Learning Style Preferences and Perceived Effectiveness of Internet Courses Term Paper

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¶ … rise of the Internet has greatly impacted all areas of society, particularly higher education. Colleges and universities are finding that to stay relevant to their traditional students they have to create online and distance learning programs quickly and effectively to stay up with their learning needs. Eighty-seven percent of four-year colleges offered distance-learning courses in 2004, up from 62% in 1998. According to International Data Corporation, 25% more colleges and universities added distance learning programs between 1998 and 2004. In 2004, 2.2 million degree-seeking students were enrolled in distributed courses. By early 2008, one out of 10 college students will be enrolled in an online degree program, Boston-based market research firm Eduventures estimated last year.

This radical change in education has presented these higher educational institutions with an entirely new threat of competition. Now, students can easily attend "virtual universities" anywhere in the world from the comfort of their home or office chair. Increasingly, adult learners are becoming more savvy about their distance education needs and closely comparing the offerings of one school against another. Schools must develop high-quality online learning experiences that meet the unique educatinal needs and learning styles of their potential adult students. To do so, administration, faculty and web designers need to better identify the most efficient web-based instructional methods.

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The purpose of this research was to evaluate the efficiency of web-based instructional design and delivery approaches in relationship to unique learning styles and the students other personal characteristics. The study had three main research goals:

1. To find whether there is a distinction between individual learning style and the observed efficiency of web-based curricula.

Term Paper on Learning Style Preferences and Perceived Effectiveness of Internet Courses Assignment

To find whether there is a distinction between personal characteristics, such as gender, age, socioeconomic class, prior web-based experience, computer anxiety and motivational level, and the observed efficiency of web-based courses.

To find the characteristics, such as collaborative learning activities, student-to-student communication and student-to-teacher interaction, of efficient delivery approaches of web-based curricula as they relate to spcific learning styles.

A total of 87 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in web-based classes at the xxxx, xxxx, xxxx, and xxxx were surveyed for the study.

The selected online courses included marketing, education, religion, anthropology and music theory. The classes that were included in the research were instructed totally online. There was no face-to-face meetings between the instructor and students and no other teaching through different distance education technologies.

Those included in the study accessed a web page that the researcher provided, where they could finish the Flashlight Current Student Inventory and link to Kolb's LSI3. The Current Student Inventory (CSI) questions learners about a number of different instructional and educational practices relating to the use of technology in the classes. Questions were chosen by the researcher from the tool kit in order to design a survey that would effectively measure the proposed hypotheses. The online version of Kolb's LSI3 was utilized to find the participants' unique learning style.

The results of the study were analyzed using SPSS. A Kruskal-Wallis H. nonparametric analysis of variance was utilized to compare results of the web-based course survey among the types of adult learning styles.

The research analyzed the efficiency of instructional design and delivery approaches of university web-based courses as related to unique learning styles and other personal student characteristics. No significant difference was found between learning styles and the observed efficiency of web-based courses. The results of the research may be helpful to distance learning teachers and course designers.

INTRODUCTION

Barely three decades ago, few people expected that the Internet would make such changes in the world of communication, education and commerce and in such a short time frame. As far back as Socrates', schools were located in the large cities. Students who lived in the country, sometimes had to travel hundreds of miles for learning as the stress on education moved from practical everyday skills, moral values and religious training to the development of the mind, intellectualism, speech and critical thinking.

In Athenian times, centuries later, schools based on the Babylonian models had both teachers and pedagogues. Similar to specialist informal educators, the pedagogues were usually family attendants or slaves with supervisory duties. They went to school with the young boys and sat with them in the classroom to represent their fathers

Certain people held the position of specialist educators or tutors. For instance as reported in the Iliad, Achilles' tutor, Phoenix, had the responsibility of instructing his student as a "both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds." In 387 BC, Socrates' student, Plato, instituted the first academy of philosophy. The school was situated near the hill of Kolonos in the gardens next to the gymnasium and park of Akademos, an Athenian hero who revealed where Helen was hidden. This academy developed into an association of learned men who were committed to independent studies, pedagogy, and the cult of the muses (Mitchell, 1999).

Over the centuries, formal education advanced from these academies, to monasteries in the Middle Ages where laymen would learn writing, reading, prayer and contemplation or in the cities where the Church received permission to open schools. The word universitas originally related to the scholastic guilds or corporation of students and maters. In the 15th century, the word university took on the new meaning of a civil- or Church- sanctioned self-regulating community of scholars and instructors. Increasing numbers of students traveled into the cities to these universities. The University of Paris, for example, established in approximately 1150, included the study of theology, canon law, medicine; and arts.

Such universities developed all through Europe and then in other parts of the Western world. During this period, however, teachers normally did not instruct students in their own home. As communication and transportation improved, those students who were located in rural areas and could not attend formal schools could order correspondence materials.

Technology dramatically changed the relationship between students and their schools. First, the development of trains and motorized vehicles allowed students to reach their educational institutions more readily. In addition, inventions such as film, radio and television provided additional ways of learning. The growth of technology has increased the need for students to attend schools of higher learning, whose students enhance technology and once again increase the need for learning.

The Internet, and the development of the web, is once again changing this interaction between the school and the student. Although many students continue to attend the "bricks and mortar" universities, they now also have the opportunity to learn through computerized technology from their work or home office. This allows 24/7 learning and the ability of those who have other responsibilities during the day raising children or working to more efficiently continue their studies. Through web-based distance learning, the students can interface with other students, download materials from the library, communicate with other students, take examinations, and even talk and write back and forth. Students can be right down the street from the educational institution or anywhere else in the world.

According to Willis (1994), distance education is defined as a planned educational event that "takes place when a teacher and student(s) are separated by physical distance, and technology, that is audio, video, data and print, is utilized to bridge the gap." Through distance or online learning, educators are able to reach scores of learners who previously were underserved or at a significant disadvantage with traditional learning approaches.

The combination of courses offered through correspondence, television, video, interactive computer media is increasingly meeting the challenge of educating individuals who are disabled, live too far from a university for travel, or do not have the time or resources that fit the normative scheduling of the university structure. Fast-paced technological changes in telecommunications are redefining the boundaries of educational access (Cantelon, 1995). Students now can enroll in classes, pursue degrees and gain their diploma from universities or colleges in other states or countries. No longer does the barrier of time or place exist. Distance learning is breaking down the barriers of the university walls of ivy.

Such a revolutionary technology impacts all levels of education from pre-school to university to corporate (Crow, 1995; Barnard 1997), as well as other areas of society, such as healthcare, entertainment, communication, and socialization and even culture. This is why educators and administrators are analyzing and assessing what is being taught through nontraditional means and how.

As a result, the overall number of online course enrollment at higher education institutions nationwide is significantly on the rise (Sloan Consortium). According to a 2005 survey, online course enrollment increased from 1.98 million in 2003 to 2.35 million in 2004. The study says the increase in online course enrollment is due, in part, to the rising number of institutions offering Web-based classes. Sixty-three percent of schools offering undergraduate courses on the campus also offer undergraduate classes through the Internet. Teachers and students state that the opportunity to do their class work at any time is the most important reason to enroll in Web-based classes as an alternative to traditional… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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