Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Comparing Student Cumulative Course Grades, Attrition, and Satisfaction in Traditional and Virtual Classroom Environments
by Scharf, Mark T., Ph.D., Northcentral University, 2015, 161; 3719463
Abstract (Summary)

Higher education institutions are quickly becoming oriented to the benefits of distance education to their long-term interests. However, higher dropout rates continue to trouble distance-learning approaches despite the supposed flexibility and convenience it offers its students. Distance learning can be either synchronous or asynchronous in delivery. The problem addressed in this study is the significantly higher dropout rates of students in distance-learning classrooms as compared to traditional classrooms. Recent technology breakthroughs have enabled a relatively new, previously unfeasible category of distance learning—a synchronous venue using high-speed internet, modern interactive software, webcam and display tools, and computer-based activities and interactions between instructors and students in non-collocated classrooms—referred to as live virtual classrooms. The purpose of this quantitative quasi-experimental study was to compare student outcomes (student performance, satisfaction, and attrition rates) from a synchronous live virtual classroom to outcomes from an equivalent traditional classroom. This was the first comparative study of student outcomes (student performance, satisfaction, and attrition rates) in a live virtual classroom versus a traditional classroom at a major national-level university. The study aimed to capitalize on this comparison of student outcomes in live virtual classrooms versus traditional classrooms to determine if the incorporation of synchronous tools in distance education could improve upon the common issues that cause students to exit their distance learning programs by bridging the communication gaps between instructors and students. The theoretical framework for this dissertation is rooted in Michael G. Moore’s theory of transactional distance as a key variable for eliciting student engagement in the classroom. The research questions were derived to assist college university leadership with virtual and traditional classroom student retention challenges and determine possible reasons for any observed differences in student retention for different classroom venues. The population consisted of approximately 1,000 graduate students who attended five core courses of a specific post-graduate program, and was further narrowed to students who have taken at least two virtual classroom core classes and at least two traditional classroom core classes. The results of this study, which used MANCOVA and a Mann-Whitney U test for differences, were used to determine that there is a student preference (p < .05) for traditional classroom over live virtual classroom venue. No significant differences were found in student performance or attrition rate using the same statistical tests. There were no student satisfaction data indicating reasons for this preference. Last, amplifying free-form comments from the survey identified dissatisfaction caused by distractions associated with live virtual technology issues during classes. Therefore, it can be concluded that there were some differences in student satisfaction of traditional classroom venue versus live virtual classroom, but that satisfaction is not translated into performance differences or differences in attrition rate. From this study, the virtual live classroom appears to function equally well as the traditional classroom when measured by grades, satisfaction, and attrition. Future research recommendations include quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the different styles of live virtual classrooms that are evolving as a result of technology improvements and student and instructor technical savvy. Also, expanding the sample population beyond post-graduate students may further delineate the level of appeal from the various live-virtual instruments in that particular classroom venue.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McNamara, Patrick
Commitee: Bouvin, David, Liu, Ying
School: Northcentral University
Department: School of Business and Technology Management
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 77/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Teacher education, Multimedia Communications, Educational technology
Keywords: Asynchronous classroom, Live virtual classroom, Student attrition, Student performance, Student satisfaction, Synchronous classroom
Publication Number: 3719463
ISBN: 9781321998177