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Learning Effectiveness In Online Vs. Traditional Courses

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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

Web-Based & Distance Instruction

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.877.1 - 10.877.8



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Paper Authors

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Mukasa Ssemakula

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

Learning Effectiveness in Online vs. Traditional Courses

Mukasa E. Ssemakula

Division of Engineering Technology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202.


The way instruction is being delivered to students is undergoing an unprecedented transformation as a result of various social, economic and technological factors. In particular, online and other forms of long distance education are becoming ubiquitous. An important question that arises for instructors is how well the students learn the course material when using these non-traditional modes of instruction. This paper describes an attempt to gage the learning effectiveness of an online course when compared to a traditional course. The paper describes an online course developed by the author, which was also taught simultaneously as a traditional course in a parallel section. The student performance and course evaluations in parallel sections of the course were tracked over several semesters. The findings indicate that learning effectiveness in an online course can be just as good as in a traditional course.

1. Introduction

The traditional approach to higher education involves a cohort of students coming together at a specified time and location in a formal classroom setting to meet with an instructor. Students typically learn in a lecture format in which the students are mostly passive recipients of knowledge disseminated by the ‘expert’ instructor. The emergence of new educational technologies, especially online education, is seriously challenging this traditional model 1. In many cases, time, location or cost constraints on either the student or the educational institution (or both), mean that the traditional approach is not viable and alternative methods have to be applied. The course described in this paper was adapted from a traditional chalk-and-board course to a fully online course. Parallel online and traditional sections of the course were offered over several semesters and student performance in these sections is the subject of this paper.

2. Course Description

The course that is the subject of this paper is a typical semester-long course in Engineering Economic Analysis. The sole pre-requisite is a course in college algebra. The textbook used for the course is ‘Engineering Economy’ by Leland Blank and Anthony Tarquin; published by McGraw-Hill. The normal topical coverage is summarized in Table 1.

Ssemakula, M. (2005, June), Learning Effectiveness In Online Vs. Traditional Courses Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14734

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