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AERA 2012 - Does Prior Distance Learning Make a Difference? Examining Student Perceptions and Preferences
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AERA 2012 - Does Prior Distance Learning Make a Difference? Examining Student Perceptions and Preferences


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Kirby, D., Barbour, M. K., & Sharpe, D. (2012, April). Does prior distance learning make a difference? Examining student perceptions and preferences. A poster presented at the annual meeting of the …

Kirby, D., Barbour, M. K., & Sharpe, D. (2012, April). Does prior distance learning make a difference? Examining student perceptions and preferences. A poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, BC.

K-12 online learning has grown substantially. While there are many reasons for this growth, some proponents argue K-12 students need to engage in online learning to prepare them for future learning opportunities that will inevitably be online. In a case study, students who had completed at least one distance education course were surveyed during their first and fourth year of post-secondary studies. We found self-regulatory learning behaviors frequently linked to positive experiences and outcomes in online and distance education courses were equally apparent in all of the participating university students regardless of whether or not they had previously studied online. These findings suggest high school students do not gain independent learning skills and attitudes through learning in an online environment.

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  • We are conducting our research in NL -- the easternmost province of Canada.
  • Proportionally speaking, the province has a significantly larger rural population than Canada does as a whole. About 40% of the population of NL lives in communities with fewer than 1000 people. Most of the province's schools are considered to be rural schools - these are located in settlements with a population of less than 5K. About 1/3 of the schools are designated as “necessarily existent” – this means they cannot be closed because the distance to travel to the nearest school by bus is too far to be feasible. To address some of the challenges associated with rural schooling (e.g., teacher recruitment issues, limited number of course offerings compared to urban schools), the province’s Department of Education makes web-based distance education courses available to students attending small, rural schools. These courses are delivered by the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI) - ~ 1400 enrollments in ~ 3 dozen courses each year.
  • Our Transition Study one of 8 research studies funded for 5 years through a grant from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – a federal agency. This particular type of research grant program, called a Community-University Research Alliance program, is intended to support community-university collaboration, learning and research. Our CURA project, the Killick Center, is designed to foster innovative research, training, and generation of new knowledge in the area of e-learning, particularly as it relates to educational opportunities in rural, isolated areas The goals of the research alliance include: Building capacity and increasing e-learning research activity; and facilitating of effective knowledge exchange in the area of e-learning.
  • The primary purpose of our research is to compare the tertiary education transition experiences of students who completed distance e-learning courses in high school . . . with the experiences of those who did not complete these courses. The origins of the study are grounded in community, parent, teacher, and student concerns about the potential for inequity between the outcomes of students who receive 100% classroom-based instruction and others who complete a portion of their schooling on-line.
  • Rural students often must complete courses that are only available online Some jurisdictions in the U.S. require students to complete an online course to graduate from high school (e.g., Michigan, New Mexico, Alabama) Proponents of K-12 online learning claim that online learning prepares students for future professions and lifelong learning opportunities that will inevitably require facility with this medium (North American Council for Online Learning and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2006) Kirby, Sharpe, Bourgeois, & Greene (2010) - some college and university students who completed online courses in high school believed high school online learning experiences enabled them to develop skills that facilitated their further learning at the tertiary level
  • The survey contained several multi-item scales representing latent constructs All 4-point Likert-type multiple choice questions
  • The Cronbach's alpha values (point) for the latent constructs were all .70 or better, indicating a high degree of inter-item reliability (click) The mean scores for survey constructs were similar for students who had high school online course experience and for students who did not Student responses indicated that they had a sense of self-competence online course participation (click) Students most strongly agreed that they tended to regulate their learning environments. (click) They also proactively set goals for their learning (click) Somewhat less likely to agree that they employed self-regulated learning strategies such as self-evaluation and time management (click)
  • Students tended not to agree that they would learn more or receive a higher grade in distance education courses (Compared to traditional F2F courses) (click) They held a slightly negative view of communications and collaboration in distance education courses (click) They were also somewhat dissatisfied with their distance education course experience (click)
  • Transcript

    • 1. Does Prior Distance Learning Make aDifference? Examining Student Perceptionsand PreferencesDr. Dale Kirby, Dr. Michael Barbour & Dr. Dennis Sharpe
    • 2. Newfoundland and Labrador
    • 3. PopulationDensity
    • 4. Context: Newfoundland and Labrador• Island itself is almost one-and-three-quarters times the size of Great Britain• Larger rural population than Canada as whole• 40% population in centres with <1000 people• Most schools considered rural• 1/3 of schools designated necessarily existent• Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation - Web-based delivery of high school courses
    • 5. Communities: Norman Bay, Pop. ~52
    • 6. Communities: English Hr. W., Pop. ~670
    • 7. Communities: Nain, Pop. ~1,034
    • 8. Communities: Francois, Pop. ~134
    • 9. Killick Centre for E-Learning Research Faculty of Education Memorial University of Newfoundland• SSHRC CURA - 8 studies in total• Overall goals: - Build capacity and increase e-learning research activity - Facilitate knowledge exchange in e-learning
    • 10. Student Transition StudyExamine and compare the tertiary educationand workforce transition experiences of studentswho take online courses in high school andstudents who do not
    • 11. Objective of Current StudyCompare university students who completed onlinecourses in high school with university students whodid not:• assessment of self-regulatory skills• distance education self-efficacy• expectations of online distance education• perception of online course communications• satisfaction with online courses
    • 12. High School Online Learner Characteristics • High school online learners are very academically capable, highly literate, technologically adept • Highly motivated, self-disciplined, independent, planning attend university1 • Choice to participate in high school online learning influenced by a selection factor or selection bias2,31 Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 52, 402–416.2 Crocker, R. (2007). Distance learning: Access and outcomes. St. Johns, NL: Killick Centre for E-Learning Research.3 Hannum, W. H., Irvin, M. J., Banks, J. B., & Farmer, T. W. (2009). Distance education use in rural schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 24(3). Retrieved June 18, 2009, from
    • 13. Online Learning in High School • Some rural students complete courses only available online • Some jurisdictions in the U.S. require high school online course • Skills development from online learning experience • High school online learning helps some students develop skills that facilitate further learning44 Kirby, D., Sharpe, D., Bourgeois, M., & Greene, M. (2010). Graduates of the new learning environment: A follow-up study of high school distance e-learners. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 11(3), 161-173.
    • 14. Study: Sample and Participants• Sample of 160 fourth-year undergraduate students• 127 successfully contacted/interviewed (response rate of 79.4%)• 56 students (44.1%) had completed high school online courses• 71 students (55.9%) had not completed high school online courses• All students completed one or more university online courses
    • 15. Study: Survey Instrument • Self-regulatory skills - 4 items5 • Distance education self-efficacy - 12 items 5 • Online self-regulatory learning behaviors 6  Self-evaluation (of learning) - 4 items  Goal setting - 5 items  Environment structuring - 4 items  Time management - 3 items5 Holcomb, L., King, F., & Brown, S. (2004). Student traits and attributes contributing to success in online courses: Evaluation of university online courses. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 2(3), 1-17.6 Barnard, L., Paton, V., & Lan, W. (2008). Online self-regulatory learning behaviors as a mediator in the relationship between online course perceptions with achievement. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(2), 1-11.
    • 16. Study: Survey Instrument • Student expectations online courses - 7 items 7 • Perception of online course communication and collaboration - 11 items8 • Satisfaction with distance education – 9 items 97 House, L., Weldon, R., & Wysocki, A. (2007). Student perceptions of online distance education in undergraduate agricultural economic programs. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 39(2), 275-284.8 Barnard, L., Paton, V., & Rose, K. (2007). Perceptions of online course communications and collaboration. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 10(4), 1-10.9 Walker, S. L. (2005). Development of the Distance Education Learning Environments Survey (DELES) for higher education. The Texas Journal of Distance Learning, 2(1), 1-16.
    • 17. Data Analysis Mean ScoresVariable Distance Courses in No Distance Courses Total High School in High SchoolSelf- Regulation 1.97 1.94 1.95α=.706 Distance Education 2.16 2.19 2.18Self- Efficacyα=.880Self- Evaluationα=.724 2.40 2.54 2.47Goal Settingα=.820 2.03 2.02 2.03 Environment 1.76 1.81 1.79 Structuringα=.869 Time Management 2.54 2.45 2.49α=.710
    • 18. Data Analysis Mean ScoresVariable Distance Courses in No Distance Courses Total High School in High School Distance Education 2.68 2.63 2.65 Expectationsα=. 843 Perception of Distance 2.42 2.59 2.51 Course Comm. and Collaborationα=. 858 Satisfaction with 2.50 2.50 2.50 Distance Educationα=. 910
    • 19. Data Analysis• Groupwise comparisons via ANOVAs:  no significant differences on any of the composite measures
    • 20. Discussion• Self-regulatory learning behaviors, attitudes, expectations similar across groups• No evidence that high school online learners were advantaged or superior to other university students• This is contrary to the claims made by some proponents of online learning at the secondary level
    • 21. Discussion• Prior-high school online learning experience does not necessarily indicate that students:  are more prepared for distance learning;  have greater affinity for it; or  have more developed/superior skills that advantage them.
    • 22. Thank you! Contact: Dale Kirby: Michael Barbour: Dennis Sharpe: