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Do On Campus Students Write Better Than Their Distance Learning Counterparts In Engineering And Technology Fields?

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

ERM Potpourri

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.486.1 - 10.486.9



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Paper Authors

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Michael Holt

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Keith Williamson

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Paul Kauffmann

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Tarek Abdel-Salam

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Do On-Campus Students Write Better than Their Distance Learning Counterparts in Engineering and Technology Fields?

Tarek Abdel-Salam1, Keith Williamson1, Paul Kauffmann1, and Michael Holt2

East Carolina University/Old Dominion University


Over the last several years, distance learning courses have become an important and effective teaching method in many universities in the United States. The performance of distance learning students compared to their on-campus counterparts has been of great interest to many researchers. Writing skills are of particular interest for engineering and technology students since they have such an impact on career success. However, there are no studies that examine measures of quantitative performance in writing skills. This paper contributes to the literature on distance learning performance and compares the writing skills of a sample of distance learning and on-campus students in the Engineering and Engineering Technology Departments at a large urban university. Results of a junior level course and results of an exit-writing exam are used to assess the writing proficiency of both on campus and distance students.


Distance education (DE) courses have become an important way of providing college level education to a wider population, particularly those in areas remote to a university or college campus. The method of conducting DE courses is significantly different from on-campus courses. For this and other reasons, monitoring and evaluating such courses are essential in order to assess, modify and improve the overall quality of content delivery and to assure students understand the subjects clearly and achieve learning objectives.

The way of evaluating distance learning differs from one course to another based on the nature of each course. For example literature involving DE course evaluation 1-4 describes a diverse set of approaches including student reports, exams and surveys. As in on campus classes, there can also be a tendency in DE courses towards multiple choice, fill-in the blanks and, true-false tests that eliminate writing in context. An important learning objective in Engineering and Engineering Technology programs is written communication5. However, research to examine teaching and learning in distance education has barely kept pace with the growing demand for such courses6. Also, there is no study or published research in the literature that evaluates how the writing performance of DE students compare to on campus students in a traditional setting.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Holt, M., & Williamson, K., & Kauffmann, P., & Abdel-Salam, T. (2005, June), Do On Campus Students Write Better Than Their Distance Learning Counterparts In Engineering And Technology Fields? Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15445

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