traditional classes and mixed classes on the following items:

Where specific learning objects were most influential;

Where using group work was common and influential;

Where the student level of efforts was highest;

Where student mastery of material was highest;

Where grading of all assignments was important;

Where standardized tests were most frequently used;

Where participation, accuracy, and mastery of content were most important in   

      determining student grades;

Where student work habits have the most influence;

Where instructors feel grades should reflect student effort;

Where the importance of assigning zeros for incomplete assignments;

As classes valuable for selecting, identifying, or grouping students;

As classes most frequently used to evaluate school programs;

Where criterion referenced grading is used.

Traditional classes were judged highest on classes where:

Level of responsibility was highest;

A greater variety of assessments of student progress are made;

Where norm referenced grading is used.

Classes using a mix of traditional classroom and distance instruction were judged highest where:

Providing feedback to students;

When students need to be motivation was provided to students;

As more challenging to grade;

The objective is to teach student responsibility;

The objective is to motivate students;

It is desired to measure student progress;

Attendance has the greatest influence on grades;

Behavior and attitude in class impact grades;

Students can use extra credit to improve scores;

Quizzes are used in evaluation and teaching.

 

Conclusions

            In contrast to many fears that have been expressed claiming distance teaching online is less effective than traditional classes, we found experienced faculty rated it as more effective in achieving 15 of 38 student outcomes included in our survey.  This was consistent with the U.S. Department of Education meta-analytic study (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010) but a stronger effect than reported there.  Second, most effective in achieving desired outcomes were mixed mode classes combining distance learning techniques with face to face classroom exposure.  Experienced instructors rated the traditional classroom as effective for the fewest number of student outcomes.  These results can help instructors and administrators who are designing courses for maximum impact and which support administrative tracking.

University of Wisconsin Madison WI
Kelley A. Conrad
Herman van Niekerk
Cornelius Brown
Presentation Date: 
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Event or Conference: 
Distance Teaching and Learning Conference
Presentation Type: 
Poster Presentation
Boyer's Domain: 
Presentation Location: 
Monana Conference Center
Madison, WI
United States
Abstract: 
As part of a larger survey investigating how teachers develop grades for students, we examined instructor ratings of the three major classroom structures for differential effects on 38 key teaching and administrative outcomes. Our research question was, “How do experienced college and university instructors rate the three major classroom formats for effects on student and administrative outcomes?” Participants were solicited by email from several academic faculty ListServs and the attendance list from the 2016 DT&L conference. The final sample was a convenience sample of 148 experienced faculty responding as having taught more than 15 college or university classes. Our study was descriptive quantitative design utilizing a section of an online survey exploring the perceptions of experienced faculty about the effects of type of classroom on student and administration outcomes. In contrast to many fears that have been expressed claiming distance teaching online is less effective than traditional classes, we found experienced faculty rated it as more effective in achieving 15 of 38 student outcomes included in our survey. This was consistent with the U.S. Department of Education meta-analytic study (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010) but a stronger effect than reported there. Second, most effective in achieving desired outcomes were mixed mode classes combining distance learning techniques with face to face classroom exposure. Experienced instructors rated the traditional classroom as effective for the fewest number of student outcomes. These results can help instructors and administrators who are designing courses for maximum impact and which support administrative tracking.