Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) is an HBCU (95% African
American, 2% White and 3% others) open admission institution. The
female/male student ratio is 60/40. Traditionally a brick and mortar
university, it now offers both ground-based and online courses. With the
implementation of e-learning, the number of online classes being offered
per semester has increased from 15 before Hurricane Katrina (August
2005) to over 100 at present. Furthermore, the Departments of Criminal
Justice, Early Childhood Education and General Studies now offer online
undergraduate degree programs. An online graduate program in Museum
Studies is also available. The average age of freshman students who took
the survey ranged from 17 to 19.
The rapid expansion of e-learning at SUNO has created a need for
greater understanding of the online learning dynamic from the
perspective of students, of faculty, and of the administration. Earlier
studies have paid little attention to real users of e-learning focusing
instead on instructors or administrators. As a result, students'
needs and demands have often been neglected in studying the design and
implementation of e-learning, while administrators' or
instructors' demands or assumptions have been the major focus of
investigation (Oh, 2003). According to Oh (2003), administrators of
higher education tend to view e-learning not from students'
perspective, but from an internal organizational or technological
prospective. In order to truly understand e-learning, administrators,
instructors, and students should all be considered as part of the
learning process. As such, educational institutions need to base
e-learning programs on real circumstances by periodically examining
students' and instructors' needs and attitudes towards
e-learning and, on the basis of the findings, suggesting improvements to
the e-learning environments.
Lyons (2004) confirmed that many professors use technology in the
traditional classroom but would not teach online because they dislike
the lack of personal interaction. Other online instructors, according to
Lyons (2004), complained that answering emails and participating in
discussion boards mean that online teaching takes up more of their time
than a traditional class and criticized the attitudes and behaviors of
online students who do not take deadlines seriously. The reality of
online teaching can be confounding and upsetting and can make a talented
teacher feel like an unmitigated failure (Laird, 2003; Lyons, 2004).
Tunison and Noonan (2001) stated that the development of e-learning
may have a significant impact on the lives of both students and teachers
because it is a form of school improvement and innovation that confronts
many of the short-comings of education. New developments in e-learning
and increasingly sophisticated learning technologies are beginning to
have a major impact in universities. It is clear that universities need
to adapt to the impact of technology on learning. Communication
technologies that are free from time or space constraints provide new
challenges to universities on how courses should be organized (Jones
& O'Shea, 2004). Learning in higher education is now presented
with hardware and/or software tools that can allow institutions at this
level to overcome some of the limitations associated with the lack of
linkage between instructors and learners separated by time and place
(Oh, 2003). According to Oh (2003), Tony Blair, the then U.K. prime
minister once said, "Technology has revolutionized the way we work
and is now set to transform education. Children cannot be effective in
tomorrow's world if they are trained in yesterday's skills.
Nor should teachers be denied the tools that other professionals take
for granted." Furthermore, according to the E.A.SY. Project
(European Agency for Easy access to virtual campus), institutions of
higher education should provide information, training and counseling to
students, students with special needs (disabilities), teachers/trainers,
tutors, mentors, administrative staff through the effective use of
Information Communication Technology (ICT) in order to promote virtual
mobility as a complement and/or alternative to physical mobility. The
purpose of this research is to review and discuss e-learning strategies
used at SUNO to enhance the quality of learning and instruction for
first year freshman.
Statement of the Problem
The failure to get adequate attention is often related to the
quality of the plans for e-learning (Oh, 2003). While e-learning
increases access to education, instructional quality often suffers
because of increased faculty workload, problems of adapting to
technology, difficulties with online course management, insufficient
training, and insufficient instructional and administrative support
(Cravener, 1999; Carthan, 2007). Rising costs, shrinking budgets, and an
increasing need for e-learning are causing educational institutions to
re-examine the way education is delivered (Wagner, Hassanein & Head,
2008). According to Weller (2004), cost effective models of large scale
e-learning have proven difficult to implement. Depending on the
technological infrastructure at an institution, implementation of
e-learning courses can involve very costly technology upgrades because
e-learning systems require different components such as sufficient
bandwidth, course management systems, and technology equipped laptops or
computers for instructors (Wagner et al., 2008). Budgetary constraints
are a primary problem for many educational institutions. Tight budgets
make it difficult to implement broad, campus wide e-learning solutions.
Individual departments tend to implement their own solutions, which may
not be consistent with the rest of the institution. This reduces the
potential for cross-departmental efficiencies, and can complicate the
process for faculty, staff, and students, especially if they are
involved with more than one department (Wagner et al., 2008). Another
important problem is resistance from instructors. Although studies have
shown that there is no significant difference between the performance of
students in the two methods (Huynh, Umesh, & Valachich, 2003), many
faculty members still believe that e-learning is inferior to
Since e-learning presents an entirely new learning environment for
students, it requires a different skill set in order to succeed.
Critical thinking, research and evaluation skills are growing in
importance as students sort through increasing volumes of information
from different sources. E-learning requires technical skills from both
instructors and students. Online course administration may require
instructors to learn new software applications. The use of new
technology may be extensive in situations where instructors also create
the course content. Arabasz and Baker (2003) suggested that the main
challenges of technical support for e-learning initiatives include lack
of knowledge of how to adapt instructional design for effective use in
courses using technology, and lack of confidence in using the
applications to teach.
Instructors take a lot of time to create and manage e-learning
courses. Compared to traditional delivery of classes, faculty and
support staff spends more hours providing online versions of courses.
Unless incentives are provided to encourage instructors to use
e-learning technology, resistance to additional workload is likely to
continue (Wagner et al., 2008).
Statement of the Objective
This study addresses problems that students and instructors face in
the e-learning environment. Based on the assumption that our findings at
Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) are somewhat representative of
the state of e-learning at a national level, this study reviews and
discusses strategies to enhance the quality of e-learning and
instruction in general and at Southern University at New Orleans in
particular. Our surveys of faculty and student perceptions revealed
actual and potential problems facing students and instructors taking and
teaching online classes. Additionally, this research analyzed
students' online grades for Fall 2007, Spring 2008 and Fall 2008 to
determine if current strategies enhance students' learning. It
investigated online students' and teachers' needs in order to
determine strategies to enhance the quality of e-learning. This research
focuses on questions such as: What factors frustrate faculty when
teaching e-learning courses? Do online faculty need more training and
in-service orientation? Does the current e-learning platform enhance
student participation? Do existing factors in online courses frustrate
students or instructors? Results from this study may provide educational
institutions with necessary strategies to enhance the quality of
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
E-learning is becoming an increasingly popular way for students to
take courses and for faculty to teach, with the number of students
taking at least one online course growing more than ten times as rapidly
as actual enrollments in post-secondary education (Smith, Samors, &
Mayadas, 2008). The growing demand for online courses from working
adults and the global competition from institutions of higher education
have led administrators to modify traditional methods of education
delivery in order to sustain long term competitiveness. E-learning
offers higher education institutions innovative ways to target adult
learners who want to continue their education but are constrained by
work schedule, family and/or time (Coppola, Hiltz, & Rozanne, 2002).
As demand for online education continues to increase, institutions are
faced with developing process models for efficient, high quality online
course development (Puzziferro & Shelton, 2008).
The increasing demand for online courses has caught the attention
of higher education administrators in traditional brick-and-mortar
institutions who want to satisfy adult learner needs in knowledge-based
global societies (Chen, Gupta, & Hoshower, 2006).However, much
remains unchanged. The vast majority of online courses are organized in
the same manner as their campus counterparts: developed by individual
faculty members, with some support from the IT staff, and offered within
a semester. Most follow traditional academic practices ("Here is
the syllabus, go off and read or do research, come back and
discuss"), and most are evaluated using traditional
student-satisfaction methods (Twigg, 2001). The problem with applying
old solutions to new problems in the world of e-learning is that these
applications tend to produce results that are "as good as"
what has been done before--what is often referred to as the "no
significant difference" phenomenon (Twigg, 2001). Some researchers
have expressed concern about the learning outcomes of e-learners, but a
review of 355 comparative studies reveals no significant difference in
learning outcomes, commonly measured as grades or exam results, between
traditional and e-learning modes of delivery (Russel, 2001). According
to Twigg (2001), "It's not providing student services online;
it's how you provide student services online." Institutions of
higher education need strategies or approaches that produce more
Online instructors need to move beyond traditional pedagogy and
adopt new, more facilitative practices. Instructors of higher education
institutions need to move beyond using the internet to deliver standard
classroom models. Instead, they should focus on developing ways to use
the internet to develop a "richness" that enhances education
(Smith, 2005). They should be able to effectively use technology that
has been selected for course delivery before the first day of class as
this will continue to play an important role throughout the course
The development and availability of information communication
technology is significantly changing the way e-learning courses are
conducted. The increase in information and communication technology
available for instructional design and delivery, and
technology-supported learning models, are eroding the dominance of
traditional classroom learning (Oh, 2003). Additionally, Oh (2003)
stated that colleges and universities are the most wired communities on
the Web, with more than 90% of college students accessing the internet,
52 % daily. The internet has enabled tremendous innovation in the
delivery of post-secondary education (Wagner, Hassanein & Head,
2008). The increasing use of information communication technology
challenges historical classroom and instructional models of how teaching
and learning are conducted. For technology supported learning, the most
important concerns are how content is prepared, how and to what extent
person-to-person interactions are arranged, and how the whole learning
environment matches learner needs (Oh, 2003). The degree of interaction
among participants in online courses is widely acknowledged to be an
indicator of successful learning experiences. Interaction contributes to
both achievement and student satisfaction. Thus, providing better
interaction is an important means of assuring course quality (Roblyer
& Wiencke, 2004).
The use of e-learning technology in delivering courses varies
broadly. Table 1 shows variations in the configuration of e-learning
offerings described through a number of attributes which can be
categorized into the dimensions of synchronicity, location,
independence, and mode. E-learning can be synchronous (real-time) or
asynchronous (flex-time). Synchronous e-learning, which includes
technology such as video conferencing and electronic white boards,
requires students' presence at the time of content delivery.
Asynchronous e-learning, which includes programmed instruction and
tutorials, allows students to work through the screens at their own pace
and at their own time (Wagner et al., 2008).
Wagner et al. (2008) elaborate that a single course component
consists of a single attribute value from each dimension, but a course
may contain several components, each with different attribute values.
For instance, some components of a course may be delivered synchronously
and others asynchronously. However, most courses available on the
internet are based on the asynchronous model (Greenagel, 2002).
Asynchronous e-learning, commonly facilitated by email and discussion
board, supports work relations among learners and between teachers and
learners, even when participants cannot be online at the same time. This
is a key component of flexible e-learning (Hrastinski, 2008). With
asynchronous e-learning, learners can log on to an e-learning
environment at any time and download documents or send messages to
teachers or peers. Students may spend more time refining their
contributions, which therefore are usually more thoughtful than those in
synchronous communication (Hrastinski, 2008).
Moreover, e-learning creates access to higher education that
students would not have otherwise because of geographic or time
constraints (Kabassi & Virvou, 2004). As high-speed internet access
and computing power increase, more organizations are turning to
collaborative and synchronous software for e-learning in which users in
geographically distant locations work together online, share documents
and applications, and use video and audio to communicate in real time
(Beck, 2007). Synchronous e-learning, commonly supported by media such
as videoconferencing and chat, has the potential to support e-learners
in the development of learning communities. Learners and teachers
experience synchronous e-learning as more social and less frustrating
since they can ask and answer questions in real time. Synchronous
sessions help e-learners feel more involved and less isolated.
"Isolation can be overcome by more continued contact, particularly
synchronously, and by becoming aware of themselves as members of a
community rather than as isolated individuals communicating with the
computer." (Haythornthwaite & Kazmer, 2002).
Effective teaching begins with effective planning (Ekwensi,
Moranski, & Townsend-Sweet, 2006). Planning includes determining the
instructional strategy to be used in order to deliver the instruction
and achieve the learning objectives. These strategies are usually tied
to the needs and interests of students to enhance learning. The
following instructional strategies can be used in an e-learning
This is a one-on-one learning relationship between a student and an
expert in a specific topic or discipline for the purpose of supporting
learning and development. In e-learning, mentorship is a reciprocal and
collaborative learning relationship between a mentor and a student. It
combines the impact of learning with the compelling human need for
connection (Ekwensi et al., 2006; Wilson, 2006; Wisker, Exley, Antoniou,
& Ridley, 2007) through email, instant messenger, conferencing or
Small Group Work
This is the root of online learning. Students in a small group
situated in an online learning environment have the ability to research
at their own pace. Many of the programs used for online courses, such as
Centra, facilitate online learning and training, enabling users to share
knowledge and skills. Group work increases learners' ability to
better organize and manage their thoughts and research (Ekwensi et al.,
2006; Rana, 2005).
Projects can be assigned on an individual or group basis. Assigning
projects is a great instructional strategy. An individual research
project gives a student an opportunity to research topics of interest.
This strategy provides the student with the experience of working
through the process from the beginning to the end. Projects in a group
atmosphere are also effective in creating a dynamic learning
environment. When individual projects are completed, the instructor has
the option to keep project results private. A more effective strategy,
however, is to have the instructor or the students share their results
with the rest of the class. In this way, each class member is provided
with honest feedback that will serve him or her in future projects. In
addition, feedback from the class is from numerous people with different
points of view, which gives students a wider range of input than the
instructor alone can provide. Students learn to collaborate together and
share their own distinct views to discover a common solution (Ekwensi et
al., 2006). According to Thomas (2000), projects involve students in a
constructive investigation which is a goal-directed process that
involves inquiry, knowledge building, and resolution. Such
investigations for example, could be design, decision-making,
problem-finding, problem-solving, discovery, or model building process.
This commonly used strategy creates a dynamic online learning
environment. It involves the interaction between two or more students
with different skill set levels. This variety of levels enables students
to learn from their peers. Students help each other by putting the new
information in perspective for the learner so that the learner can
relate to it and remember it. This instructional strategy is deemed so
useful in the online environment that "collaborative learning
methods are now used in over a third of higher education courses"
(Ekwensi et al., 2006; Stairs, 2002; Young, 2009). Through collaborative
learning students learn to work well in a group environment and to
enhance their communication and critical thinking skills.
This strategy involves the learners' past experience, while
the case's outcome involves the learners' future. In order to
create an effective learning environment, students must have access to
the problem they are studying but not the solution until they reach
their own conclusions. Then, students can compare their results with
results of actual decisions used to solve the problem in the study.
Discussion sessions can be accomplished in the online learning
environment through Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional (Beck, 2007),
Centra, and other online collaboration applications as a means of
sharing information so students can later apply this new knowledge. This
interaction can be presented by groups to the rest of the class and
discussed through email or online conferencing. Case Study strategy
relies upon the active participation of a host of contributors in a
union established to achieve a community result greater than that which
could be attained by individual effort (Rosenthal, 2002; Ertmer &
Stepich, 2002; Waterman & Stanley, 2005).
This is an agreement between the learner and the instructor that
details the learning objective, as well as how that objective will be
met. While the objective is provided by the instructor, the
student's responsibility is to write and carry out the actual
content of the contract. The final document can be negotiated by the
student and the instructor in order to provide a meaningful learning
experience that meets the expectation of the instructor (Ekwesi et al.,
2006). According to Codde (2006), learning contract is an alternative
way of structuring a learning experience. It replaces a content plan
with a process plan and solves or reduces the problem of dealing with
wide differences within any group of learners. As such, every instructor
should develop the syllabus as an actual contract between the instructor
and the students describing upfront the expected outcomes and how shared
responsibility for learning translates in terms of successfully
completing the course (Kilmurray, 2003).
The lecture strategy for instruction is the model that requires the
most of the instructor in an e-learning environment. This strategy
assumes the instructor to be the subject matter expert who lays the
foundation for students. Lectures provide a basis of subject knowledge
on which other knowledge, such as declarative, procedural, and
conditional knowledge can be built (Hardy, 2002). A good lecturer must
know how to differentiate the lecture materials to meet the individual
needs of the students.
In the e-learning environment, lectures can take many forms. A
complete set of lecture notes can be presented as a web page or offered
as a PDF or as a Microsoft Word file that can be played directly from
the source or offered to the learner as a download. Lectures may also be
recorded and offered in a Podcast format, as a PowerPoint presentation,
or as a flash file. With graphics, animation, sound, etc., the lecture
can be made into a multimedia presentation or presented in streaming
video, in an effort to motivate the learner and appeal to different
styles of learning. Clark & Pitt (2001) suggest that no lecture
should exceed twenty minutes: sufficient time to provide enough
information to serve as a basis for further study.
This is the most favored of all instructional strategies because it
is interactive and encourages active, participatory learning. Students
in an online learning environment are always isolated so discussion is
particularly important for them: it facilitates a feeling of belonging
to a group which is critical to success in education (Herring &
Dargan, 2002). The following are some benefits of discussion:
It provides teachers with a tool for increasing interactivity in
both online and face-to-face courses (Bannan-Ritland, 2002; Brown, 2001;
Healey, 1998; Klemm, 1997).
It helps to build a learning community over time (Brown, 2001).
It enhances the learning process by creating more opportunities for
active learning and collaboration (Klemm, 1997; Land & Dornisch,
2002; Landsberger, 2001). Additionally, discussion provides learners
with opportunities to write and reflect on course content and previous
postings (MacKnight, 2000; O'Sullivan, 2001; Rothermel, 2001).
Since it helps learners to construct knowledge, itfits in with the
constructivist view of a learner-centered classroom, whether physical or
virtual (Campos, Laferriere, & Harasim, 2001).
The instructor manages a discussion by assuming the roles of
e-moderator, facilitator, and role model (Landsberger, 2001).
Possible Problems with Discussion
Many teachers who use discussion in e-learning may not have any
formal training in how to use online course delivery technology (Herring
& Dargan, 2002). They may not anticipate some of the common problems
as listed by Branon and Essex, (2001):
Students not responding to other students in a timely manner.
Everyone likes feedback: students may be disappointed if they take time
to respond to the teacher's prompt, and no one else does for a few
Students not checking the discussion board often enough. If
students do not log on for a week, they may be overwhelmed by seeing a
number of messages, or they may miss deadlines for postings and give up.
Students or teachers not understanding the amount of time needed
for discussion to mature. In the early weeks of a new semester, there is
a tendency for postings to be more introductory in nature. People may be
reluctant to open up or not accustomed to responding to others.
Students feeling socially disconnected. Some students may not feel
comfortable with doing their postings. English as a Second Language
students, students with limited access to computers or students who
prefer lots of social interaction may feel separated from class members.
Branon and Essex (2001) suggest that students should work in
groups, and that instructors should summarize rather than respond to
each person, and give feedback to peers as assigned. In addition, it is
important to give students clear instructions on how to post and
respond, and to use tools that notify students of new postings.
The purpose of this paper is to review and discuss strategies to
enhance the quality of e-learning and instruction. Offering a course
online does not in itself guarantee the quality of teaching and
learning. E-learning may help students to access learning opportunities
but it is not likely to prove successful unless it is cautiously and
properly designed. One important factor in designing an online class is
to understand instructors' and students' expectations. To this
end, two perception surveys on freshman students and instructors were
conducted at the end of the fall semester in 2008, in which 82 freshman
students and 46 instructors responded.
Freshman Students and Faculty/Instructor Perception Surveys
The survey consisted of ten statements for freshman students and
ten statements for instructors. These statements of interest were
associated with the overall picture of e-learning.
Data analysis was accomplished by using the arithmetic means: mean
= [n.summation over (k=1)] [x.sub.k]/n to measure the central tendency
of the respondents as shown in Table 2. Freshman students were required
to mark strongly agree (SA); agree (A); neutral (N); disagree (D); or
strongly disagree (SD) in response to the following statements:
Table 2 (Statements # 1, 2, 3, and 7) shows that students are
satisfied. However, Statement #4 shows that students are not familiar
with the options that Blackboard can provide to the instructor to
prevent students from cheating. Statement #5 shows that students need
new means of motivation. Statement #6 shows that students do not have
adequate knowledge to utilize the online learning mode. Statement #8
shows that students need improvement as shown in the proposed model
(Figure 6). Statements #9 and #10 show that SUNO administrators need to
provide the means to adequately train students and to enhance their
level of motivation.
Table 3shows faculty's perception of online teaching.
Instructors were asked to respond strongly agree (SA); agree (A);
neutral (N); disagree (D); or strongly disagree (SD) to the following
Table 3 (Statements # 1, 6, 8, and 10) shows that faculty agree
with the statements. However, Statement # 2 shows that the current
e-learning platform needs improvement. Statements #3, 4 and 5 show that
instructors need more training on how to utilize the options available
on Blackboard to make their courses both exciting and user-friendly.
Additionally, the school does not provide incentives to faculty who
teach online. Due to large class size, over 50% of instructors do not
hold adequate discussion sessions. Statement #9 shows that instructors
are not motivated due to lack of resources.
Differences in students' and faculty's perceptions of
online courses are evident in an analysis of Tables 2 and 3:
About 55.1% of freshman students are satisfied with
instructors' online course assistance (Student: Statement #3)while
faculty claimed that only 31.8% of them hold adequate discussion
sessions in e-learning courses (Faculty: Statement #7).
About 28.1% of freshman students and 70.4% of instructors are
frustrated by existing factors in online courses (Student: Statement #6,
Faculty: Statement #6).
Only 35.8% of freshman students agreed that online teaching and
learning need improvement, 82.2% of instructors argued for improvement
(Student: Statement #8, Faculty: Statement #8).
38.8 % of freshman students and 86.4% of instructors favor more
training and orientation for students and faculty (Student: Statement
#10, Faculty: Statement #10).
These findings show that administrators of e-learning in
educational institutions need to improve students' and
instructors' skills and methods of online education delivery.
Improving students' skills will enable them both to more critically
evaluate the learning process and to learn better in the e-learning
environment; enhancing faculty skills will make the e-learning
environment more exciting and conducive to quality learning. Developing
strategies for effective course management should be a collaborative
effort by both instructors and universities/colleges (Oh, 2003). In
addition, students should be trained to learn prior to taking e-learning
courses. SUNO has begun implementing this process by mandating that
students may not take e-learning courses without prior experience in
them or without having first familiarized themselves with the university
The e-learning department at SUNO which offered 15 courses per
semester before Hurricane Katrina (August 2005) now offers more than 100
courses per semester. The survey indicates that the department needs
both to expand course offerings and to improve services and
opportunities for faculty and students. Currently, students and faculty
do not get enough training from the e-learning department. To ensure the
future of e-learning, faculty must keep abreast of e-learning
technologies as well as with the latest thinking on the social and
psychological factors that influence e-learning. This is best done
through developmental processes that include research, attending
conferences, workshops, etc. Moreover, the administration should ensure,
through a continuing forum, that continuing faculty development is
effective and that the model shown in Figure 6 is implemented.
Data Analysis of Students' Grades
Data was obtained from the Information Technology Center (ITC) for
students who took online courses at Southern University at New Orleans
in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, and Fall 2008. SPSS Statistics17.0 and
Microsoft Excel 2007 software were used to analyze the data in order to
examine the rate of students' passing to failing. A, B, C, and D
are passing grades, while F is a failing grade. A Single Factor ANOVA
was conducted to determine any significant statistical differences in
mean grade over the three semesters. Tables 4, 5, and 6 show online
grade distributions for Fall 2007, Spring 2008, and Fall 2008 freshmen.
The F grade represents an academic failure (F) as well as failure due to
excessive absence (FX).
Table 7 served as grading scales that were used to formulate the
Salient statistics show that the online grade average (mean)
increased from 1.04 (Fall 2007) to 1.13 (Spring 2008), and 1.23 (Fall
2008). In this study, a Single Factor ANOVA was conducted to test the
hypothesis as shown in Table 8.
The p-value of 0.738257811 shown in Table 8 is greater than 0.05.
Thus, the difference across the three semesters is not significant.
Retention Statistics and Trends
The transition from high school to college is fraught with
difficulties for many students. The inability to adequately manage time,
to prioritize commitments, to motivate themselves, to clearly set goals
and abide by them, to meet university academic standards, to adapt to
their new social and academic environment, and financial difficulties,
are only some of the factors that cause lower-than-acceptable
performance. This is especially true for e-learners who, when lacking
motivation or time-management skills, tend to fail or drop out more
frequently than do other students. These factors translate into a need
for increased academic and personal counseling programs to improve
student retention (Salinitri, 2005). In a survey of 4,100 learners,
Corporate University Xchange found that "85 percent dropped out of
online courses versus 15% who dropped out of traditional face-to-face
classrooms in 2001" (Alexander, 2002). In a similar study, one
higher education institution reported a "58 % completion rate in
the same courses offered in a traditional classroom setting" (Carr,
Table 9 shows that freshman (online and on-campus) percent rate
dropped at Southern University at New Orleans.
Table 10 shows the dropout percentcourses.
Table 11 shows instructors' and students' perceptions of
teaching and learning online.
About 55.1% of freshman students agree that instructors offer
adequate course assistance, while only 31.8% of instructors agree that
they offer adequate course assistance/discussion; 40.9% of instructors
are undecided. Instructors' comments from the survey read
"Those of us who are older faculty members have knowledge but still
need more intense training on Blackboard as do the older students. We
need additional trainers/support personnel." In addition, "The
faculty assigned to teach online courses should be well prepared in
advance of the start of the semester or term he/she is teaching. It is
not acceptable to have a faculty member assigned to the course a day
before or a week after the session begins."
About 28.1% of students and 70.4% of instructors are frustrated by
existing factors in online courses while 58% of students are undecided.
In SUNO's survey, an instructor commented, "As an online
instructor, all of my courses have more than 25 students enrolled. This
factor affects quality education. Exams are made as multiple choice/True
and False questions so that I can realistically grade all 55
students' assignments for each module. SUNO should enforce the rule
of thumb as the Tennessee consultants recommended that only 25 or fewer
should be enrolled in each class. This will definitely help the quality
of online learning."
Though 54.3% of students are undecided on online teaching and
learning improvement, 35.8% of students and 82.2% of instructors agree
that online teaching and learning need improvement. This finding is
supported by an instructor's comment from the survey, "The
system has too many bugs, crashes, and other technical issues. Also I
think that online proficiency assessment should test students [sic]
ability to read & follow directions regarding how online classes
will be conducted. Also, e-learning should look into Model and other
The survey shows that 38.8% of students and 86.4% of instructors
agree that both students and faculty need more training and orientation.
In SUNO's survey, an instructor commented "Training should be
on-going [sic] and not just aimed at beginners. Additional platforms
(for instance, Second Life) should be explored and utilization
encouraged, as appropriate. Effort must be accompanied with
rewards." Further, a student commented "There should be more
professors that are strictly online professors. This would give them a
better opportunity to concentrate on learning the Blackboard system and
therefore being able to offer a better experience to online students.
Some professors are not sure how to utilize the system to its fullest
potential. So, it is difficult to expect the students in those classes
to perform at the best of their ability."
Student/Instructor Perceptions vs. Online Grade Distribution
Results from Figures 1 and 2(see appendix) combined, when compared
to online grade distribution, reflect a pattern in grade distribution
across the three semesters. It can be argued that due to
instructors' inadequate course assistance (40.9% neutral),
frustrated instructors (70.4%) due to existing factors in online
courses, lack of improvement in online teaching and learning (82.2% for
instructors, 35.8% for students), and lack of orientation and training
(86.4% for instructors, 38.8% for students), student performance was
greatly affected in all three semesters as shown in Figures 3, 4, and 5
In Fall 2007 (Figure 3) 67.6% of students made D and F grades. Only
24.8% earned A and B grades and 7.6% earned a C grade.
According to Figure 4(Spring 2008) 64.9% of students earned D and F
grades; 10.6% earned a C grade which reflects a 3% increase compared to
Fall 2007. Though A grades from Fall 2007 to Spring 2008 increased by
4.4%, the 24.5% the combined A and B grades in Spring 2008 represents a
0.3 % drop from Fall 2007.
Figure 5 shows that students' performance improved in Fall
2008. About 60.7% of students earned D and F grades (an improvement of
4.2% from Spring 2008). C grades from 10.6% in Spring 2008 to 14.3% in
Fall 2008, increased by 3.7%. Further, 25% of students achieved A and B
grades, representing a 0.5% increase from Spring 2008.
Causes of grade improvement in Fall 2008 may be investigated in
future surveys to determine reasons for improved student performance.
It is evident that there is a lack of significant improvement in
students' performance and retention(the numbers do not reflect a
significant improvement in student performance and retention.)Thus, new
and innovative directions/approaches are necessary to ensure improvement
in learning outcomes. Instructors offering online courses or
face-to-face traditional classes can motivate students and enhance the
learning outcome by supporting and facilitating the learning process.
Figure 6 illustrates future modules for assessing students'
learning processes with the online instructor acting as a motivator to
enhance student's outcome.
As demonstrated in Figure 6, the instructor enhances online
learning by implementing new software in order to redesign the delivery
of online courses (1A), by creating effective presentations with voice
and animations (1B), and by learning how to use new tools to organize,
prepare, teach and monitor the online class (1C). These processes enable
the instructor to establish and encourage online students' learning
outcomes through innovation, collaboration and implementation of new
Assessment in the "Student" column is based on the
student's demonstration of critical thinking ability (2A), an
illustration of collaborative effort by using chat rooms, etc., to
implement the learning process (2B), and the incorporation of new ideas
to improve the learning process (2C). A student who follows these
learning processes should be able to demonstrate an improved learning
Students should benefit from these enhanced learning methods and
will be graded accordingly. This process should be replicated in such a
way that both students and faculty advance their intellectual skills.
Implementing such a technique should improve the student's learning
process and retention (Omar, Kalulu, & Bhutta, 2008).
As information technology advances, it is critical that faculty and
students keep themselves up-to-date. In order for the proposed model to
work, both E-learning and Information Technology departments have to
encourage and support professors' attempts to enhance online
teaching. Furthermore, colleges and universities should find possible
ways of securing finances in order to support IT and e-learning
projects. Additionally, it is vital that institutions of higher
education hire knowledgeable IT and E-learning staff who can determine
optimum ways to implement technology into a school's individual
curriculum. Also, it is essential to provide an excellent testing space
or environment for online faculty to carryout e-learning experiments.
Offering these technological opportunities should make professors
innovative in online teaching.
Student data from SUNO's Information Technology Center for
Fall 2007, Spring 2008, and Fall 2008 were analyzed to determine whether
significant differences emerged in online courses across the three
semesters. Microsoft Excel 2007(ANOVA) and SPSS Statistics17.0 were used
to analyze the data; findings indicated that online grade point averages
increased from 1.04 to 1.13 and from 1.13 to 1.23. ANOVA single factor
analysis gave a p-value of 0.738257811, which was greater than 0.05,
indicating no significant difference across the three semesters.
The e-learning department at SUNO, which offered 15 courses per
semester before Hurricane Katrina, now offers more than 100 courses per
semester. Despite this growth, our survey indicates that the department
needs to expand even further and to provide better services and
opportunities for faculty and students. Currently, the training provided
to students and faculty by the e-learning department is inadequate,
which accounts for some of the high failure rate relative to
ground-based courses. To enhance online teaching, the administration
should ensure that faculty members keep their knowledge of e-learning
current through developmental processes such as research, attending
conferences, workshops, etc.; should provide a continuing forum in which
faculty members keep abreast of recent thinking about e-learning
(social, technological, psychological etc.); and should implement the
proposed model depicted in Figure 6. As a first step in an overall
strategy to improve e-learning at SUNO, the administration has
implemented the policy that new freshman starting in Fall 2009 should
not take online classes until they become familiar with university
As long as institutions of higher education continue to replicate
traditional approaches online and to treat all students as if they were
the same, the "no significant difference" phenomenon will
continue. As administrators or instructors consider ways to design more
effective online learning environments, they should think of students as
individuals and not as homogeneous groups.
Instructors and students who are motivated, prepared and supported
are more likely to succeed in e-learning. Generally, it is unreasonable
to expect experienced face-to-face instructors to function well in an
online environment without specific training. These instructors should
be assisted in transitioning to the online environment, trained and
mentored, and provided with written resources about problems that are
likely to arise in online courses (Phipps & Merisotis, 2000).
Primary and ongoing training, mentoring, and assessment of effectiveness
are critical to the success of online learning and teaching.
Instructors' training should be facilitated by hands-on,
face-to-face lab sessions to assist them in the initial exploration of
online learning management systems. The online delivery will provide
opportunities for prospective online instructors to experience the
anxiety, uncertainty, and other challenges that new online students
encounter. In addition, during the primary training, colleges and
universities should initiate a support forum facilitated by an
experienced online instructor (Smith, 2005). This implementation will
enable instructors to engage in collaborative learning through online
discussion, thereby forming a mutual support community and encouraging
communication among all instructors.
Instructors may need to teach students about online learning,
especially in courses that have many new online students (Palloff &
Pratt, 2001), in order to promote active learning techniques (Moore,
Winograd, & Lange, 2001). Instructors should accomplish this without
overwhelming new students who may not be familiar with the online
learning platform, the software needed to support learning, the policies
and procedures of the institution, the basic study methods, and the
uncertainties inherent in electronic communication that may generate
fear and anxiety (Smith, 2005).
Instructors must maintain the momentum of the course (Coghlan,
2008) by confronting students who are not participating (Palloff &
Pratt, 2001) or are disruptive (Ko& Rosen, 2001). As facilitators,
instructors should focus not only on course content but also on
development of an online community which encourages peer interaction.
Student-to-student and student-to-instructor interactions are essential
to the success of e-learning.
E-learning is an increasingly sophisticated tool for teaching
students valuable new skills and upgrading their proficiencies as well
as exposing them to new products and services, equipment and procedures.
LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE STUDY
This study only compared online grades for freshman students at
SUNO across three semesters. Further surveys are needed to investigate
the challenge facing institutions if they are to continue with quality
online courses and reduce retention drop rate. Additionally,
institutions should conduct research designed to determine the most
efficient and effective paths for online students in order to enhance
student retention, critical thinking and outcome.
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Adnan Omar, Daff Kalulu, and Ghasem S. Alijani
Southern University at New Orleans
I have full access to a personal computer and internet.
I understand how to access Blackboard which is required to navigate
my online courses.
I have adequate course assistance from my instructor and the
Software on the Blackboard prevents students from cheating.
Taking courses online motivates me as a student.
Existing factors in online classes frustrates me as a student.
I participate in discussion sessions posted by the instructor.
Online teaching and practices need improvement.
SUNO has a motivated and committed online education.
Online students need more training and in-service orientation.
The expectations of students who earn grades in e-learning courses
The current e-learning platform is adequate to enhance student
The software currently used prevents cheating in e-learning
E-learning is user friendly at SUNO.
Faculty members teaching at SUNO are motivated.
There are major factors that frustrate faculty when teaching
Faculty hold adequate discussion sessions in e-learning courses.
Online teaching and learning practices need improvement.
SUNO has a motivated and committed online education.
Online faculty need more training and in-service orientation.
Table 1: E-learning Dimensions
Dimension Attribute Meaning
Synchronicity Asynchronous Content delivery occurs at
different time than receipt by
Synchronous Content delivery occurs at the same
time as receipt by student.
Location Same Place Students use an application at the
same physical location as other
students and/or the instructor.
Distributed Students use an application at
various physical locations,
separate from other students and
Independence Individual Students work independently from
one another to complete learning
Collaborative Students work collaboratively with
one another to complete learning
Mode Electronically All content is delivered via
Only technology. There is no face-to-
Blended E-learning is used to supplement
traditional classroom learning.
Dimension Attribute Example
Synchronicity Asynchronous Lectured module delivered via
Synchronous Lecture delivery via web cast.
Location Same Place Using a Group Support System
(GSS) to solve a problem in a
Distributed Using GSS to solve a problem from
Independence Individual Students complete e-learning
Collaborative Students participate in discussion
forums to share ideas.
Mode Electronically An electronically enabled e-
Only learning course.
Blended In class lectures are enhanced with
hands-on computer exercises.
Source: Wagner, Hassanein, & Head, 2008
Table 2: Students' Perceptions of Online Courses
Statement SA A N D SD
1 57.5% 13.8% 16.1% 3.8% 8.8%
2 63.4% 18.3% 8.6% 7.3% 2.4%
3 23.8% 31.3% 32.4% 10.0% 2.5%
4 21.3% 23.8% 45.0% 6.3% 3.8%
5 11.3% 8.8% 48.6% 21.3% 10.0%
6 11.0% 17.1% 58.5% 7.3% 6.1%
7 25.9% 29.6% 27.3% 12.3% 4.9%
8 19.8% 16.0% 54.3% 9.9% 0.0%
9 12.2% 22.0% 59.7% 4.9% 1.2%
10 15.0% 23.8% 55.0% 3.7% 2.5%
Average 26.12% 20.45% 40.55% 8.68% 4.22%
Table 3: Faculty's Perceptions of Online Courses
Statement SA A N D SD
1 13.3% 42.2% 22.2% 15.6% 6.7%
2 11.1% 35.6% 15.6% 26.7% 11.1%
3 4.5% 25.0% 36.4% 22.7% 11.4%
4 11.4% 38.6% 18.2% 18.2% 13.6%
5 11.1% 33.3% 24.4% 15.6% 15.6%
6 31.8% 38.6% 16.0% 0.0% 13.6%
7 9.1% 22.7% 40.9% 18.2% 9.1%
8 40.0% 42.2% 9.0% 4.4% 4.4%
9 4.4% 28.9% 33.4% 11.1% 22.2%
10 45.5% 40.9% 6.8% 2.3% 4.5%
Average 18.22% 34.80% 22.29% 13.48% 11.22%
Table 4: Fall 2007 Freshman Grade Distribution
No. of Students Grade Frequency Percent
68 A 11 10.5%
B 15 14.3%
C 8 7.6%
D 4 3.8%
F 67 63.8%
Total 105 100.0%
Table 5: Spring 2008 Freshman Grade Distribution
No. of Students Grade Frequency Percent
54 A 14 14.9%
B 9 9.6%
C 10 10.6%
D 3 3.2%
F 58 61.7%
Total 94 100.0%
Table 6: Fall 2008 Freshman Grade Distribution
No. of Students Grade Frequency Percent
33 A 6 10.7%
B 8 14.3%
C 8 14.3%
D 5 8.9%
F 29 51.8%
Total 56 100.0%
Table 7: Coding of Grades
Grade A B C D F
Code 4 3 2 1 0
Table 8: ANOVA: Single Factor
Groups Count Sum Average Variance
Fall 2007 105 109 1.038095238 2.248534799
Spring 2008 94 106 1.127659574 2.456646076
Fall 2008 56 69 1.232142857 2.181493506
Source of Variation SS df F P-Value
Between Groups 1.404 2 0.702 0.304
Within Groups 582.30 252 2.311
F Crit 0.073 3.032
Table 9: Number of Freshman Students
Semester No. of Students % Loss
Fall 2007 296 --
Spring 2008 225 24%
Fall 2008 130 42%
Table 10: Number of Freshman Online Students
Semester Online Students % Loss
Fall 2007 68 --
Spring 2008 54 21%
Fall 2008 33 39%
Table 11: Satisfaction with e-learning
Statements Student Perception (%)
SA A N D SD
Instructors offer adequate 23.8 31.3 32.4 10.0 2.5
Existing factors in online 11.0 17.1 58.5 7.3 6.1
course are frustrating
Online teaching and learning 19.8 16.0 54.3 9.9 0.0
Online students/faculty need 15.0 23.8 55.0 3.7 2.5
Statements Instructor Perception (%)
SA A N D SD
Instructors offer adequate 9.1 22.7 40.9 18.2 9.1
Existing factors in online 31.8 38.6 16.0 0.0 13.6
course are frustrating
Online teaching and learning 40.0 42.2 9.0 4.4 4.4
Online students/faculty need 45.5 40.9 6.8 2.3 4.5