Presentation Abstract

Online Learning and the Student-Centered Classroom: Assessment by Students and Grade Differentiation Comparing Two Technical Communication Courses

***The following is a description of an on-going study. The final semester of research will be held in the spring of 1998. URL:***

Currently, a large body of literature examines how to use computers effectively in the classroom or in lieu of a classroom. This research documents how computers

- change the social structure of the class - move the pedagogical stance from teacher-centered to student-centered, and - increase student reading and writing skills

Although universities are encouraging teachers to incorporate computers into the classroom, student interest in online learning environments should be further documented. This study will contrast student assessments of both a online learning environment and a student-centered conventional environment. These assessments will also be compared to evaluations of student performance to see if trends emerge.

Computer-enhanced learning environment

Seventeen students will be in each section of the online course. The online course will meet face-to-face for one week at the beginning of the semester, one week during midterms and during the last week of classes. During the rest of the semester students will use self-directed learning methods to work through the course material, following a syllabus constructed by the instructor. All lectures, exercises, and assignments will be online on the World Wide Web. Students will compose and display assignments online as well as submitting all assignments via e-mail. They will also be expected to participate in an e-mail list. The pedagogical emphasis will be student-centered. This means that students will be expected to actively participate online every week. Students help shape their own education by participation and learning from their peers. The students will work in established collaborative groups, modeled on "virtual corporations."

Student-centered conventional environment

The student-centered conventional environment will be taught in a classroom without computers. The classroom will include an overhead projector. There will be approximately 23 students in a section of the conventional class. The pedagogical emphasis will be student-centered. Students in the conventional environment will also be put in collaborative groups. All lectures, exercises, and assignments will be on paper. Students in the conventional classroom environment will not use the website accessed by the computer-enhanced class. There will not be an e-mail list, although there will be a collaborative on-going class journal. Students can contact the instructor via e-mail, but all assignments must be completed and turned in as a hardcopy texts.

By comparing student assessment and grade differentiation in both an online learning environment and a student-centered conventional environment, a correlation between high student assessment and high student performance should emerge. It is also possible that students may enjoy, and find more effective, one learning environment over the other. Do student in an online learning environment enjoy the course more than other courses? Do these students perform better or worse than peers in a student-centered conventional environment? This study attempts to document a student preference for either online learning environments or student-centered conventional environments. It will also examine student performance in relation to student assessment and classroom environment.

Author: Kirsten Hale


Target Audience: Intermediate

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