Karl Nollenberger, Associate Professor. Abstract

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1 Comparing Online, Hybrid, and On Campus Alternatives in a Masters Program Student Preferences, Perceptions of Process, and Perceptions of Learning Outcomes Karl Nollenberger, Associate Professor Abstract Online learning has increased significantly in recent years. Northwestern University offers three modes of instruction for their Masters in Public Policy and Administration Program totally oncampus courses, totally online courses and a hybrid of eight on-campus courses and four online courses. A survey of Northwestern University alumni and students was undertaken by the author to assess the preferences of adult learners for the different modes of instruction, their perceptions of the process and their perceptions of the learning outcomes. Analysis of the survey responses indicates that majority of adult learners value the flexibility and other aspects of online classes while still desiring on-campus classes for the interaction with other students and the professor for the learning outcomes. Keywords: public administration, online learning, hybrid learning, student perceptions of online learning Introduction The increase in online and hybrid style courses in Masters of Public Administration Programs has been significant in the twenty-first century. There have been assessments of the positive and negative outcomes of the online courses/classes with a variety of outcomes (Allen, Bourhis, Burrell and Mabry, 2002; Barth, 2004; Bernard, Abrami, Lou, Borokhovski, Wade, Wozney, Wallet, Fiset, and Huang, 2004; Hannay and Newvine, 2006; Means, Toyama, Murphy, & Baki, 2013) However, there is limited research on comparing the preferences and perceptions of learning outcomes for adult learners in the Masters of Public Administration programs. This research explores preferences and perceptions of adult learners in a Masters program on learning outcomes and processes used for online, on-campus and hybrids of online and on-campus courses provided by the same university. The provision of three modes by the same university provides an opportunity to assess the preferences of students, their perceptions of the process, and their perceptions of learning outcomes within the same program for the three modes to expand the upon the research for adult learners in a Masters level programs. A survey of alumni and students in the program was undertaken to assess these preferences and perceptions of the three modes of course work. 1

2 Online learning has increased significantly in the twenty-first century. From the days of correspondence courses using printed material and communication via post and telephone, it has evolved to digital learning technologies (Southworth, Flanigan, & Knezek, 1981). By the academic year, 61% of higher education institutions offered online courses (Parsad & Lewis, 2008). Over 4.6 million students (25% of all students) were taking at least one online course by the fall of 2008 (Allen & Scaman, 2010). Blended or hybrid courses are also a trend in recent years in which instruction combines online activities and face-to-face instruction within one course (Graham, 2005). In 2002, the President of Pennsylvania State University stated that hybrid instruction is the single greatest unrecognized trend in higher education today (Young, 2002:33). Blended or hybrid courses are intended to enhance the traditional mode of instruction. This model works well for large or diverse groups of learners because it allows for differentiated instruction to make sure that students meet expectations and are also stretched in their learning (McNulty, 2013). A recent survey done by the National Association of Schools in Public Affairs and Administration of their 96 affiliated institutions showed that 40% of them offered hybrid or online courses (Ya Ni, 2013). Three research projects did a meta-analyses of a.) the effectiveness of online and blended learning (Means, Toyama, Murphy, & Baki, 2013), b.) comparing student satisfaction with distance learning to traditional classrooms (Allen, Bourhis, Burrell and Mabry, 2002), and c.) how distance learning compares with classroom instruction (Bernard, Abrami, Lou, Borokhovski, Wade, Wozney, Wallet, Fiset, and Huang, 2004) The effectiveness of online learning was found to be equivalent to face-to-face instruction while blended learning formats were shown to be more effective than the instructor entirely in a face-to-face mode (Means et.al. 2013). The meta-analysis comparison of distance education with classroom instruction on the achievement, attitude and retention outcomes found effect sizes of essentially zero on all three of these measures and a wide variability with applications of distance education outperforming classroom instruction in some areas and performing more poorly in others (Bernard et. al. 2004). This meta-analysis found that the research on distance education has been of low quality as of the date of the study. Additional research is needed to address the effectiveness of this new mode of instruction. 2

3 Research Questions The following questions guided this study: 1. Why do students choose distance learning rather than traditional learning formats? 2. Are the perceived educational outcomes different between distance learning and traditional learning? 3. What are students perceptions of overall quality of learning in distance learning versus traditional learning? 4. Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction (blended or hybrid instruction) enhance learning? 5. What conditions influence the effectiveness of online teaching? Literature Review Distance Learning Advantages and Disadvantages As stated by MIT President, L. Rafael Reif, (2013:54) I am convinced that digital learning is the most important innovation in education since the printing press. He notes that digital learning has opened possibilities for billions of humans who previously had no access to higher learning. He describes three advantages of digital learning. First, the digital technologies are good at teaching content. He refers to a study done in 2011 that tested students taught online and by traditional lectures which showed that the online students did twice as well as their peers. Second, digital online learning allowed for flexibility. Students can engage anytime and anywhere. Third, digital online learning provides the ability to access and analyze information being generated about how people learn best. This could lead to improving teaching methods and strategies. Yet Reif also recognized that certain elements of education are transmitted best faceto-face the judgment, confidence, humility and skill in negotiation that come from hands on problem solving and teamwork; the perseverance, analytical skill and initiative that grow from conducting frontline lab research; the skill in writing and public speaking that comes from exploring ideas with mentors and peers; the ethics and values that emerge through being apprenticed to a master in your field and living as a member of a campus community (Reif, 2013:55). 3

4 Another advantage of the online format is that it gets away from the intensive three-hourper-week or all day Saturday format that can be difficult for working adult learners after a long day or week at work (Ebdon, 1999). On the other hand, the extended time period for the discussions over a multi-day period can create a learning curve for experienced faculty in deciding when and how to be involved in the discussions (Ebdon, 1999). Barth (2004) states that there is a place in public administration programs for online learning because mature and motivated students can learn well in this environment. But since good students will do well in traditional courses and online courses, the integration of online components into traditional classroom courses appears to provide the best of both worlds (Barth, 2004:453). He suggests that hybrid courses may provide the best learning forms to learn the theory, process and art of public administration. The process and art can be learned from both the instructor and fellow students in the classroom supplemented by the online learning of theory and the science of public administration. Another researcher found that achieving four components of school effectiveness was difficult and strained, if not impossible with the elimination of the social environment in online classes (Hassenburg, 2009). Those four factors were having purposeful educational leadership, challenging students, actively involving students with the teacher, and maintaining a positive and orderly climate. The atmosphere of being physically present and interacting is a part of the learning process. A desired learning outcome in public administration is interpersonal skills (Denhardt, 2001). Denhardt felt that distance learning is not well suited to learning the interpersonal skills. In their research, Drennan, Kennedy and Pisarski (2005) found that student satisfaction with online learning was influenced by positive perceptions towards technology and an autonomous learning mode. Another study concluded that certain courses such as Research Methods in Public Administration can be more challenging in the virtual environment than in the traditional classroom (Ya Ni, 2013). In addition to the benefits of time and place independence, distance learning also provides flexibility, effectiveness, efficient, multisensory experiences, interactivity, and affordability (Hsiung and Deal, 2013). With the right subject matter, with the right instructor or facilitator, and for the right student, Internet or online classes can provide an effective educational environment and offer a viable alternative to traditional classroom instruction 4

5 (Cooper, 2001:58). One disadvantage of online courses is the opportunity it offers to cheat on exams and papers. Campbell (2006) felt that the risk of cheating is high in online courses and that public affairs programs should not use online teaching except under carefully controlled circumstances. The Faculty Focus daily available to academics focuses on online instruction frequently. Three recent s had columns discussing the best practices of online learning. In designing courses to be taught online, seven principles are 1. Encourage contact between students and faculty, 2. Develop reciprocity and cooperation between students, 3. Encourage active learning, 4. Give prompt feedback, 5. Emphasize time on task, 6. Communicate high expectations, and 7. Respect diverse talents and ways of learning (Dreon 2012). It is important to design the course recognizing that adult students come into the course with a variety of life and work experiences and expect to utilize those experiences while learning (Shank 2013). It is also important to keep students engaged in the online classroom using these techniques 1. Get to know your students, 2. Know the classroom mechanics of an online course, 3. Be accessible and respond to student inquiries in a timely manner, 4. Go beyond the university requirement of posting a brief, weekly announcement, 6. Provide substantive feedback and positive critique, and 7. Inject some fun into the classroom (Jones 2013). Student Perceptions of Distance Learning In one study, there was a slight student preference for the traditional education format and little difference in student satisfaction levels between the two formats of online and oncampus courses (Allen et.al, 2002). Their meta-analysis combined the statistical results of previous investigations in a comprehensive analysis. They noted that individual students have different styles that may favor online or traditional formats. The issue comes down to identifying the styles of students who work best in the non-interactive online environment. Their conclusion was that that any objections to distance education should not be based on student satisfaction since the students choosing online courses find it as satisfactory as traditional classroom learning modes. Hannay and Newvine (2006) surveyed adult, part-time students in criminal justice courses on why they chose distance education and their perceptions of the quality and difficulty 5

6 of the courses compared to the traditional classroom Their 22 question survey had 217 respondents. A large majority (88%) said that they preferred the distance learning due to other commitments in their lives that limited their ability to take traditional classes. Those commitments included long hours at work, shift work, travel required by their work, and family issues such as childcare. In addition, several students indicated their comfort with online discussion boards versus discomfort of speaking in the traditional classroom. The respondents also felt that they achieved higher quality educational outcomes in the distance learning environment. Shin (2002) has created the term transactional presence to explain the feeling of connectivity and availability in distance learning. It is the relationship and richness of the experience in online learning from the students perspective which is a result of transactional distance between the instructor and students. Naylor and Wilson (2009) examined Masters of Public Administration students perceptions of transactional presence with faculty and peers in the online courses offered at the University of Baltimore. In essence, it focuses on the psychological presence that is often missing in online education (Naylor and Wilson, 2009:321). Eighty-nine students who had taken an online course completed the survey. Responses to the survey showed that 55% felt that they had at least the same level of contact with their professor in the online course, while 32% felt they had more contact than in the traditional setting. But in the peer-to-peer relations, 57% respondents felt that they had less contact in the online class compared to the traditional classroom. Overall, the researchers concluded that there was no significant difference between online and traditional teaching mediums. Yet, Fulford and Zhang (1993) found that the personal interaction between students to other students was as equally important as the interaction of students and the instructor. Methodology Research Design and Study Population A survey instrument was sent to Northwestern alumni and students in late summer of Northwestern has offered online courses for the last four years in the Masters of Public Policy and Administration Program. There were approximately 384 on-campus and 400 online students/alumni in the list server data base. All recipients of the survey request were in the 6

7 Masters level program in prior quarters. The survey was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Instrument The data for this study were collected from a 21-question survey developed by the author. Survey questions were developed from analysis of other surveys on similar projects on online, blended and traditional course models (Barth, 2004; Canning, 2002; Cooper, 2001; Ebdon, 1999; Hannay & Newvine, 2006; Ya Ni, 2013). The survey questions and results of the survey responses from the Northwestern University alumni and student are shown in the analysis below. The first four of the questions addressed the respondents preferences for online or on-campus classes - being in a home atmosphere, travel time, style of learning, and flexibility of schedule. The next eight questions addressed the respondents perceptions of the process of the online and on-campus classes responsiveness to learning needs, clarity of questions, communications with fellow students, group collaboration, interaction with the professor, comfort with posting online or speaking up in class, desire for more interactive technology, and postings done on a timely basis.. The next five questions addressed the respondents perceptions of the outcomes of the online and on-campus classes quality of learning, time spent in total for class, need for a lecture on website by professor, communication on the expectations, and motivation to read and analyze materials. The type of class preferred was another question asked of the respondents. The final three questions accumulated demographic information on the respondents gender, year of birth, and employment status. An opportunity was provided for the respondent to provide additional comments on their perspectives of the online and on-campus alternatives. In the analysis below, for the first twelve questions in this analysis in the first two sections of the survey, the responses were narrowed down to three responses Agree (strongly agree and somewhat agree), Neither (neither agree or disagree), and Disagree (somewhat disagree and strongly disagree). In the rest of the questions, the responses were narrowed down to two or three as shown in the tables below, with significantly and somewhat combined for the responses. Data Collection 7

8 Northwestern University offers a Masters of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) primarily to adult learners. The students have an option of a complete on-campus traditional mode of classes, a complete online course mode option, and a hybrid option mode with eight courses on-campus and four online courses. Northwestern University sent the created by this author for the survey with a link to the survey on Qualtrics to their list server of alumni and students in the MPPA program. Eighty-two of the recipients of the responded to the survey request of which seventy-nine were adequate for survey usage. The list server for the on-campus course mode was approximately 384 and the list server for the online course mode was approximately 400. There were 38 responses from the on-campus alumni and students and 41 responses from the online alumni and students. Of the 38 responses from on-campus students and alumni, 21 were currently students and 17 were alumni. Of the 41 responses from online students and alumni, 30 were currently students and 11 were alumni. The responses constituted a 10% response rate. Several reasons may account for the relatively low response rate. The alumni may not have the same incentive to respond to the since they were no longer involved in the program. In addition, the was sent to the list server for the MPPA program and some recipients may be less likely to respond to these accounts if it is not their primary address. Lastly, it was sent under the author s name; alumni and students may be less likely to respond to an from someone outside the program. Data Analysis The survey data was analyzed using the SPSS statistical software. Descriptive statistics for all of the responses were accumulated from a data base of the respondent surveys for all of the questions. Crosstabs were also undertaken for some of the responses as described further in the analysis of the responses. Results The Northwestern survey results are shown below for the five sections of the survey outlined above in the five tables below with analysis of the results following each table. The demographics of the respondents are shown in Table 1 below. 8

9 Table 1 Demographics of Students and Alumni (When They Were Students) Online Student Hybrid Student On-Campus Student Gender Male 45% 33% 33% Gender - Female 55% 67% 67% Age Under 40 74% 100% 84% Age Over 40 26% 0% 16% Employed Full Time 95% 100% 95% Employed Part Time 5% 0% 5% Unemployed 0% 0% 0% Full Time Student 0% 0% 0% Retired 0% 0% 0% Table 1 shows the demographics of the respondents to the survey. Females constitute a larger percentage of the on-campus and hybrid students than the online students. There is a larger percentage of over 40 age students in the online classes than in the hybrid or on-campus classes. That may be a factor of work or family commitments by that age group. Almost all of the Northwestern Masters level students are employed full time with a few employed part-time. There are no full-time students in the program. A crosstab was done to compare the demographics to the type of student. None of the three demographics of gender, age or employment were associated with the course format as measured by the Chi-Square test at a 95 percent level of significance. Table 2 below shows the respondents reasons for preferences for online or on-campus classes. Table 2 - Preferences for Online or On-Campus Classes # Surveys Agree Neither Disagree Average I would prefer to be in a home atmosphere (ability to listen to music and take breaks at my discretion) rather than a classroom. Online Students 41 59% 15% 27% 2.51 Hybrid Students 12 33% 25% 42% 3.17 On-Campus Students 26 0% 8% 93% 4.77 Travel time is a significant factor in my desire for On Line classes. Online Students 41 65% 27% 7% 2.05 Hybrid Students 12 66% 8% 25% 2.42 On-Campus Students 26 27% 8% 69% 3.65 The On Line type of class fits my style of learning. Online Students 41 64% 24% 31% 2.71 Hybrid Students 11 27% 27% 45% 3.45 On-Campus Students 26 12% 19% 69% 3.88 The flexible schedule for On Line classes is a factor that I value. 4 9

10 Online Students 41 95% 2% 2% 1.32 Hybrid Students 12 75% 0% 25% 2.33 On-Campus Students 26 23% 19% 58% 3.62 More than half of online students preferred the home atmosphere; travel time was a significant factor for them; and the online class fitted their style of learning. A large majority (95%) also believed that the flexible schedule was a very strong factor for them in favoring the online class. Hybrid students favored the travel time saved for online classes and the flexibility of the online classes. On the other hand, home atmosphere and style of learning were not strong factors for them. Most on-campus students (93%) preferred the classroom setting; travel time was not a factor for them; the online style of learning did not fit their desires; and the flexible schedule was not an issue for them. A crosstab was done to compare the four preferences to the type of student. The home atmosphere, flexible schedule, and travel time features were associated with the course format as measured by the Chi-Square test at 99 percent level of significance. The fit of style of learning was associated with the course format as measured by the Chi-Square test at 95 percent level of significance. Reflecting on the survey response outcomes, one of the comments from an online student was that I was very pleased with my experience in the MPPA program. It certainly serves the self-motivated student, who is able, in this setting, to set his/her own pace. In my case, that s generally faster than a classroom setting where I feel limited and ultimately bored. The students preferred style of learning is evident in this comment. Another online student stated another viewpoint relating to flexibility of schedule, I feel I would have learned more on campus, but the online courses fit my schedule better. And another online student noted that Online classes allow me to get an excellent education from an excellent school while continuing to work full time in another state. One of the hybrid students thought that The online course availability is amazing for students who do not have much free time to commute to class and who prefer to study at their own pace in the comfort of their preferred location. The flexibility of online courses is certainly a factor in the choices made on modes of learning. Table 3 below shows the respondents perceptions of the process of the online and oncampus classes. 10

11 Table 3 - Process for Online or On-Campus Classes # Surveys Agree Neither Disagree Average The class was responsive to my learning needs. Online Students 40 61% 15% 25% 2.38 Hybrid Students 10 50% 0% 50% 3.10 On-Campus Students % 0% 0% 1.48 The questions posted to respond to in the On Line class were clear and understandable. Online Students 40 83% 5% 13% 2.03 Hybrid Students 10 70% 10% 20% 2.10 There was good communication with my fellow students on the materials addressed in the material readings in the class Online Students 40 75% 13% 13% 2.03 Hybrid Students 10 60% 0% 40% 2.90 On-Campus Students 25 92% 8% 0% 1.56 The class setting promoted group collaboration on the readings/case studies assigned for class. Online Students 40 65% 8% 27% 2.55 Hybrid Students 10 30% 0% 70% 3.60 On-Campus Students 25 92% 8% 0% 1.44 There was adequate interaction with the professor in the discussions. Online Students 40 58% 5% 38% 2.78 Hybrid Students 10 40% 10% 50% 3.30 On-Campus Students % 0% 0% 1.24 I feel more comfortable posting on the On Line Discussion Board than speaking up in class. Online Students 40 33% 25% 43% 3.20 Hybrid Students 10 40% 10% 50% 3.10 I feel more comfortable speaking up in class than posting on the On Line Discussion Boards On-Campus Students 25 76% 20% 4% 1.76 I prefer more interactive technology for the On Line class other than just postings on the BLACKBOARD web site. Online Students 40 75% 15% 11% 1.83 Hybrid Students 10 70% 10% 20% 2.10 The postings on the BLACKBOARD web site by students were done on a timely basis over the days that the discussion was available. Online Students 39 85% 0% 15% 2.13 Hybrid Students 10 90% 10% 0% 1.80 The first questions on the responsiveness of the class to the students learning needs received a 100% agreement from on-campus students with some split amongst both the online and hybrid students on the online courses. These responses were parallel to the responses to the questions on good communication with fellow students, group collaboration, and adequate interaction with the professor in the discussions all of which impact the process of the classes. On-campus students 11

12 had higher levels of communications with fellow students, more collaboration within the group, and more interaction with the professor than students in the other modes of instruction. Oncampus students felt comfortable speaking up in class with 76% in agreement and only 4% in disagreement while online and hybrid students were split on their comfort level posting on the online discussion board. While the online and hybrid students felt that the postings on the discussion board web site were done on a timely basis, they still felt that a more interactive technology would be preferred for the online classes. The comments made by survey respondents supported the survey results. One online student commented on the interaction element The center of learning is the interaction among engaged students, who form an autodidactic collective. Online courses need to do better at facilitating this engagement, because a lot of the usual social inducements are absent in distance learning. One of the on-campus students felt that the interaction was a crucial part of their education It s my personal opinion that though online courses do offer a great alternative to on-campus classes, I do not believe that the interaction between students and between student and professor are robust enough. What I mean by robust, I don t feel that the interaction is as dynamic/spontaneous enough. Table 4 below shows the respondents perceptions of the outcomes of the online and oncampus classes in addition to other questions. Table 4 Perceptions of Outcomes of Online and On-Campus Classes # Surveys More Same Less Average How would you compare the quality of learning in the On Line class compared to the traditional in class setting? Online Students 37 38% 24% 38% 3.00 Hybrid Students 10 20% 20% 60% 3.50 How would you compare the quality of learning in the On-Campus class compared to the new On Line class setting? On-Campus Students 15 67% 20% 13% 2.00 Did you spend more/less time in total (readings, commute, responses) for the On Line Class than an On-Campus alternative. Online Students 37 59% 24% 16% 1.65 Hybrid Students 10 40% 50% 10% 2.10 Did you spend more/less time in total (readings, commute, responses) for the On-Campus Class than an On Line alternative. On-Campus Students 14 36% 64% 0% 2.29 # Surveys Yes Maybe Unsure Average 12

13 Should the professor provide a lecture that is captured and posted on the BLACKBOARD web site for student observation? Online Students 38 71% 24% 5% 1.34 Hybrid Students 10 80% 20% 0% 1.20 # Surveys Clear Not Clear Average Is the communication on the expectations of the class clear to the students? Online Students 68 93% 8% 1.47 Hybrid Students 10 90% 10% 1.50 On-Campus Students % 0% 1.12 # Surveys Increase Decrease Neither Average Does the class increase, decrease, or neither increase or decrease the motivation to read and analyze the materials assigned? Online Students 38 53% 16% 32% 1.79 Hybrid Students 10 30% 30% 40% 2.10 On-Campus Students 16 69% 0% 31% 1.63 The online students perceptions of the quality of learning in the online classes was mixed between being the same as on-campus and online (38% said more and 38% said less) while the on-campus students felt that the quality of learning in the on-campus classes was of higher quality with only 13% feeling it was less. The online students felt that they spent more time in the online class in total (59%) compared to hybrid and on-campus students that spent about the same time (50% and 64% respectively). A large majority of the online and hybrid students felt there should be a lecture by the professor posted on the web site for viewing by the students. In regard to the question on whether there should be an online lecture for the online courses, a common theme of the comments were expressed as follows I think for some (at least me) it allows for the auditory learner to grasp or contextualize the information a bit better. Some classes could really benefit from a lecture, such an Analytic Methods or Stats, where processes are standard and answers are the same for every students. - Most of the professors are PhDs and have a great deal to offer the class. Their postings are informative and an occasional lecture would offer depth to the courses. - The viewpoint of the professor translates the reading material into unique thought processes that aren t conveyable via blackboard. I MISS not having my professor take that theory and apply it in a dynamic environment. These comments reinforce the responses that an online lecture would aid in the learning process. 13

14 Almost all students felt that the expectations for the various class formats were clearly communicated to the students. Both the online and on-campus students felt the class increased motivation to read and analyze the materials assigned. On the other hand, the hybrid students were split between feeling that they were more motivated by the online class versus the oncampus class. A comment from an online student expressed his/her frustration with the learning outcomes After two years in the online program, I feel I was misled when I applied. I thought there would actually be instruction and actual teaching from the teachers. The program has essentially turned out to be an independent study program. An on-campus student felt that the motivation to spend more time on the readings came from the on-campus classes The motivation, reading, etc. isn t necessarily more in either but the On Campus format encourages more reason to do the reading in order to adequately prepare for lecture, discussion, and any follow up assignments more. Online format prohibits the problem solving and communicative aspect of talking out and rationalizing things in great depth and context because things get lost in translation often. One of the questions in the survey asked the respondents about their preference for class types. The responses are shown in Table 5 below. Table 5 Preference for Type of Courses # Surveys All Online Hybrid All On-Campus Average Which of the following do you favor? Online Students 37 46% 35% 19% 1.73 Hybrid Students 10 0% 60% 40% 2.40 On-Campus Students 17 0% 47% 53% 1.47 As shown in the table, each group of students showed preference for their chosen format of learning but many also considered hybrid learning as an option. Eighty-one percent (81%) of the online students expressed a preference for all online or hybrid classes while 19% would prefer all on-campus classes. Circumstances must prevent them from using that option. Forty percent of the hybrid students preferred all on-campus classes which also must mean that circumstances must prevent them from pursuing that option. On-campus students were split between all oncampus classes and hybrid classes 53% to 47%. The desire for hybrid courses is a factor that other research has found to be the case in many situations as noted earlier in this paper. As one 14

15 on-campus student expressed, I would love to be able to mix and match online and on-campus classes. Discussion The flexible schedule for the online classes was clearly a significant reason for favoring that mode of learning in the responses of the online and hybrid students. As shown in previous research, the flexibility of the online classes was an important feature for adult learners in today s work and family life world (Hannay & Newvine, 2006; Hsiung & Deal, 2013; Reif, 2013;). The online mode of learning meets the learning needs and desired atmosphere of the online students while on-campus students strongly preferred the classroom setting. While travel time to campus was a factor for the online students, it did not significantly affect the on-campus students in their desire for on-campus classes. The positive responsiveness of the class to the students learning needs was stronger for on-campus students than online students, which also reflected their assessments of communication and collaboration between students and with the professor. This is contrary to the findings of Hannay and Newvine (2006) that found students felt online classes had higher levels of outcomes. On-campus students felt comfortable speaking up in class, while online and hybrid students were split on their comfort level posting on the online discussion board. While the online and hybrid students felt that the postings on the discussion board web site were done on a timely basis, they still felt that a more interactive technology would be preferred for the online classes. The different learning styles of students impacts their desires for online or on-campus classes. The perceptions of the quality of learning were high for on-campus students and mixed for online students. There was a strong feeling that an online lecture would enhance the online class experience. That may aid students in the motivation to read and analyze materials for the course which was higher for the on-campus students. Similar to other studies, the effectiveness of online learning was found to be equivalent to face-to-face instruction while blended learning formats were shown to be more effective than the instructor entirely in a face-to-face mode (Barth, 2004; Means et.al, 2013,). Online lectures may help to provide similar results for online learning. 15

16 Online students were divided on desiring totally online classes or a hybrid of online and on-campus classes. Similarly, on-campus students were split on desiring on-campus and a hybrid of online and on-campus classes. Hybrid programs in the Masters of Public Administration can satisfy the needs of students to learn the theory, process and art of public administration using a mix of face-to-face and online classes (Barth 2004). There are parts of a Masters in Public Administration program that are best transmitted face-to-face (Reef 2013). Students comments reflected the need for some courses to be taught on-campus while others could be hybrid courses or online courses. Interpersonal skills are best learned in the on-campus classes (Denhardt, 2004) Conclusion Students in the Northwestern MPPA select their course mode of instruction based on their learning style, desire for a home atmosphere. Travel time considerations, and personal flexibility for course type. On-campus students expressed higher positive responses to collaboration, interaction and communication with their fellow students and the professor. Those who prefer to speak up in class choose the on-campus courses if their personal schedule allows while those who are more comfortable posting on a discussion board choose an online course. The learning needs of the students were met more by the on-campus courses than the online courses and the quality of learning was felt to be higher in the on-campus courses. Responses from on-campus and online students in this research project indicate that they would support the hybrid course format (some of the classes on-campus and some online within a course) to enhance their learning needs and accommodate their flexibility needs as adult learners. A limitation of this research is that the Northwestern University MPPA Program does not include any hybrid courses in which some classes are conducted online and other classes in the course are conducted on-campus. Further research on the value of hybrid courses in a Masters of Public Administration Program would provide insights into learning outcomes from the hybrid construction of a course. Another limitation of this research is that it is based only on the perceptions of the respondents to learning outcomes. There was no measurement of the outcomes by comparing grades or other quantitative measures. As the online course mode continues to grow in masters level programs, further research on the outcomes of learning should be undertaken. 16

17 References Allen, I. E. and J. Scaman (2010). Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States 2009 retrieved from Allen, Mike, John Bourhis, Nancy Burrell and Edward Mabry (2002). Comparing Student Satisfaction with Distance Education to Traditional Classroom in Higher Education: A Mets- Analysis. The American Journal of Distance Education, 6 (2) Baran, Evrim, Ana-Paula Correla amd Ann D. Thompson (2013). Tracing Successful Online Teaching in Higher Education: Voices of Exemplary Online Teachers. Teachers College Record, 115. Barth, Thomas J. (2004). Teaching PA Online: Reflections of a Skeptic. International Journal of Public Administration, 27 (6) Bernard, Robert M., Phillip C. Abrami, Yiping Lou, Evgueni Borokhovski, Anne Wade, Lori Wozney, Peter Andrew Wallet, Manon Fiset, and Binru Huang (2004). How Does Distance Education Compare With Classroom Instruction? A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature. Review of Educational Research, 74 (3) Campbell, Heather E. (2006). Cheating, Public Administration, and Online Courses: An Essay and Call to Arms. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 12 (1) Canning, Roy (2002). Distance or Dis-stancing Education? A Case Study in Technology-Based Learning. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 26 (1) Cooper, Linda W. (2001). Online and Traditional Computer Application Classes. T.H.E. Journal. 28 (8) Denhardt, R. B. (2001). The Big Questions of Public Administration Education. Public Administration Review, 61 (5), Drennan, Judy, Jessica Kennedy, and Anne Pisarski (2005). Factors Affecting Student Attitudes Towards Flexible Online Learning in Management Education. The Journal of Education Research, 98 (6), ,

18 Dreon, Oliver (2013) Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice to the Online Classroom. FacultyFocus.com, February 25. Duncan, Lewis M. (2012). A New Paradigm for Learning. universitybusiness.com, September 92. Ebdon, Carol (1999). Teaching Public Finance Administration Online: A Case Study. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 5 (3) Fulford, C. P. and S. Zhang (1993). Perceptions of Interaction: The Critical Predictor in Distance Learning. American Journal of Distance Education, 7 (3) Graham, C. R. (2005). Blended Learning System: Definition, Current Trends, and Future Directions. Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs, San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer, Hannay, Maureen (2006). Perceptions of Distance Learning: A Comparison of Online and Traditional Learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 2 (1). Hassenburg, Amy (2009). Distance Education Versus the Traditional Classroom. Berkeley Scientific Journal, 13 (1) Hsiung, Steve C. and Walter F. Deal III (2013). Distance Learning Technical Hans-On Skills at a Distance. Technology and Engineering Teacher, February, Jansen, Richard, The Distant Future. The Chemical Engineer Jones, Ronald C. (2013). Keeping Students Engaged in the Online Classroom. FacultyFocus.com, September 16. McNulty, Ray (2013). The Luminosity of Online Learning. Techniques, January. Means, Barbara, Yukie Toyama, Robert Murphy and Marianne Baki (2013). The Effectiveness of Online and Blended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature. Teachers College Record, 115. Naylor, Lorenda A. and Laura A. Wilson (2009). Staying Connected: MPA Student Perceptions of Transactional Presence. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 15 (3)

19 Parsad, B. and L. Lewis (2008). Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions , National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Washington DC Phipps, Ronald and Jamie Merisotis (1999). What s the Difference? A Review of Comtemporary Research on the Effectiveness of Distance Learning in Higher Education. The Institute for Higher Education Policy, April. Relf, L. Rafael (2013). Online learning will make college cheaper. It will also make it better. Time Magazine, October 7, Shank, Patti (2013) Designing and Teaching Online Courses with Adult Students in Mind. FacultyFocus.com, March 14. Shin, N. (2002). Beyond Interaction: The Rational Construct of Transactional Presence. Open Learning, 17 (2) Southworth, J. H., J. M. Flanigan, and G. Knezek (1981). Computers in Education: International Multi-Mode Electronic Conferencing. The Printout, 8, 13. White, Patrick and Neil Selwyn (2012). Learning Online? Educational Internet Use and Participation in Adult Learning to Educational Review, 64 (4) Ya Ni, Anna (2013). Comparing the Effectiveness of Classroom and Online Learning: Teaching Research Methods. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 19 (2) Young, J. (2002). Hybrid Teaching Seeks to End the divide Between Traditional and Online Instruction. retrieved from

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