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1 Running Head: COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL 1 The Comparison of Online Students Education to the Traditional Students of Classroom Education Brent Alan Neumeier The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Author s Note Brent Alan Neumeier, The University of Arkansas at Little Rock. If there are any questions or comments in regards to this study contact: Brent Neumeier, School of Mass Communication, The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR

2 COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM 2 Abstract The purpose of this research study is to compare the learning of online undergraduate college students to the learning of traditional classroom undergraduate students. The research of this study was conducted with fifty undergraduate students enrolled in the Mass Communication Program at The University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The fifty students enrolled in a class in the fall semester of Twenty five of the fifty undergraduate students took the class online using Blackboard. The other twenty five students took the class in a traditional classroom setting, meeting twice a week. The comparison of learning in the online class and the traditional class are the results of this study.

3 COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM 3 Introduction: With the growth of online classrooms in higher education by the use of Blackboard, Wimba, and other e-learning technologies, the real question is: Does e- learning in online classrooms give the same type of learning as that of the traditional classroom? By the use of pre and post tests, a quantitative comparison of online discussion boards and classroom participation, and a post class student survey, the study compares the learning in an online classroom to a traditional classroom. The study does not focus on individual teaching methods used by an individual instructor. The results of this study can be used by a university or professor when they are deciding which method (e-learning or traditional) to use for an individual class. The research found in this study will contribute to the e-learning field along with standard classroom learning. A professor might use the research to see which method fits their style of teaching and a university might benefit from this study by learning the numbers that prove the comparison between the two teaching methods. Literature Review: The purpose of the study is to compare the learning of students in an online class to the learning of students in a traditional classroom setting. One example used in the study is comparing online discussion posts to vocal participation of students in a traditional classroom setting. Some researchers feel the use of online instructional tools can remove some of the communication impediments associated with the face-to-face lectures providing a forum to address issues through argumentative and collaborative

4 COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM 4 discourse (Karacapilidis & Papadias, 2001 p.270). With the idea of online discussions compared to a traditional lecture, previous studies report adequate student preparation in using the online discussion forums as an easy navigation function of the forum to increase contribution (Balaji, 2010, p.5). As in the online discussion board vs. traditional lecture comparison, the study also uses a pretest and posttest. This experimental design gives researchers the information of the students knowledge of the class before the class and after the class using a posttest to measure the influence of treatment (Suter, 2006, p. 266). Separate from the posttes,t the study requires a student exit survey and in a similar study by Crystal Machado, a preliminary survey, elicited demographic data, (Machado p. 38). Research Design The research design in the study resembles a True Experimental Design method from Suter s Introduction to Educational Research textbook. A true independent variable involves a manipulation coupled with random assignment of subjects to groups (Suter, 2010, p. 265). The independent variable in this study is the condition in which each group of students learning. An example of the independent variable in this study is an online class or the traditional student classroom condition. By manipulating the independent variable, the researchers can study each condition. Some of the research design for this study can be seen in the Crystal Machado study: Gender Differences in Student Discourse on Discussion Board and Blogs: An Instructor s Quest to Create a Level Playing Field in a Hybrid Classroom. In Machado s study the data was generated from the following sources: (1) a preliminary survey which elicited demographic data

5 COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM 5 and documented their experience with reflective writing, (2) discussion board, (3) their personal blogs, (4) their individual action research reports (Machado p. 38). A randomized pretest and posttest are given to each student in each of the two groups. The rationale behind the pretest and posttest is that the researchers can gain the knowledge of each individual student before the class and compare that knowledge to the results scored on the posttest. The results from the scores on the pretest and posttest are compared between the two groups in order to tell which group the (online student group or traditional classroom group) learned the material better. The group with the greater difference in pretest and posttest scores is the class that learned the material thus proving which method (online or traditional classroom) taught the material better. Sample Group: The sample group and the participants involved in the study are two groups of undergraduate Mass Communication students enrolled in the fall semester of 2010 in the Introduction to Mass Media course at The University of Arkansas at Little Rock. One of the groups took the class online and the other group took the class in a traditional classroom setting. The research was conducted by four researchers, two different researchers for each class, two for the online class and two for the traditional classroom. The four researchers are not the instructor. The instructor of the course is the same instructor for both the online and traditional classroom, this is to relieve bias. By having the same instructor for both classes the teaching materials, methods, and techniques used by the instructor will remain the same vs. two separate instructors using different techniques.

6 COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM 6 The two groups of students had the same number of students in each group, 25 per group. Each group consists of five African American students, five Caucasian students, five female, five male, and five of mixed nationality. The subjects of this study did not know they were participating in the study at the time of the study. Procedures: The procedures in this study are to give each student in each group a pretest before the class begins to test their knowledge of the subject matter. The communication among students is another method measured in this study. Every week two researchers for each group monitored the online discussion boards. The researchers mark a tally on a chart, the number of discussion posts for that class, that week. The researchers also make note of the length and depth of each discussion board posting. In the traditional classroom setting the researchers sit in on one of the two traditional classes each week and make a tally on a chart, the number of questions asked in class by the students and the depth of those questions. At the end of the semester, the charts are compared to see which class interacted more by either an online discussion board or in class participation. In the Balaji study, the Student Interactions in Online Discussions Forum: Empirical Research from Media Richness Theory Perspective the findings perceived a richness of online discussion forum and had a significant positive effect on student participation, interaction, and learning when used along with traditional classroom lecture (Balaji p. 1). The final procedure for this study is the survey conducted at the end of the semester. Each student takes and exit survey, different from the posttest. The survey

7 COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM 7 rates the course and the surveys are compared between the two groups. With the pretest and posttest comparison, the discussion board vs. in-class participation and the exit survey, the data collected in this study is both qualitative and quantitative. The statistics and numbers of the quantitative results come from the discussion board vs. classroom participation chart numbers. The pretest and posttest allow for a more qualitative approach comparing the two test scores to show which group of students learned more that semester. Instrumentation The instruments used in this study are the pretest and posttest composed of 25 questions on the topic of Introduction to Mass Media. The same questions on the posttest are on the pretest. This way the knowledge is actually measured. The second instrument used in this study is the discussion board vs. classroom participation chart. The third and final instrument used in this study is the exit survey, this give a personal view of the study. Giving feedback from each individual student on how they thought that method (Online vs. Traditional) was used in teaching the material. Some reliability and validity issues that are in this study can be seen in the measure of dispersion among a set of scores in the pretest and the posttest (Suter, 2006, p.231). The reliability can be measured from this study in the comparison of tally marks on the chart measured class participation to online discussion board activity. Data analysis

8 COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM 8 1.) The pretest and posttest will measure student knowledge at the beginning of the class and at the end of the class of each group. The results of the pretest and posttest of each group will then be compared between groups. 2.) The comparison chart of discussion board activity vs. in classroom participation. 3.) The post exit student survey measures the individual students opinion of the method the class was given (Online vs. Traditional). Limitations A limitation to this study is that the study is centered to a specific class, Introduction to Mass Media vs. a generic history or composition class. Centering the research on one specific class might limit the educators that read the study. A way to solve this would be to simply use the research model but on a not so specific class. Planned Research Some potential uses of the research in this study are by individual instructors or a University. Instructors can read the research of this study to determine which method (Online or Traditional) best suits them for their teaching style, subject matter, and technology. The purpose of this study is to show the comparison of learning in an online classroom setting to learning in a traditional classroom. By the use of a pretest and posttest, the student activity chart of online discussion board posts and in class participation, and the student exit survey, the study will measure the two methods of teaching.

9 COMPARISON OF ONLINE STUDENTS TO TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM 9 Bibliography Balaji, M., Chakrabarti, D., (2010). Student Interactions in Online Discussions Forum: Empirical Research from Media Richness Theory Perspective. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, Volume 9, Retrieved: Karacapilidis, N., & Papadias, D. (2001). Computer supported argumentation and collaborative decision making: The HERMES system. Information Systems, Machado, Crystal. Gender Differences in Student Discourse on Discussion Board and Blogs: An Instructor s Quest to Create a Level Playing Field in a Hybrid Classroom. Journal of Interactive Online Learning. Vol 10, Number Retrieved: Suter, N. W. (2006). Introduction to Educational Research: A Critical Thinking Approach. 265, 266, 231

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