Comparing an Online Course to its Classroom Counterpart
Augustine B. Mascuilli, Ph.D
At Pace University we offer Mat 107, The Development of Mathematics, both online and in the classroom. The online version is getting more and more popular but more students still take the in class version. In this paper we will compare an online course at Pace University to the traditional classroom version. We will discuss communication, student help and testing. We conclude the paper by testing for statistical differences in the grade point averages of the two courses.
At Pace University, we offer Mat 107, The Development of Mathematics, both online and in the classroom. The online version is becoming more popular but the majority of students still take the in class version. The advantages of the online version of Mat 107 are the classí asynchronous nature. Students can read the lecture notes and complete the assignments on their own schedule. This freedom gives the students a bit more leeway in scheduling their other classes. The online setting however, is not for everyone. Some students need the face-to-face interaction between the professor and themselves that a traditional class offers. Also, an online course demands more discipline on the studentís part to read the lectures and complete the assignments
In this paper we will compare an online course at Pace University to the traditional classroom version of the same course. The topics we will discuss include testing, communication with the students, and student help. We will then compare the grade point average of the traditional classroom version of the course to its online counterpart.
Mat-107 is a three-credit math course designed for students with non-mathematical majors. This course covers selected topics chosen from problem solving with sets, logic, probability and expectation, introductory statistics, development of number systems, basic algebra and applications. This course is offered in the fall, spring and summer of each year while Mat-107 online is offered in the fall of each year. The students that take Mat-107 online are generally Pace students based on either the New York City campus or the Pleasantville campus. The students that take Mat-107 come from a wide range of mathematical backgrounds. Some students find the course to be easy while others think it is very hard.
Communication with the online students is done mainly through email. If a student is stuck on a problem he or she can email it to the instructor and the student receives the solution by email or fax. Students use the discussion board to communicate with the instructor as well as each other; however, Iíve observed that they donít use it as much as the other online course that I teach at Pace (A. Mascuilli, Effectiveness of Teaching Mathematics Online, ALN Magazine, December2000, Vol. 14, Issue 2.). Another form of communication is the chat room. This form of communication is not that popular with the students, but on request, I can meet a student in the chat room. The chat room allows me to work out problems on the white as the students look on. The last form of communication, and the least used, is the telephone. When the telephone is used, the questions asked are usually not math related. The in class students frequently ask questions in class but only occasionally visit my office hours. On the other hand, my online students visit my office hours more often than the in class students.
Whenever we discuss grade point averages we have to comment on test security. In this online course, the students are required to show up in person for three exams and a final exam. Because of this, test security is not an issue. The three exams are each worth 20% of the final grade and the final exam is worth 40% of the final grade. For both the online version of Mat-107 and the in class version for which I taught, I administer and proctor the exams and the final. For the other in class versions, the tests are given by the professors that teach them.
The test we will use to analyze this data is a standard hypothesis test for the difference of means
(Small samples). We will test for differences in the grade point average for the fall 2001 online Mat-107 against the in class version of Mat-107 for the academic year of 2001 on the Pleasantville campus. The grade point average is computed using the following scale.
The grade distribution for the five in class sections of Mat-107 for the academic year of 2001 is summarized in table below.
The grade distribution for the online section of Mat-107 is summarized in the following table.
To test for difference in the grade point average of Mat-107 online fall 2001 against the in class sections of Mat-107 for the academic year of 2001 we will use a t-test of differences of means for independent samples (Pelosi, Marilyn K and Sandifer, Theresa M. Doing Statistics for Business, pp468-469. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc). We will test the claim that there is no statistical difference in the two means. For the fall of 2001 the Mat-107 online the GPA was 1 = 2.18 with a standard deviation of s1 = .88, and number of students was n1 = 13. The combined G.P.A. for the in class sections of Mat-107 was 2 =2.79 with a standard deviation of s2 = 1.14 and the number of students in these classes was n2 = 67. One should note that this is a two sided hypothesis test with the following setup.
The numbers above yield the test statistic of
t = - 1.793
With this t value we fail to reject Ho at the alpha level of a = .05. Failing to reject Ho means there is no statistical difference in the two grade point averages.
Traditional classroom taught courses are still more popular but online classes are growing in popularity. The results of this paper show that there is no statistical difference in the grades between the online version of Mat-107 and the in class version of Mat-107. This fact can be used to justify the claim that online teaching is an effective method of education.
About the Author
Augustine B. Mascuilli is an assistant professor of mathematics at Pace University. He teaches both online and in the classroom. Dr. Mascuilliís research interests lie in real and complex analysis. He received his Ph.D in mathematics in 1996 from the State University of New York at Albany and since that time he has been with Pace University.
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