Research Proposal: ONLINE VERSUS FACE-TO-FACE CLASSROOM: EVALUATING LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS FOR A MASTERS LEVEL INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN COURSE

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1 1 Online Versus Face-to-Face Classroom: Evaluating Learning Effectiveness for a Masters Level Instructional Design Course Ann Peniston George Mason University Author Note Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for EDIT 590, Spring 2013

2 2 Online Versus Face-to-Face Classroom: Evaluating Learning Effectiveness for a Masters Level Instructional Design Course Introduction By no means is elearning or online learning a new learning platform for delivering instruction. This holds true for various levels of education. Online courses, whether synchronous or asynchronous, are being used all over the world within educational institutions of all types. With this said, there still seems to be ongoing research as to whether or not online instruction is as effective as face-to-face learning in a classroom environment. It seems even though institutions are embracing and using online instruction, we continually need to validate its effectiveness in various topics at various educational levels. EDIT 705 is an Instructional Design course required to be taken in the Instructional Technology Master s program at George Mason University (GMU). I took this course online my very first semester at GMU after being out of school for over 15 years and I can t help but to remember how I struggled with the technology. We never met face-to-face, so all communication, lessons, project work, etc. was all completed online. From Blackboard, a virtual learning environment and course management system, to Collaborate, Blackboard s platform for doing as its name describes, an online interactive program that allows learners and instructors to collaborate, it all was Greek to me. The course was and still is so vital to the program providing a great foundation for students in the field, but could I have gotten more out of it if it were taught face-to-face? Sure, I received the highest score you could receive, but what did I walk away with besides the relief that the online learning was done; at least for that semester? Today, the course is offered in the classroom, but what if we could get more students enrolled in the

3 3 program if there were more flexibility with more or all of the required coursework being offered online as it was before? The purpose of this study is to assess whether or not one instructional method provides learners with a more meaningful experience over the other. This will be determined by the results of graded assignments as well as the learners feelings as to whether or not they will be able to take what was learned and apply it in the workplace. In this case, we will look at an online asynchronous platform versus the face-to-face classroom environment to see if one benefits a learner more than the other. Literature Review Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2010) point out that technological innovations are changing our learning spaces, interactions, and perspectives and that academic institutions can no longer depend on a single course or learning management system or curricular approach to deliver courses, support instructional events, and assess student learning. It is not clear as to whether or not a blended learning approach is the key to success, but it could satisfy a broader audience due to various students learning styles. Another study was conducted to determine if there were variances in outcomes measured during students in an online cohort program versus with students in the traditional face-to-face program (Dell, 2012). The result of this study concluded that the students performed at the same levels no matter the method of instruction and it s possible that the findings could give institutions ammunition to continue a course online or implement other courses to be delivered online (Dell, 2012).

4 4 In a study conducted by Johnson, Hornik, and Salas (2007), the researchers found an important aspect of e-learning effectiveness was the emergence of a shared learning space where students perceive they are part of a learning community. Additionally, although computermediated interaction may have allowed for a large amount of interaction between individuals to occur, this information may be less impactful because individuals are not forced to cognitively process it in the same way they would have in a face-to-face conversation. Jones and Long (2013) stated that equity in learning for students in online and on-site courses should be a goal for institutions desiring quality course offerings for all students. Furthermore, it was mentioned that documenting and analyzing any significant differences in achievement between online and on-site students could help institutions address the possibility of learning gaps. On the other hand, there was a study that compared students in the same face-to-face and online sections of principles of economics courses offered at three different universities. Researchers found that online students scored significantly lower on a standardized test than students in the face-to-face sections of the course (Burkhardt, Kinnie, & Cournoyer, 2008). Additionally, findings from a study conducted by Ellis, Goodyear, and Piggott (2010) suggested there are significant differences within the qualitatively different experiences of learning through discussions and academic performance which was measured by final course grade. Unlike the studies mentioned above, the authors felt that students were more reluctant to share their true thoughts and opinions in a face-to-face environment. In this case, they were more comfortable expressing their feelings in an online discussion forum (Ellis, Goodyear, and Piggott, 2010).

5 5 As a result of these studies, it is apparent that there is no concrete evidence that one method of instruction is more effective than the other as findings from the studies vary from subject to subject and institution to institution. The conflicting results have illustrated the need for further research on a broader level, therefore this study aims to provide additional insight on this topic. Research Purpose and Questions The purpose of this research is to evaluate if there is a significant difference between the effectiveness of online versus face-to-face learning in a Master s level Instructional Design course at a university located in the DC Metropolitan area. The objective is to find out the following: 1. What are the students perceptions on how the instruction was delivered? 2. Do the students interact more on an online discussion or in a face-to-face classroom? 3. How effective was the learning in terms of final grade? 4. How effective was the learning from the perspective of the student why did things stick or not stick with them long term? Were they able to use the skills from the course immediately in other classes or at work, if applicable? Method Research Design A mixed-method: qualitative non-experimental (explanatory) with structured open-ended questions posed during focus groups for students in face-to-face instruction and open-ended survey/questionnaire for online students will be conducted. Data obtained from the focus groups/online surveys with open-ended questions will be analyzed in a qualitative manner along

6 6 with students' final grade. I m using this method because I feel that although final grades reflect the students accomplishments, their feelings while taking the course plays an important role in what will be retained long-term. Participants Participants will include GMU Masters level students from two different semesters in the same school year. The study will continue to a second consecutive year in order to include a larger sample. Convenience sampling will be used because all students enrolled in the course will be included. The first year is considered Phase I of the study and the second year is considered phase II of the study. Setting The settings will include an online asynchronous platform for students in one semester and a face-to-face classroom environment on campus for students in the other semester during the same school year. An interesting variable for the setting would be to capture data on a student(s) who may possibly drop the online course half way through a semester who must then attend a face-to-face version the next semester to complete. Variables/Data Sources/Measures The study will measure two variables: students achievement and students attitudes. Student achievement will be measured by meeting requirements per the course rubric, thus these tools will compile results for the final course grade. The rubric will consist of points achieved on major assignments such as components of a group/partner project, amount and quality of blog posts, and quiz scores. Students attitudes will be captured through online surveys for students attending the online version of the course and through focus groups for the students attending the face-to-face version of the course. The questions will be structured in an open-ended format.

7 References 7 Bliuc, A., Ellis, R.A., Goodyear, P, & Piggott, L. (2010). A blended learning approach to teaching foreign policy: Student experiences of learning through face-to-face and online discussion and their relationship to academic performance, Computers & Education, 56) Burkhardt, J.M., Kinnie, J., & Cournoyer, C.M. (2008). Information Literacy Successes Compared: Online vs. Face to Face, Journal of Library Administration, 48, Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2010). Learning to Learn with Integrative Learning Technologies: A Practical Guide for Academic Success. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc. Dell, C.A. (2012). Evaluating Program Effectiveness for an Online Elementary Education Cohort, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 8 (3), Johnson, R. D., Hornik, S., & Salas, E. (2008). An Empirical Examination of Factors Contributing to the Creation of Successful E-Learning Environments. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 66, Jones, S.L., & Long, V.M. (2013). Learning Equity between Online and On-site Mathematics Courses. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9 (1), 1-12.

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