Distance education in dental hygiene bachelor of science degree completion programs: As perceived by students and faculty
Maureen Tsokris, Dowling College, United States
Dowling College . Awarded
This study investigated student and faculty perceptions of their experiences with online learning in dental hygiene Bachelor of Science degree completion programs on the dimensions of: quality of learning, connectedness to the learning environment, technology factors and student satisfaction. The experiences of dental hygiene students who took their core BS dental hygiene (BSDH) courses completely online were compared and contrasted with the perceptions of dental hygiene students who had taken a portion of the BSDH courses online and a portion in a traditional face-to-face classroom setting. Furthermore, this study compared and contrasted the perceptions of faculty on these same four dimensions based on the position held by the faculty member and the course format they are teaching in: online or a combination of online and a traditional face-to-face classroom setting.
This study revealed several important differences and similarities between students who had taken their courses online and those who had taken a portion of the BSDH courses online and a portion in a traditional face-to-face classroom setting.
The results showed students who had taken their courses online described factors related to the instructor as important to the quality of the learning experience such as: the experience and qualifications of the professor, the examples they provided and the instructors prompt response to questions. Students who had taken courses in both formats described factors related to the amount of effort they put into the course, their classmates' preparedness, the course materials and assignments as important to the quality of the learning experience. Although students who completed courses online reported difficulty participating in group activities, they were more positive regarding the level of interaction they experienced with their classmates online Findings indicated students who had taken their courses in both formats would have liked more opportunities to interact with their classmates. Furthermore, the online students reported participating in class discussions, posting their pictures and biographies, and using the class message board helped them develop a sense of belonging to the class community. While students that had taken classes in both formats believed that knowing their classmates from other classes is what gave them a sense of belonging to the class community.
Regarding similarities between the student groups, the study revealed all students reported that not only were the convenience and flexibility of online courses the major factor that impacted their satisfaction; it was the main reason they would take other online courses and would recommend the program to others. An additional similarity between student groups was the students' perceptions of the level of interaction with their instructors. A large majority of the students felt the interaction with professors was very good. Likewise, the study revealed most students reported no issues with technology or the courseware, and that their computer skills had improved greatly after taking online courses. The results of the study indicated students felt they had learned a great deal in their online classes, that the classes were challenging and that they were actively engaged in the learning process.
The results of the study showed that overall faculty was well informed regarding the factors that influence the quality of the learning experience. Moreover, they were aware of the significant role they play in developing discourse, and in providing well organized courses that incorporated various instructional techniques. Findings indicated faculty recognized that flexibility and convenience of online classes is a very important aspect of the online environment for students. The data revealed there were no differences found in the faculty's perceptions on the dimensions explored based on the format they taught in or faculty position.
The findings of this study showed several important areas where faculty perceptions differed. It was found that differences exist in faculty perceptions related to students' ability to interact with their classmates online, in the degree of opportunity students have to interact with the instructor, and on the type of feedback important to students In addition, the data showed a number of faculty do not believe learning outcomes in online classes are similar to the learning outcomes in traditional classes.
Finally, the data indicated that slightly more than two-thirds of the faculty participants had received training in online course development.
Tsokris, M. Distance education in dental hygiene bachelor of science degree completion programs: As perceived by students and faculty. Ph.D. thesis, Dowling College.
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