Comparing Alternative Teaching Modes in a Masters Program: Student Preferences and Perceptions

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1 Comparing Alternative Teaching Modes in a Masters Program: Student Preferences and Perceptions Karl Nollenberger University of Wisconsin Oshkosh ABSTRACT The amount of online learning has increased significantly in recent years. A Midwest university offers three modes of instruction for its Masters in Public Policy and Administration Program: totally on-campus courses, totally online courses, and a hybrid of eight on-campus courses and four online courses. The author conducted a survey of the Midwest university alumni and students 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 the 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 The increase in the number of online and hybrid courses in Masters of Public Administration programs has been significant in the 21st century. Assessments of the positive and negative outcomes of the online courses/classes have produced a variety of outcomes (Allen, Bourhis, Burrell, & Mabry, 2002; Barth, 2004; Bernard et al., 2004; Hannay & 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. As described by the American Council on Education, adult learners are typically over the age of 25 and are nontraditional students pursuing a master s degree while also working full-time or part-time in a profession. 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. This paper will refer to hybrid programs as ones that offer some courses online and some courses on campus. Hybrid courses will refer to courses where some of the classes are online and some of the classes are on campus. The provision of three program 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 upon the research for adult learners in master s level programs. A survey of alumni and students in the program was undertaken to assess these preferences and perceptions of the three modes of coursework. JPAE 21 (1), Journal of Public Affairs Education 101

2 K. Nollenberger In the 21st century, online learning has evolv ed from correspondence courses using printed mat erial and communication via post and telephone to digital learning technologies (Southworth, Flanigan, & Knezek, 1981). By the academic year, 61% of higher education institutions offered online courses (Parsad & Lewis, 2008). More than 4.6 mil lion students (25% of all students) were taking at least one online course by the fall of 2008 (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Blended or hybrid courses are also a trend in recent years in which instruction combines online activities and faceto-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, p. 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 NASPPA of its 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 learn ing (Means, Toyama, Murphy, & Baki, 2013), (b) a comparison of student satisfaction with distance learning to their satisfaction with traditional classroom learning (Allen, et al., 2002), and (c) how distance learning compares with classroom instruction (Bernard, et al., 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. Applications of distance education outperformed classroom instruction in some areas and performed more poorly in others (Bernard et al., 2004). The meta-analysis found that distance learning compared to on-campus learning had no effect on the measurement of achievement, attitude, and retention. This meta-analysis also 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. 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 in struction 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 MIT President L. Rafael Reif stated, I am convinced that digital learning is the most important innovation in education since the printing press (2013, p. 54). He noted that digital learning has opened possibilities for billions of humans who previously had no access to higher learning. He described three advantages of digital learning. First, the digital technologies are good at teaching content. He referred to a study done in 2011 that tested students taught online and by traditional lectures that 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. 102 Journal of Public Affairs Education

3 Comparing Alternative Teaching Modes in a Masters Program Yet Reif also recognized that certain elements of education are transmitted best face-to-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 commun ity (Reif, 2013, p. 55). Whether digital learning really opens the possibilities for billions of humans as expressed by Reif is yet to be proven. Another advantage of the online format is that it gets away from the intensive three-hour-perweek 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 multiday period can create a learning curve for experienced faculty in deciding when and how to be involved in the discussions (Ebdon, 1999). Barth (2004) stated 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, p. 453). He suggested 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. The process and art relate to courses where human interaction helps to transmit the meaning and significance of the subject. An example would be a course on leadership, which Barth would believe is best conveyed in an on-campus class and potentially supplemented by additional online discussions. 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. These four components are part of the five components of the five factor model used for many decades as the basis of some school effectiveness research (Edmonds, 1978b). 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 thought that distance learning is not well suit ed 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 toward 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, efficiency, multisensory experiences, interactivity, and affordability (Hsiung & 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 (Cooper, 2001, p. 58). One disadvantage of online courses is the opportunity it offers to cheat on exams and papers. Campbell (2006) believed 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. Journal of Public Affairs Education 103

4 K. Nollenberger The Faculty Focus daily available to academics focuses on online instruction fre quently. The Faculty Focus is aimed at conveying higher education strategies and provides articles on current trends in higher education. Inter ested persons can sign up for the daily at Three recent s had columns discussing the best practices of online learning. In designing courses to be taught online, seven principles are (a) encourage contact between students and faculty; (b) develop reciprocity and cooperation between students; (c) en courage active learning; (d) give prompt feedback; (e) emphasize time on task; (f) communicate high expectations; and (g) 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 use those experiences while learning (Shank, 2013). Instructors should keep their students engaged in the online classroom using these techniques (a) get to know your students; (b) know the classroom mechanics of an online course; (c) be accessible and respond to student inquiries in a timely manner; (d) go beyond the university requirement of posting a brief, weekly announcement; (e) provide sub stantive feedback and positive critique; and (f) 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 on-campus 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 noninteractive online environment. Their conclusion was that that any objections to distance education should not be based on student satisfaction, because the students choos ing online courses find them as satisfactory as traditional classroom learning modes. It should be noted though that many campuses cannot afford to offer multiple teaching modes during a given time frame, and that limits the students choice of the modes they prefer. 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 of the courses compared to that of 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 child care. In addition, several students indicated their comfort with online discussion boards versus the discomfort of speaking in the traditional classroom. The respondents also believed that they achieved higher-quality educational outcomes in the distance learning environment. Shin (2002) created the term transactional presence to explain the feeling of connectivity and availability in distance learning. The trans actional presence is defined as the degree that the student perceives the availability of and connectedness with other parties in the distance education setting. 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 & Wilson, 2009, p. 321). Eighty-nine students who had taken an online course completed the survey. Responses to the survey showed that 55% thought that they had at least the same level of contact with their professor in the online course, while 32% believed they had more contact than in the traditional setting. But in the peer-to-peer relations, 57% respondents thought that they had less contact in the online class compared to the traditional classroom. Overall, the researchers concluded 104 Journal of Public Affairs Education

5 Comparing Alternative Teaching Modes in a Masters Program that there was no significant difference between online and traditional teaching mediums. Yet, Fulford and Zhang (1993) found that the personal interaction between students and other students was as equally important as the interaction of students and the instructor. However, many features have been added to online education modes that allow for studentto-student interactions that may offset some of that finding today. Methodology Research Design and Study Population I sent a survey instrument to a Midwest university alumni and students in late summer of The Midwest university has offered online courses for the last four years in the Masters of Public Policy and Administration program. There were approximately 384 oncampus and 400 online students/alumni in the list server database. All recipients of the survey request were in the master s level program in previous quarters. The Institutional Review Board of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh approved the survey. Instrument I collected the data for this study from a 21-question survey. I developed the survey ques tions 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 Midwest university alumni and stu dents are shown in the analysis that follows. The first four questions addressed the re spondents 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, com munications 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 ques tions accumulated demographic information on the respondents: gender, year of birth, and employment status. The respondents were given the opportunity to provide additional comments on their perspectives of the online and on-campus alternatives. In the analysis below, for the first 12 questions in this analysis in the first two sections of the survey, the responses were narrowed down to three responses: Agree (strongly agree and some what agree), Neither (neither agree nor 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 The Midwest university offers a Masters of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program primarily to adult learners. The students have an option of a complete oncampus traditional mode of classes, a complete online course mode option, and a hybrid program option mode with eight courses oncampus and four online courses. The Midwest university sent the I created 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 79 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 Journal of Public Affairs Education 105

6 K. Nollenberger 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% 400. There were 38 responses from the oncampus alumni and students and 41 responses from the online alumni and students. Of the 38 responses from on-campus students and alumni, 21 were from current students and 17 were from alumni. Of the 41 responses from online students and alumni, 30 responses were from current students and 11 were from alumni. The responses constituted a 10% response rate. Several reasons may account for the relatively low response rate. The alumni may not have had the same incentive to respond to the because 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 have been less likely to respond to these accounts if it was not their primary address. Lastly, it was sent under the author s name; alumni and students may have been less likely to respond to an from someone outside the program. Data Analysis The survey data were analyzed using the SPSS statistical software. Descriptive statistics for all of the responses were accumulated from a database of the respondent surveys for all of the questions. Cross-tabs were also undertaken for some of the responses as described further in the analysis of the responses. Results The demographics of the respondents in the Midwest university survey are shown in Table 1. Results of the survey are presented in Tables 2 through 5 and are discussed below. 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 Midwest university master s level students are employed full-time with a few employed part-time. There are no full-time students in the program. A cross-tab was done to compare the demographics to the type of student. None of the three demographics of gender, age, or employment was associated with the course format as measured by the chisquare test at a 95% level of significance. 106 Journal of Public Affairs Education

7 Comparing Alternative Teaching Modes in a Masters Program Table 2 shows the respondents reasons for preferences for online or on-campus classes. More than half of online students preferred the home atmosphere; travel time was a signifi cant 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 on line style of learning did not fit their desires; and the flexible schedule was not an issue for them. A cross-tab 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% level of significance. The fit of style of TABLE 2. Preferences for Online or On-Campus Classes I would prefer to be in a home atmosphere (ability to listen to music and take breaks at my discretion) rather than a classroom. Surveys Agree Neither Disagree Online students 41 59% 15% 27% Hybrid students 12 33% 25% 42% On-campus students 26 0% 8% 93% Travel time is a significant factor in my desire for online classes. Surveys Agree Neither Disagree Online students 41 65% 27% 7% Hybrid students 12 66% 8% 25% On-campus students 26 27% 8% 69% The online type of class fits my style of learning. Surveys Agree Neither Disagree Online students 41 64% 24% 31% Hybrid students 11 27% 27% 45% On-campus students 26 12% 19% 69% The flexible schedule for online classes is a factor that I value. 4 Surveys Agree Neither Disagree Online students 41 95% 2% 2% Hybrid students 12 75% 0% 25% On-campus students 26 23% 19% 58% Journal of Public Affairs Education 107

8 K. Nollenberger learning was associated with the course format as measured by the chi-square test at 95% level of significance. Reflecting on the survey response outcomes, one of the comments from an online student was, 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 student s 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, 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 shows the respondents perceptions of the process of the online and on-campus classes. The first questions about the responsiveness of the class to the students learning needs received a 100% agreement from on-campus students with some split among both the online and hybrid students about the online courses. These responses were parallel to the responses to the questions about 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 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. On-campus 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. Although the online and hybrid students thought that the postings on the discussion board website were done on a timely basis, they still thought that a more interactive technology would be preferable 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 believed that the interaction was a crucial part of his/ her education: It s my personal opinion that although 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 shows the respondents perceptions of the outcomes of the online and on-campus classes in addition to other questions. The online students perceptions of the quality of learning in the online classes were mixed between being the same as on-campus and online (38% said more and 38% said less) while the on-campus students thought that the quality of learning in the on-campus classes was of higher quality with only 13% thinking it was less. The online students believed that they spent more time in the online class in total (59%) compared to hybrid and on-campus students who spent about the same time (50% and 64%, respectively). 108 Journal of Public Affairs Education

9 Comparing Alternative Teaching Modes in a Masters Program TABLE 3. Process for Online or On-Campus Classes N Surveys Agree Neither Disagree The class was responsive to my learning needs. Online students 40 61% 15% 25% Hybrid students 10 50% 0% 50% On-campus students % 0% 0% The questions posted to respond to in the online class were clear and understandable. Online students 40 83% 5% 13% Hybrid students 10 70% 10% 20% 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% Hybrid students 10 60% 0% 40% On-campus students 25 92% 8% 0% The class setting promoted group collaboration on the readings/case studies assigned for class. Online students 40 65% 8% 27% Hybrid students 10 30% 0% 70% On-campus students 25 92% 8% 0% There was adequate interaction with the professor in the discussions. Online students 40 58% 5% 38% Hybrid students 10 40% 10% 50% On-campus students % 0% 0% I feel more comfortable posting on the Online Discussion Board than speaking up in class. Online students 40 33% 25% 43% Hybrid students 10 40% 10% 50% I feel more comfortable speaking up in class than posting on the Online Discussion Boards. On-campus students 25 76% 20% 4% I prefer more interactive technology for the online class other than just postings on the Blackboard website. Online students 40 75% 15% 11% Hybrid students 10 70% 10% 20% The postings on the Blackboard website by students were done on a timely basis over the days that the discussion was available. Online students 39 85% 0% 15% Hybrid students 10 90% 10% 0% Journal of Public Affairs Education 109

10 K. Nollenberger TABLE 4. Perceptions of Outcomes of Online and On-Campus Classes How would you compare the quality of learning in the online class compared to the traditional one? N Surveys More Same Less Online students 37 38% 24% 38% Hybrid students 10 20% 20% 60% How would you compare the quality of learning in the on-campus class compared to the new online class setting? N Surveys More Same Less On-campus students 15 67% 20% 13% Did you spend more/less time in total (readings, commute, responses) for the online class than an on-campus alternative? N Surveys More Same Less Online students 37 59% 24% 16% Hybrid students 10 40% 50% 10% Did you spend more/less time in total (readings, commute, responses) for the on-campus Class than an Online alternative? N Surveys More Same Less On-campus students 14 36% 64% 0% Should the professor provide a lecture that is captured and posted on the Blackboard website for student observation? N Surveys Yes Maybe Unsure Online students 38 71% 24% 5% Hybrid students 10 80% 20% 0% Is the communication on the expectations of the class clear to the students? Online Students N Surveys Clear 8%Not Clear UUnsure Hybrid students % 10% On-campus students % 00% Does the class increase, decrease, or neither increase nor decrease the motivation to read and analyze the materials assigned? N Surveys Clear Not Clear Unsure Online students 38 53% 16% 32% Hybrid students 10 30% 30% 40% On-campus students 16 69% 0% 31% 110 Journal of Public Affairs Education

11 Comparing Alternative Teaching Modes in a Masters Program A large majority of the online and hybrid students believed that the professor should post a lecture on the website for viewing by the students. The online lecture would be a presentation similar to a regular class period presentation. In regard to the question on whether there should be an online lecture for the online courses, a common theme of the comments was expressed as follows: I think for some (at least me) it allows for the audi tory 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 student. 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 environ ment. These comments reinforce the responses that an online lecture would aid in the learning process. Almost all students thought that the ex pectations for the various class formats were clearly communicated to them. Both the online and on-campus students thought that the class increased motivation to read and analyze the materials assigned. On the other hand, the hybrid students were split between feelings that they were more motivated by the online class versus the on-campus 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 instruc tion and actual teaching from the teach ers. The program has essentially turned out to be an independent study program. An on-campus student thought that the motivation to spend more time on the readings came from the oncampus 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. 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 of the online students expressed a preference for all online or a hybrid of courses, whereas 19% would prefer all on-campus classes. Circum TABLE 5. Preference for Type of Courses Which of the following do you favor? # Surveys All Online Hybrid All On-Campus Online students 37 46% 35% 19% Hybrid students 10 0% 60% 40% On-campus students 17 0% 47% 53% Journal of Public Affairs Education 111

12 K. Nollenberger stances must prevent them from using that option. Forty percent of the hybrid students preferred all on-campus courses, which also must mean that circumstances must prevent them from pursuing that option. On-campus students were split between all on-campus courses and hybrid courses 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. As one 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, whereas on-campus students strongly preferred the classroom setting. While travel time to campus was a factor for the on line 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 oncampus students than online students, which also reflected their assessments of com mun i cation and collaboration between students and with the professor. This is contrary to the research of Hannay and Newvine (2006) that found students thought that online classes had higher levels of outcomes. On-campus students felt comfortable speaking up in class, whereas online and hybrid students were split on their comfort level posting on the online discussion board. While the online and hybrid students thought that the postings on the discussion board website were done on a timely basis, they still preferred a more interactive technology for the online classes. The different learning styles of students impacts their desires for online or on-campus classes. After the survey of alumni and students done for this study and as a result of a study on teaching excellence, the Midwest university implemented some changes that allowed the online faculty more flexibility to use Web conferencing tools. They also created tools that allow faculty to create videos so that online students can interact with faculty in different ways and contexts. The perceptions of the quality of learning were high for on-campus students and mixed for online students. There was a strong belief 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 for mats 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. Online students were divided on desiring totally online courses or a hybrid of online and on-campus courses. Similarly, on-campus students were split on desiring on-campus and a hybrid of online and on-campus courses. 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 (Relf, 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 Midwest university 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 112 Journal of Public Affairs Education

13 Comparing Alternative Teaching Modes in a Masters Program 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, whereas those who are more comfortable posting on a discussion board choose an online course. The learning needs of the students were better met by the on-campus courses than the online courses, and the quality of learning was thought to be higher in the oncampus 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 Midwest 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. A research project to assess the student preferences and perceptions of hybrid courses is currently being undertaken at another Masters of Public Administration program serving adult learners. Other universities can learn from this study if they are offering courses to adult learners in many fields including public administration. If the student population is mainly full-time employed adult learner students, the desire for flexibility in the online class schedule and the significance of travel time to campus for the potential students need to be considered. Universities located at a distance from their student base are particularly impacted by travel distance and time as are universities in large metropolitan areas. The need for flexibility of schedule due to work and family commitments of the adult learners makes online or hybrid programs more attractive to these potential students. The university would need to develop more interactive technology for online classes as this Midwest university did after the survey was administered as a result of feedback they received from their students and alumni. The hybrid program is a popular mode of learning for any university to consider. REFERENCES Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, Retrieved from edu/library/resources/learning-demand-onlineeducation-united-states-2009 Allen, M., Bourhis, J., Burrell, N., & Mabry, E. (2002). Comparing student satisfaction with distance education to traditional classroom in higher education: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Distance Education, 6(2), American Council on Education. Adult learners. Re trieved from Baran, E., Correla, A.-P., & Thompson, A. D. (2013). Tracing successful online teaching in higher education: Voices of exemplary online teachers. Teachers College Record, 115. Barth, T. J. (2004). Teaching PA online: Reflections of a skeptic. International Journal of Public Administration, 27(6), Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., et al. How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 74(3), Campbell, H. E. (2006). Cheating, public administration, and online courses: An essay and call to arms. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 12(1), Canning, R. (2002). Distance or dis-stancing education? A case study in technology-based learning. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 26(1), Cooper, L. W. (2001). Online and traditional computer application classes. T.H.E. Journal, 28(8), Journal of Public Affairs Education 113

14 K. Nollenberger Denhardt, R. B. (2001). The big questions of public administration education. Public Administration Review, 61(5), Drennan, J., Kennedy, J., & Pisarski, A. (2005). Factors affecting student attitudes towards flexible online learning in management education. Journal of Education Research, 98(6), , 384. Dreon, O. (2013, February 25). Applying the seven principles for good practice to the online classroom. Retrieved from FacultyFocus.com. Ebdon, C. (1999). Teaching public finance administration online: A case study. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 5(3), Edmonds, R. R. (1979b). Some schools work and more can. Social Policy, 9, Fulford, C. P., & Zhang, S. (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. In Handbook of blended learning: Global perspect ives, local designs. San Francisco: Pfeiffer, pp Hannay, M., and Newvine, T. (2006). Perceptions of distance learning: A comparison of online and traditional learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 2(1). Hassenburg, A. (2009). Distance education versus the traditional classroom. Berkeley Scientific Journal, 13(1), Hsiung, S. C. and Deal III, W. F. (2013). Distance learn ing Technical hands-on skills at a distance. Technology and Engineering Teacher, February, learning: A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Teachers College Record, 115. Naylor, L. A., & Wilson, L. A. (2009). Staying connected: MPA student perceptions of trans actional presence. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 15(3), Parsad, B., & Lewis, L. (2008). Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education. Relf, L. R. (2013, October 7). Online learning will make college cheaper. It will also make it better. Time, Shank, P. (2013, March 14). Designing and teaching online courses with adult students in mind. Retrieved from FacultyFocus.com. Shin, N. (2002). Beyond interaction: The rational construct of transactional presence. Open Learning, 17(2), Southworth, J. H., Flanigan, J. M., & Knezek, G. (1981). Computers in education: International multi-mode electronic conferencing. The Printout, 8, 13. Ya Ni, A. (2013). Comparing the effectiveness of class room and online learning: Teaching research methods. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 19(2), Young, J. R. (2002). Hybrid teaching seeks to end the divide between traditional and online instruction. Retrieved from Hybrid Teaching-Seeks-to/18487 Jansen, R. (2013, February). The Distant Future. The Chemical Engineer, 860, 47. Jones, R. C. C. (2013, September 16). Keeping students engaged in the online classroom. Retrieved from FacultyFocus.com. McNulty, R. (2013). The luminosity of online learning. Techniques, 88(1). Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., & Baki, M. (2013). The effectiveness of online and blended ABOUT THE AUTHOR Karl Nollenberger is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in the Public Administration Program. He teaches in the Masters Program. He has 10 years of academic experience and 30 years in the field in city/county management. 114 Journal of Public Affairs Education

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