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Critical thinking in online vs. face-to-face higher education

A comparison of online and face-to-face instruction in an undergraduate foundations of American education course. The data analysis used both qualitative and quantitative measures.

Several conclusions were reached: Suggestions for further research include focusing on whether or not certain types of courses are more appropriate for online instruction and developing a repertoire of instructional strategies to accommodate a range of learning styles.

As higher education faculty members find themselves under ever increasing pressures to offer courses online, it seems prudent to consider the similarities and differences in a course offered in the traditional face-to-face format and one offered fully or almost fully online.

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The pressure to integrate technology into college courses arises from many directions. Certainly the university, in a move to reach out to previously underserved populations, is pressuring faculty members to offer more online coursework.

Additionally, the problems of space allocation do not exist for online courses, thereby freeing valuable classrooms for other courses.

And in teacher education, standards e. This article examines the similarities and differences for one course, Foundations of American Education, when offered in traditional face-to-face and online formats. The study used both qualitative and quantitative measures, including examination grades, quality of discussion threaded and traditionalcourse evaluations, and direct and indirect communication with the instructor for analysis.

Literature Review There are several studies available that seek to compare traditional and online courses e. The results of these studies vary with the courses offered, the characteristics of the students enrolled e.

Thus, it appears that when the literature comparing online and traditional courses is reviewed, the researcher can make a case for either one or both being more or equally effective, depending on the variables used. Therefore, for this case study another framework for comparing the two instructional formats was clearly needed.

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After all, good teaching practice is good teaching practice whether the classroom is a physical one or an electronic one, a sentiment shared by officials of the NEA 2001an agency in the process of researching online learning and developing a set of evaluative criteria.

The seven principles of good teaching practice outlined by Chickering and Gamson 1987 included the following: The absence of an emotional component in online courses is viewed by some as problematic, especially in terms of undergraduate education University of Illinois Faculty Seminar, 1999because the social dimension of undergraduate education is important. Gregory Farrington, president of Lehigh University, spoke to this issue when he stated, College is as much about learning to live as it is about learning from books….

Late-night discussions are much of what college is about, and the role of the football team is truly important.

It is hard to critical thinking in online vs. face-to-face higher education distance education, however effective, being truly equivalent. Here, online you can review the lecture as many times as you want Pena, 2001, p.

Or can they be even more effective than the traditional face-to-face classroom? The answer may be that they have the potential to transform the way in which learners understand the course material and provide a social component often missed in the traditional classroom—the willingness of and the necessity for shy or introverted students to participate in classroom discussion.

Additionally, students have more time to respond to discussion questions than when they are face-to-face in a time-designated classroom. Students can access courses whenever they have a question or can interact with classmates whenever they choose. These web interactions and the ability of the teacher to retrieve and later analyze them and then return to the student with questions or statements are invaluable to the learning process. Often teachable moments go untaught or certainly never revisited; yet, through this storage capacity, remarks made by students online are preserved and can be used to extend learning.

Not surprisingly, Bill Gates has remarked that the school of the future will not be one that relies on paper and pencil, but rather on collaboration and web-based curriculum Robbins, 2001. Even the way the achievement of students is assessed is changing, owing to web-enhanced or online instruction. A43-6; also, see the WebQuest homepage at http: Any effective learning strategy should bridge the gap between what we know about student learning and what we must do as teachers.

McDonald 2001 discussed five common characteristics of effective learning strategy for online learning: Openness in the Education Critical thinking in online vs. face-to-face higher education — choice and negotiation within the course, self-and peer-assessment, and tutor-learner relationships. This process should seek to engage learners fully as both participants and contributors to the learning process.

Learning to Learn — student construction of knowledge. Self-awareness of the knowledge construction process is the ultimate goal. Promoting and developing the higher order cognitive skills of articulation, reflection, analysis, synthesis, problem-solving, and evaluation support the development of these skills and should provide a focus for the design of learning activities.

Prior Knowledge and Experience — existing knowledge and personal conceptions are the starting point for discussion, clarification, and planning of learning. A Sense of Community — provide learning activities that encourage cooperation among group members as a means of creating a sense of community and promotion of learning as a social process pp.

These criteria are similar to those listed as necessary for authentic instruction. Authentic instruction has been defined as achievement that is significant and meaningful based upon students constructing meaning and producing knowledge; using disciplined inquiry to construct meaning; and aiming their work toward production or performance that has value or meaning beyond success in school, that is, high grades Newmann, 1991, 1997; Newmann et al.

Thus, these goals are congruent with the already discussed criteria necessary to design successful activities that served as the base for either traditional or virtual classroom instruction in the course. Set in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, JMU is located in the small city of Harrisonburg surrounded by mountains with rural farms and ski areas sprinkled around the valley.

Students tend to be traditional age 18-22, overwhelmingly white, middle to upper middle class, conservative, and Christian. Most JMU courses have a fairly even distribution of population from across Virginia, with about one third of the total campus population of 15,000 coming from northern Virginia and neighboring states, although there are students from other states and nations present on campus. While our teacher education programs do attract some post-baccalaureate and re-entry students, of 45 Foundations of Education students in the spring 2002 semester, one was an older, re-entry female, two were Asian American, and 12 were male.

  • The use of learning strategies was the last major assignment of the class, for all three sections;
  • Students in the face-to face sections returned to class to discuss their results and conclusions in small groups; those in the online section discussed the same in small asynchronous groups;
  • Announcements posted in the course management system and emails reminded them of the deadline;
  • Additionally, researchers can implement longitudinal studies that assess student gains in critical thinking over time after taking courses that infuse critical thinking;
  • After signing the consent forms, students first completed the survey;
  • This study was qualitative and did support that online learning can enhance critical thinking.

In the fall 2002 semester, just one was African American, and only six were male. In spring 2003, out of 31 students, there was one older, re-entry female and there were six males. These examples are normal distributions for this course throughout the past 5 years at the university. The Foundations of American Education courses are overwhelmingly female and nondiverse.

The course is a traditional Foundations of American Education [EDUC 360] required by all students who wish to pursue teacher education licensure. This is the entry-level course for all teacher education programs offered by the College of Education.

Critical Thinking In Online Vs. Face To Face Higher Education

The course is offered in multiple sections every semester, enrollment is theoretically limited to 25 students, and it is taught by both full-time and adjunct faculty in a variety of formats: The full-time faculty met as a committee in 1998 to adjust the uniform critical thinking in online vs.

face-to-face higher education for the purpose of the course goals and a common set of objectives that could be expanded by individual instructors.

The courseware is relatively easy to use and is being widely introduced on campus. The faculty training for the courseware was completed in less than 1 day. Students receive online tutorial or help from their instructors in learning to use the courseware. Few faculty members are teaching courses completely online, especially at the undergraduate level, but many faculty members for several years have been using web-based instruction integrated into their courses.

Students are encouraged to ask questions and contribute their personal anecdotes and teacher stories throughout the class meetings. In reviewing the test grades students achieved over several semesters, it is clear that students have been successful with the take-home exam and the essay questions on the traditional tests but have not done well on the multiple-choice questions.

The essay questions were based on class discussion but the multiple-choice questions were selected from a test bank provided with the textbook resources. It is likely that students were not completing the assigned reading and were mistakenly relying on the instructor to teach them everything they needed to know while they passively absorbed it, despite instructor warning that the questions came from the textbook test bank.

The lack of student interaction with the textbook was problematic, as the book is both readable and informative.

Critical Thinking

Additionally, although the chapters were discussed in class, it would be difficult for students to add meaningful participation if they had not completed the reading, as the specific information contained in the chapter was purposely not repeated by the instructor. Course satisfaction as defined by student evaluations has been high, with the survey data ranging from 4. Other negatives have related critical thinking in online vs.

face-to-face higher education the large workload, with weekly journals being the most onerous task. On the other hand, many students reported that the journals were the most meaningful part of the course, as they learned how political and important education is to the American public.

The Biographical-Timeline and Personal Practical Theory assignments are also seen by students as quite meaningful and authentic. The Online Course In designing the online course, eight factors Stern, 2003 were taken into consideration: Stern 2003 provides detail about each of these factors. The authentic assignments were maintained, although based on student evaluations from fall 2002 the first semester the course was put onlinethe number of journal assignments were halved for spring 2003.

An additional change requires students to integrate not only chapter reading but also information from hyperlinks provided either by the course cartridge or the course resources uploaded by the instructor into their weekly threaded discussions. The quantitative data on course satisfaction as defined by student evaluations is reported as follows: Although these scores are lower than the face-to-face scores, it should be noted that a faculty committee revised the evaluation instrument during the summer 2002, and the questions answered by the students in the previous four years face-to-face were not identical to the ones currently asked.

The new questions place more stress on varied instructional strategies and student interaction in class. The phrasing of these questions is particularly unsuited for online courses an issue that will need to be addressed by the faculty in coming year. Nonetheless, because of the unsuitability of the questions to course format, the qualitative data became more valid as a measurement of satisfaction with the online course format. Two types of qualitative data were collected from students: In the e-mail evaluations, student comments on creating a virtual community include positives and negatives: I think that I did make personal connections online because I probably talked to people that I would not normally talk to in class.

I think that it helped me voice my opinion more through writing. I think I have made several comments over the semester that I would not have made in class. I was able to sort out my opinions and state them in a more effective manner.

  • The efficacy of asynchronous online learning in the promotion of critical thinking in graduate education;
  • Thus, it appears that when the literature comparing online and traditional courses is reviewed, the researcher can make a case for either one or both being more or equally effective, depending on the variables used.

My opinion was still heard but in a different way. In that way, the Internet is not taking away the personal connections that students make in classes. I like being pushed to take personal responsibility and I like the freedom that comes as the result of not having to meet in the actual classroom.

So much for my personal skills. I enjoy the personal contact with the teachers and students in my classes, and think that the most effective way to learn is to be in class every class meeting.

And the person-to-person contact is lost it the mix. I look forward to using technology in my classroom because I want students to get the same experiences that I have. Some people learn more when they are forced to do it on their own.

  • The design and delivery of interactive online graduate education;
  • Learning, achievement, and adjustment pp;
  • Here, online you can review the lecture as many times as you want Pena, 2001, p;
  • The test uses frequencies for individuals classified into categories, in this case a 1 — 5 rating by the raters on specific assignments.

I think that I would have been fairly quiet in class instead of sitting here and saying what I really feel. I think some people need that. Like it or not, children are attracted to technology and the children we teach will not know the world without technology. We grew up at the beginning of the technology era but these kids are right in the middle of it.

I think that we should encourage this growth in our society and use it to our best interests! Surprisingly, the student who was negative about the impersonal nature of the course wrote: Of course I will use technology in my classroom, I only exaggerate about hating it.