Distance Education: Better, Worse, Or As Good As Traditional Education?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Tony Schroeder, Mar 3, 2002.

  1. Tony Schroeder

    Tony Schroeder New Member

    Here's a fascinating article from The Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, published by the State University of West Georgia. The summary:

    This study adds to the growing body of research regarding distance education. It is important to note that a lack of significant difference in final course grades may indicate that one delivery method is not superior to the other. Thus, this study can conclude that while distance education may not be superior to or better than traditional face-to-face education, it is not worse than traditional education. It can be an acceptable alternative because it is just as good as traditional education.

    Food for thought for the traditionalists in our midst.:)


  2. Andy Borchers

    Andy Borchers New Member

    Tony - I've long accepted the "no significant difference" view with regards to DL versus face to face. But understand this point of view is an "all other things constant" view. If you have the same quality of instruction, curriculum, student body, etc. mode doesn't matter. Rarely, however, are all other things the same when comparing different degree programs. There are good and bad face to face and DL courses and degree programs. Mode isn't the issue - but there are lots of other quality concerns.

    Some of these concerns include:

    1. Faculty - Does a program have qualified instructors? I have to wonder when many of the DL programs we talk about here use lowly paid adjuncts. Fulltime faculty can have their problems in traditional programs too, but adjunct quality can vary greatly. Further, adjuncts show up to teach. Period. They aren't around to develop curriculum or advise students. Further, adjuncts typically have a strong practitioner view. This is good to a point, but where does a DL student get a solid theoretical foundation?

    2. Curriculum - Given the compression in place in many degree programs (both face to face and DL), is there adequate time spent on the various topics relevant to a degree?

    3. Student body - Does the program have reasonable entrance standards? Outcoming quality is, in large part, based on the incoming quality. As one prof put it to me, "Given the quality of their incoming class, Harvard Business School could teach voodoo for two years and still have successful graduates!". When many DL (and some face to face programs) effectively offer open admission to graduate level programs - can this result in quality education?

    4. Outcomes - Does the program employ measureable outcomes? As much as people talk about assessment, I'm not sure how much meaningful assessment goes on. I've worked with the two largest on-line MBA program - to the best of my knowledge neither used a standardized outcome assessment test to measure learning by students. Yes, they do survey student satisfaction - but what about learning outcomes?

    One of the answers to these concerns is for schools to submit to professional accreditation. AACSB and ACBSP are the two CHEA approved accreditors in the business area. I challenge DL programs to seek and receive accreditation from one of these two bodies. If you believe that AACSB and ACBSP know anything about business education (and I do), then stepping up to their standards would result in improved educational programs.

    Regards - Andy


Share This Page