Sunday, November 23, 2014

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Online Education: My New Discussion Paper

Last Spring I taught two sections on Principles of Microeconomics, one online, and one in a traditional format.  I have spent some time comparing the outcomes, and wrote up my findings in this discussion paper.  Here is the abstract:

The author describes his experience teaching two sections of Principles of Microeconomics at San Jose State Student in a semi-formal “controlled comparison.”  The control course was taught as a typical on-campus course.  The treatment course was conducted almost entirely online, though students were required to come to campus twice to take the midterm and final exams.  This report presents both quantitative and qualitative evidence.  Statistical analysis of overall course grades finds that students in the online section did worse on average, though the difference was not statistically significant.  However, looking at grades on individual assignment finds that while students in the online section did worse on some assignments, such as the midterm and final, they did better on other assignments, namely the term paper and group assignments.  Analysis of student comments on the course finds students place value on having access to both online and traditional courses, though the overall satisfaction with the online section is somewhat lower.  The author considers institutional factors (classroom technology, pedagogical support) that can help or limit the success of online courses, and offers suggestions for faculty instructors and university administrators.

My goal in writing this paper is to encourage discussions on online pedagogy.  My university has invested a lot of money in fancy classroom technology, and many faculty have experimented with online teaching methods, however there has not been enough analysis of the effectiveness of this technology or online pedagogy.  Thus with this discussion paper I hope to move the conversation in this direction.

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