A comparison of learning experienced by students who work on-line versus students who work off-line in distance education graduate courses: A mixed method study
The purpose of this mixed method study was to explore the learning process in two types of distance education classes at a Research I institution. Threaded discussions from two graduate distance education courses at a Research I institution were analyzed, each using a different delivery platform. Qualitative data were used in this research project to help frame the depth of learning through the application of a reflective lens and a critical inquiry lens. Quantitative data were collected to help define quality of learning, defined in this study as student engagement.
This study identified the quality of learning through student engagement as defined for this study. Depth of learning was identified through application of two a priori lenses, Surbeck, Han and Moyer's (1991) reflective lens, and Garrison, Anderson and Archer's (2001) critical inquiry lens developed specifically for threaded discussion. Quantitative data were used to expand the understanding of the two a priori lenses through frequency tables and numeric data, calculated through ANOVA.
A review of the literature explored industrialization, education technology, quality in distance education, areas of existing research in distance education, assessment, analytical frames, reflection, reflective practice and critical thinking.
The quality of learning (student engagement) did not differ significantly between the client class and the web class. Statistical analysis revealed that by the end of the course all of the students in both classes achieved a significant gain in quality and depth of learning as defined in this study. Neither method of delivery (client-based or web-based) appeared to alter the depth of learning more than the other as analyzed by the reflective lens and the critical inquiry lens. The quality and depth of learning were manifested through a significant change in the levels of reflective and critical thought by the end of the course. Recommendations were made for future research.
0710: Educational software