Internet-based instruction in college teaching
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Distance education and Internet instruction are increasingly being used in college science teaching. In an effort to reach more students, Iowa State University's Human Anatomy and Physiology course was offered via Internet as well as via traditional lecture format. To assess the educational ramifications of this offering, three studies were conducted. In the first study, a collective case study approach was utilized to describe the learning environment created by an Internet-based college science course. In this study, three students were followed as they worked their way through the course. Collective case study methodologies were used to provide a rich description of the learning environment experienced by these students. Motivation, computer savvy, and academic and personal self-confidence appeared to impact the satisfaction level of the students enrolled in the class;To evaluate the effectiveness of the learning environment offered through the Internet-based science course, a quantitative comparison study was undertaken. In this study a comparison of achievement scores and study habits between students enrolled in the Internet-based class and those enrolled in the traditional section was made. Results from this study indicated that content understanding and retention did not appear to be effected by the type of instruction. Desirable study habits were reportedly used more frequently in the Internet section of the class than in the traditional class;To complete the description of the Internet course experience, a qualitative examination of Internet instructors' time commitment and level of teaching satisfaction was conducted. Data for this study consisted of interviews and researcher observations. Instructor time-on-task was initially quite high, and remained above the average spent on average face-to-face instruction in subsequent semesters. Additionally the role of the faculty member changed dramatically, causing some lessening of job satisfaction;Taken as a whole, these three approaches to understanding the phenomenon of Internet science instruction reveal that the experience of learning science on the Internet can be a viable alternative for diverse learners. Students can learn science on-line at an achievement level that is equal to or better than students in a traditional course. Moreover, such courses may stimulate increased student interest in science and on-line learning. The results of this research indicate that Internet-based courses change the nature of instructional tasks. Instructors spend more time preparing for Internet-based courses than traditional courses; however, the majority of course preparation is associated with technical issues. These technical issues and changes in the nature of instructional tasks will have to be addressed by higher educational institutions.