Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2006

Department

Environmental Studies

Abstract

Online classes appear increasingly popular, making it critical in each discipline to study the advantages and disadvantages of learning online. Following up on anecdotal impressions that scientific/technical writing students appeared to do either better or worse in an online course than an offline equivalent (unpublished data), it was decided to study the impact of learning style and experience in using the Internet on grades. The 60 students who participated in an online course on scientific/technical writing were emailed post-course evaluations which included questions on learning styles. Of these, 37 (62%) returned the evaluations, revealing a clear and significant pattern of results. While the groups did not differ in hours spent studying online, or in total hours spent online, students who excelled in online learning reported spending significantly more hours per week online for work, and less hours online contacting families/friends than students who passed or students who failed. Students who excelled differed significantly from other students in their learning strategies and study habits and frequency with which they contacted the instructor. Students who excelled in this online class appear more experienced both in working online and have study habits conducive to the online environment. Curiously, students who performed marginally or failed were more likely to rate themselves as making good use of study time, and may spend significantly longer online on assignments than the moderate students. The need to design courses that elicit specific habits or to teach students study habits specific to online learning appear critical tasks to improve the success and retention rates in online courses.

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