Monday 11 November 2013

Paper Review: A Comparison of Faculty and Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions of Online Courses and Degree Programs

Wilkes, R. B., Simon, J. C., & Brooks, L. D. (2006). A Comparison of Faculty and Undergraduate Students’ Perceptions of Online Courses and Degree Programs. Journal of Information Systems Education, 17(2), 131–140.  

Summary This paper investigates the perceptions of current undergraduate students and college business professors toward online courses and degree programs. To do so, the researchers developed two survey instruments, one for students and other one for faculty. A survey among students received 178 usable response. Following were the key findings:
  • Gender-wise difference in perception has been found and researchers have noted that this aspect warrants further study.
  • Top five issues considered important in making course environment decisions were: timely feedback to questions, accreditation of the institutes offering the courses, access to information (resource materials), organized and systematic presentation of materials, schedule flexibility to accommodate work responsibilities.
  • Issues that are much more characteristic of an on-campus course were identified to be opportunity for live interaction/discussion between faculty and students, opportunity for live interaction/discussion among students and on-campus exams.
  • Issues that are more characteristics of on-campus course were identified to be higher travel costs, accreditation of the institute offering the courses and more commuting time to and from classes.
  • Issues that are more characteristics of online courses were identified to be submitting assignments electronically, schedule flexibility to accommodate work responsibilities and schedule flexibility to accommodate social activities.
  • Overall response indicated that students perceive that they will experience the things that matter most to them in an on-campus course rather than in an online course.
Survey instrument designed for faculty was distributed to 80 business college faculty members at a large urban university with a response rate of 67.5%. Following were the key findings:
  • Issues that are much more characteristic of an on-campus course were identified to be on-campus exams, opportunity for live interaction/discussion between faculty and students, more commuting time to and from classes and opportunity for live interaction/discussion among students.
  • Issues that are much more characteristics of online courses were identified to be schedule flexibility to accommodate work responsibilities and schedule flexibility to accommodate social activities.
A key finding from this paper is that perceptions of college professors toward these programs are significantly less favorable than are the perceptions of college students.

Assessment
This paper has made a significant contribution by observing relatively negative faculty attitude towards online courses. Besides quantitative data, the paper has also reported narrative response by faculty to the questions, which are consistent with statistic data. Such negative attitude could hamper efforts to successfully deliver quality programs online. More research would be needed to confirm this finding and also to identify causes for this perception.

Reflection
Are negative perceptions of faculty towards online courses because of personal bias or because of lack of skills or because of inherent limitations of online courses? This seems to be an area that needs further exploration.

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