Distributed Learning Impact Evaluation

An evaluation of Web and Web-enhanced courses has been ongoing at UCF since the inception of the Distributed Learning Initiative in fall 1996. These are the topics we have generally researched regarding online and blended learning at UCF. If you would like to find out more about our research in an area, follow the links below for general trends and contact us for more information.

Research on Students

Who takes online courses?
What do students say about Web-based courses?
Student success and withdrawal from Web courses
Learning styles of those who enroll and succeed in online courses
Strategies for succeeding in online courses

Research on Faculty

Who teaches online courses?
What do faculty say about workload?
What do faculty say about class interaction?
Faculty perceptions of teaching on the Web
Student Perception of Instruction
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)
Faculty advice for success

Research on Online Students

Who takes online courses?

  • The majority of students (75-80%) who enroll in fully online courses on our campus are also enrolled in face-to-face courses,
  • The distribution of students by ethnicity is the same for fully online, Web-enhanced, mixed-mode, and comparable face-to-face courses,
  • Fully online courses consistently have more females,
  • On the average, students who enroll in fully online courses are older than those who enroll in Web-enhanced or comparable face-to-face courses
  • Roughly half of students who take fully online courses are working full-time,
  • Eighty to ninety percent of students who enroll in Web or Web-enhanced courses have computers at home.


What do students say about Web-based courses?

  • The majority of students (79%) take fully online courses because of the convenience of not coming to campus,
  • The majority of students in fully online courses report that they are satisfied with their experience (85%) and would be positive about taking another fully online course (89%).


Student success and withdrawal from Web courses

  • On the average, Web-enhanced courses have higher success rates (percentage of students obtaining an A, B, or C) and lower withdrawal rates than their comparable face-to-face courses
  • On the average, fully online courses have slightly lower success rates and higher withdrawal rates than either their face-to-face or Web-enhanced counterparts
  • Females typically have higher success rates and lower withdrawal rates in all modalities (fully online, Web-enhanced, and face-to-face sections)
  • The best predictor for determining success when comparing across departments, modalities, and gender is department
  • Students withdraw from Web courses for a variety of reasons with the most reported including technology issues, an underestimation of the amount of work required for course completion, and personal conflicts.


Learning styles of those who enroll and succeed in online courses

  • Those who choose fully online courses are not those independent learners, but the high energy students who succeed in all modalities.
  • Learning style doesn’t appear to be a predictor of who withdraws from Web courses


Strategies for succeeding in online courses
Students provide the following advice for those considering online courses:

  • Keep up and don’t procrastinate
  • Attend the orientation
  • Be disciplined
  • Develop your computer skills
  • Ask for help
  • Keep in touch with the professor
  • Check the forum daily

Research on Online Faculty

Who teaches online courses?

  • The majority of faculty teaching fully online or Web-enhanced courses at UCF are male (61%), and the majority are tenured (54%) or in non-tenured positions (19%). Twenty-six percent of faculty are tenure-seeking. The average age of online faculty is 50, ranging from 32 to 67 years. Many faculty are veterans to UCF with the average time at the university being 13 years, ranging from 1 to 32 years.


What do faculty say about workload?

  • Faculty, including those who are considered “Web veterans,” overwhelmingly indicate that a course with Web components requires more time in both development and in weekly administrative duties than a similar course delivered face-to-face.


What do faculty say about class interaction?

  • The majority of faculty indicate that more interaction occurs in their Web and Web-enhanced courses than in their comparable face-to-face sections. They also indicate that they feel this interaction is of higher quality than what they typically see in face-to-face.


Faculty perceptions of teaching on the Web

  • More than 80% of our faculty indicate they are satisfied with their experience teaching Web or Web-enhanced courses. They also indicate that they would be likely to teach a Web or Web-enhanced course in the future. When examining components that are related to faculty satisfaction, the amount and quality of interaction are the only significant correlates. The additional workload does not appear to affect faculty satisfaction significantly.
  • Positive aspects of Web teaching cited by faculty include structure and time convenience, increased student outreach and contact, personal satisfaction, availability of expanded research tools, improved course management, and the ability to learn new technologies.
  • Challenges of Web teaching cited by faculty include dealing with technical problems, having students attuned to their responsibilities, and lack of student engagement.


Student Perception of Instruction

  • Faculty who receive “excellent” ratings in facilitation of learning, communication of ideas, and respect and concern for students have a 97% chance of getting overall “excellent” ratings independent of the mode they are teaching.


Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL)

  • RITE provides support for faculty who wish to do research on improving their teaching (SoTL). Past topics have included:
    • Investigating civility in online courses
    • The online faculty teaching persona
    • Higher order assessment models
    • The impact of blended theater

Faculty Advice for Success

  • Eighty-seven percent of UCF faculty surveyed indicated they have changed their approach to teaching as a result of their online teaching experience. The changes reported included responding more to student needs, changing their course development and delivery, incorporating technology into teaching, modifying their time management, and utilizing an increased amount of resources in their courses.
  • When polled for advice they would give to faculty considering teaching a Web or Web-enhanced course, faculty indicated that preparation was crucial to success, and stressed the importance of faculty attending to their mental health, getting support, and knowing technology. Finally, faculty should be prepared to spend more time on their Web course – it is a fact of life!