Quantitative analysis of learner performance in a distance educational program
Jodi L. Fries Olmsted, University of Minnesota, United States
University of Minnesota . Awarded
Colleges and universities are using various distance learning (DL) formats for program and course delivery. Around the country, health education, including dental and dental hygiene training programs, are employing these types of program delivery models because these programs are expensive to offer. University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), 35 undergraduate, and 12 graduate programs in the U.S. use various forms of DL for degree completion (ADHA, 2006). Several programs, including Waukesha County Technical College (WCTC), offered their entire lecture classes in dental hygiene via distance technology. Interactive television (ITV) was the distance media used. From a program perspective, quantitative evaluation of student performance on benchmark assessments was necessary to identify if students located at a distance were performing statistically differently than students taking courses with an instructor using a traditional face-to-face format.
Three research questions were asked: (a) Were there statistically significant differences in learner performance on the National Board of Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)? (b) Were there statistically significant differences in learner performance when considering GPAs? (c) Did statistically significant differences in performance exist relating to individual course grades? A longitudinal assessment for a 10-year period was conducted to answer these questions.
T-tests for data analysis were used to answer the research questions. While examining benchmark data from a cumulative perspective, and year-by-year, no statistically significant differences were apparent for the NBDHE and GPAs. From a cumulative perspective, similar results were found for individual courses. Interactive Television (ITV) was considered effective for delivering education to learners if similar performance outcomes were the evaluation criteria.
Mixed results were identified when individual course data by year and course-by-course data were considered. These various mixed results identify potential future research directions. Developing and testing conceptual frameworks describing characteristics of successful distance learners, and for those whom DL is not suited. Another includes identifying if similar quantitative results would be found while evaluating other DL delivery modalities, including courses delivered online via the internet. Qualitative analyses of trends or circumstances including factors affecting individuals' performance to make future program improvements are a third direction for future research.
Olmsted, J.L.F. Quantitative analysis of learner performance in a distance educational program. Ph.D. thesis, University of Minnesota.
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