Editor’s Note: This study provides useful data comparing two dissimilar institutions with comparable goals. It confirms the importance of distance learning for university outreach, and shows differences resulting from technology and methodology.
A Pilot Study Comparing MA Education
through Distance Education in a Developed Country (USA) and a Less Developed Country (Pakistan)
The Pilot study is a comparative study of MA (Education) through distance education in a developed nation (USA) and a less developed nation (Pakistan). Two institutions were selected to conduct this research. Grand Canyon University (GCU) Arizona was selected because it was established in 1949 and has a master program in education. A distance education student can get admission into the masters program and complete a degree through distance education. Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) was selected for the study because it also had a masters program in education; where a distance education student could finish his or her degree without physical presence on the campus. AIOU is a state run institution modeled after British Open University. The purpose of the study was to see if there were differences and similarities existing between distance education systems of both the countries. Data from the study would enable planners of GCU and AIOU to measure and compare results for future planning and development.
Seven hypotheses were formulated for testing through data collection and statistical analysis. For distance education students in the specified institutions in both countries:
Ho1 There is no significant difference in age.
Ho2 Marriage, children, and jobs do not affect performance.
Ho3 Residency does not affect performance.
Ho4 Use of modern technology has a significant affect on performance.
Ho5 Flexibility of time and space has a significant effect on the performance.
Ho6 Student satisfaction has a significant effect on performance.
Ho7 Teaching methodologies have a significant effect on the performance.
In order to test these seven hypotheses a 77-item questionnaire was constructed. This student questionnaire consisted of several parts according to the different aspects of distance education included in this study. First part of the questionnaire for students had the demographic questions. Most of the demographic questions had yes/no responses. For the remainder of the questionnaire a 5 choice Likert type scale was used with possible responses of strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree. Each response category was assigned a numeric value. A greatest negative response (strongly disagree) was scored as "1" and a highest positive response (strongly agree) was scored as "5".
The questionnaire was constructed in two languages: English for the USA students and Urdu, the National language of the Pakistan, for students in Pakistan. The questionnaire included items on admission, student support services and teaching methodology. A second questionnaire was constructed for experts and faculty of the both countries. This questionnaire had open-ended questions to assist in interpreting the data and validate the responses of students.
Population and Sample size
Population for this study was all students who had completed at least one course from their institution at the time of the study. Simple random sampling ensured equal participation of the population. For this study there was no distinction between degree and non-degree students as AIOU did not offer non degree courses.
Distribution of questionnaires
450 questionnaires were sent out in the months of April and May of the by the GCU Arizona and AIOU Islamabad. Completed questionnaires were received in June and Julyt. No questionnaires were accepted after September 15. Incomplete questionnaires were not included in the study.
A master sheet was formulated to compile data where each response was given a numeric value. Frequency of occurrence and percentage were applied on demographic data; t-test was applied where relevant.
The researcher personally administered the questionnaires for faculty and experts who had practical experience in the field of distance education. Eleven questionnaires for the faculty and experts were sent and only four responses were returned and two respondents were interviewed to gain additional information.
Results and discussions:
The present study deals with a comparison of MA Education through distance education using similar distance education programs in a developed country (USA) with a less developed country (Pakistan). Different factors of distance education were studied and analyzed statistically.
The study indicated that the majority of the students were married females. Most were employed and had completed some courses as distance education. Large numbers of students in both countries chose distance education because of flexibility of time and space. This study also indicated a majority of respondents were satisfied with distance education. The majority of respondents did not live in the city where the main campuses were located. Because of their “non-resident” status, both samples consisted of non-traditional students.
T-test for independent samples was applied to find out the significance of the difference of mean. The study found that distance education in the USA had greater involvement with technology and that faculty, experts and students were very comfortable with the technology. On the other hand, , Pakistani respondents reported minimal use of technology and reliance on handwritten assignments and traditional tests. AIOU Islamabad students had an opportunity for students to meet with their tutors in a ten-day workshop. At the end of the workshop, there was a three-hour long examination with long essay-type questions.
Grand Canyon University provided an orientation tape and orientation. No admission test of any sort was offered at GCU.
Allama Iqbal Open University required a pre-test to get admission to the AIOU teaching programme.
Grand Canyon University students can fill out and submit their application online.
In Pakistan, mail was the only medium to receive / submit the application for admission.
USA students could use electronic media to receive or submit their study material.
Pakistani students relied on postal service to receive or submit their study material.
USA students receive a printed text and videotapes, CDs or DVDs.
Pakistani students receive a printed study guide and Xeroxed materials.
USA students communicate with faculty and the institution via telephone, Email, Fax, toll free numbers and voice messaging.
Pakistani students rely upon postal service or telephone to contact faculty and institution.
This study showed a striking difference in methodologies of teaching and training.
A distance education student in the USA (GCU) has internet, video segment and colleagues for review and assessment. At the end of the term he/she must submit a reflective paper to show how much learning took place.
A distance education student of Pakistan (AIOU) has an assignment sheet with 5 questions. Each question requires a 3000 word hand-written response to be submitted to the tutor within a one month. Students who solve three assignment sheets can join a workshop at the main campus for 10 days with a traditional classroom experience. Successful completion requires a final exam in the form of long essay type questions.
Note: A distance education student of Pakistan does more work when compared to a distance education student of the USA. This does not mean that in Pakistan a distance education student has more opportunity to learn; since methodology and technology support are different.
Respondents of both universities had libraries where they could do research. The difference was in the use of technologies; such as: computers, internet, databases, telephone, fax and photocopier. CGU students (USA) have more exposure and access to technologies when compared to AIOU students in Pakistan.
Apart from questionnaires, personal informal visits were conducted with Dr. Ron Graham and Dr. Mohammed Rashid. Both gentlemen were the directors of their institutions with direct experience in their distance education programs. Both scholars held the view that budget, affordability, and cost might result in differences in the distance education systems of both nations. In the USA, distance education has access to and can afford more technology.
The first hypothesis proved to be true as both universities had similar age groups enrolled in their distance education master programs.
The second hypothesis proved to be true. The majority of the respondents from both universities indicated that children and jobs did not do not effect their performance in distance education.
The third hypothesis proved to be true. Residence did not affect student’s performance. The majority of students in both universities did not live close to main campuses. Compared to resident students, they showed similar performance and completed the same number of courses.
The fourth hypothesis, that use of modern technology had a significant effect on performance was proved to be true. USA students earned better grades and were more satisfied with distance education. They had fewer difficulties in getting materials and communicating with their university. Almost every student had direct or indirect access to the Internet and e-mail. The majority had access to a fax machine and other useful technology. Pakistani students did not have direct access to computers, Internet, fax machines, or e-mail. Some of these students even asked what e-mail was because they didn’t know.
The fifth hypothesis was proved to be true. The majority from both universities chose distance education because of flexibility of time and space.
The sixth hypothesis relating satisfaction to performance proved to be true. Students from both universities earned more course credits and were most likely to complete their programs than those who were not satisfied with distance learning programs.
The seventh hypothesis dealt with methods of teaching and their effect on performance. Data clearly indicates that students with better technology earn better grades and were more satisfied with the program. Respondents from the USA sample agreed that they were benefiting from use of technology. They had access to computers, e-mail, fax machines, voice messaging, databases like ERIC, internet, and VCRs; while respondents of the Pakistani sample were relying on print media, handwritten assignments, mail, and workshops (10 day formal classroom experience), essay type exams. Overall had very little exposure to technology.
Experts and faculty confirmed USA faculty members had e-mail addresses and were relying on technology a lot more than in Pakistan. USA faculty members were found to be comfortable with the use of technology and wanted to continue use of technology. Some had sufficient technical skills to solve computer problems. In Pakistan very few faculty members had e-mail addresses or web sites. Their contact with students was mail and they did not usually have access to fax machines, voicemail, or computers in their offices. Faculty members of AIOU were aware of the importance of technology and that it would be used in the future. Some were suffering from techno-phobia.
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About the Author
Tanvir Malik is an educator with 18 years of experience. He currently teaches at the Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad, Pakistan. He has an MS from University of the Punjab, Lahore Pakistan, MA in Education from IER an affiliate of University of Indiana in Pakistan, MA in special Education from University of New Mexico, and a Master in Philosophy in Distance Education from Allama Iqbal Open university Islamabad.