Campus: CSU Bakersfield -- June 12, 2002
Four-Year Study Shows Students Make Significant Gains
Whether In A Live Class, On Instructional Television Or In An Online
Students make significant gains whether in a live class, on instructional
television or in an online class, a four-year study involving 917 students
by a California State University, Bakersfield professor shows.
Using the scores from a pre-test and a post-test to measure student
gains, English professor Robert Carlisle examined his students' performance
in English 319, The Structure of English, and found that students in
all sections of the course made significant gains in the class, the
scores more than doubling over a 10-week quarter.
"It doesn't matter whether the class is online, face-to-face or
on television, all students are making significant gains regardless
of the form of the presentation," Carlisle said.
The assessment began in the spring 1998. As best as Carlisle knows,
no one else has done a three-way comparison of face-to-face, instructional
television, and online classes. "Many researchers have compared
the outcomes of face-to-face with online instruction, usually finding
no significant difference between the two," he said. "However,
as far as I know this is the first study that has compared students
in ITV sections with those in the other two presentations. It may also
be the first that has compared pretests and post-tests over such an
extended period of time."
Carlisle attributes the significant gains to a number of factors. "First,
students do a large number of exercises for English 319, especially
the online students, that enable them to learn the material. Second,
students know exactly what's expected from them. They have practice
exams before all the real exams, and I go over all the exams with them.
Last, I have a fairly strict grading policy. Students are not allowed
to fail tests. Students who fail a test receive an automatic D+ in the
course. So they have a real motivation to learn the material. In addition,
if students receive two Ds on exams, they can only receive a D+ in the
course. I initiated this grading policy because nearly all my students
are going to be elementary school teachers, and they need basic knowledge
in English grammar."
In addition to the scores of the pretest and posttest, Carlisle examined
the final averages of the students in the three presentations and found
that the online students had significantly higher final averages than
the face-to-face students or the ITV students. In turn, no significant
differences were obtained between the ITV students and the face-to-face
"At this point I cannot explain why the online students had significantly
higher scores," Carlisle said. "As is true for most educational
research, we cannot account for many relevant variables. For example,
do differences pre-exist between those students who elect to take online
courses and those who do not? Outcomes will also depend on the quality
of face-to-face teaching and the quality of the online experience, factors
that are very difficult to quantify."
Carlisle first became interested in online teaching in 1997. "I
took numerous workshops, many of which were professionally run workshops
off campus," he said. "Little by little I learned to put together
what I hoped to be effective online courses. From my training experience,
I was able to write up a research grant which was funded and which I
use to purchase Top Class for the campus. Top Class is the software
package that we use to put up online courses.
"Online courses have to be very well planned mostly because the
students aren't in front of the instructor listening to every single
word that the instructor says," he said. "Courses have to
be very well organized. The instructors and students have to be online
many hours during the week to be effectively able to communicate with
one another. The course must have many learning experiences built into
it so that students can learn the information. And the courses must
have a means of assessment. The instructors must be able to see that
the students are receiving the information. If not, the course has to
be redesigned or improved.
"This is also true of a face-to face-courses. No instructor should
be completely satisfied by a course. We always have need to improve
our manner of instruction."
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, firstname.lastname@example.org