Do Online Classes Differ From Tradtional Classes?

November 7, 2008 at 5:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Topic for Research~ Do Online Classes Differ From Traditional Classes?


Even though the two are completely different in terms of location and speed, they are similar in many ways.  Both have instructors, books, discussions, written assignments, and some quizzes and exams.  The only difference is the format of instruction and freedom of classroom location.  Research is being conducted on comparisons of both and the benefits and outcomes.  It seems both are productive; however, technology (online courses) does increase study skills and collaboration (verses those in the traditional setting).


  1. Nate said,

    As an historical note, these kinds of comparison studies are problematic from a methodological standpoint.

    If the comparison courses are designed so that the two are as near as possible to content, process, and execution, then one or the other suffers from not taking advantage of the affordances of the particular delivery mode.

    If they’re optimized for the delivery mode, then they’re not identical.

    In the first case, if there’s any difference in outcome, there’s no way to tell which is good – only which is better. They could both be bad. In the second, there is no way to differentiate between the mode of delivery and the difference in methodology when assessing outcomes.

  2. Diana Jackson said,

    True Indeed! It seems more evident that online courses are more convenient and flexible. In terms of delivery, that would be based on the educator themselves. Everyone delivers a message in a unique way. I understand your reasoning in lack of concrete evidence/ research based on which is the most effective; however, I just thought one could research how they were different and important attributes of both (to assist those interested in taking online courses).

  3. Nate said,

    Well, given my perception that *all* education is at a distance, I think all you can do is examine factors like fluency, convenience, and obstacles.

    The problem is that motivational factors are so fluid. An unanticipated personal issue can have big implications in whether or not somebody chooses a particular mode. What might work if you live next door to a university could change if you get a new job in a different state and have to move.

    How fluent you are in using the tools and affordances is another critical factor, and I’m pretty sure that if your teacher uses junky tools, you’re not going to be prefering to participate. We had problems like that at one university I attended in the classroom when one teacher who was from another country kept running into trouble because language skills made lectures incomprehensible.

    It might be interesting to survey people with NO experience in online classes and ask them what might cause them to choose it. The problem with that is that it’s all hypothetical … Maybe ask “first time online students” why did you pick this course?

    But again, generalization onto some predictive or useful population is very problematic.

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