Monday, May 18, 2009

Student Learning Outcomes

Written on March 1,2008.

“The Effect of Computer Mediated Conferencing and Computer Assisted Instruction on Student Learning Outcomes” by Darrell L. Cain and Paul E. Pitre, was an article published in the Journal Of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Volume 12: Issue 3-4. The article was about a research study conducted among college students between May and September 2003. With the increased use of technology taking place in college classrooms by both teachers and students from 1995 to 2000, there has been criticism by some that the increased use of technology does nothing to enhance student learning. There had been few studies examining whether these tools enhanced learning. The researchers set out then to examine how the use of technology contributed to student learning outcomes after controlling student demographic variables. The researchers had a hypothesis that a sample of students who frequently used newer communication tools would achieve significant gains in learning outcomes as compared to their peers. The dependent variables for the study were personal and social development, general education, intellectual development, science and technology, and vocational preparation. The independent variables were frequency of interaction via email, frequency of collaborative work online, frequency of computer use to prepare papers or reports, and frequency of use of the Internet for course related information.

Previous studies in the past have shown that collaborative learning with the use of computer technology has the potential to increase learning. A study published in MIS Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun., 1994), pp. 159-174 by Maryam Alavi titled “Computer-Mediated Collaborative Learning: An Empirical Evaluation” found that the use of a group decision support system enhanced learning greatly in a study of 127 MBA students. Bebe F. Lavin in the Teaching Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Jan., 1980), pp. 163-179 wrote an article titled, Can Computer-Assisted Instruction Make a Difference?: An Analysis of Who Benefits. This article was written before several of the modern advancements in computer technology and computer learning were made but it still sought to answer the questions for its time. This study showed that students using self-testing computer programs did better than those using computer programs.

It is very evident why Cain and Pitre’s study is an important one to do. The internet has revolutionized the world and its impact on college classrooms is one that has never been well defined. For America to retain its leadership among the nations in the world, it is imperative that American students have the best possible opportunities to learn. Even though there was not a lot of research to look to as a guide, Cain and Pitre made extensive use of previous studies. The objective of the study was clearly stated as well as the research hypotheses. The study was conducted by utilizing the 2003 College Student Experiences Questionnaire Database and sending an invitation to participate on the survey website, and the website was open for three months. The survey was measured on the Likert Scale which is numerical and ranges from 1-4. The only demographic variables that were used for the study were gender, race, and education level. Since demographic characteristics were analyzed to determine the impact of student background on learning outcomes, I believe an important factor that could have been used but was not used was income status. The sample consisted of a sample of students who completed the CSEQ survey. A majority of the participants in the study were White females and was similar in overall percentages to those who took the CSEQ survey. Cain and Pitre’s study showed similarly to previous studies that the use of technology in the classroom does aid learning and that student background variables can help increase that gain even more. The researchers had assumed that the relative effect of technology on student learning gains would have been greater than what the study showed. The researchers proved everything that they had set out to prove in their hypothesis.

The report itself was clearly written and very understandable, and the language was not biased at all. Among the report’s flaws were the few variables that were used in determining learning outcomes. Financial status would have been a very helpful thing to use, as many people don’t go to college at all or last there a short time due to poor financial health. Marital status and living situation would have also have been very helpful if the researchers had decided to also utilize those variables. Another flaw was the study took place for a very short time of only three months. The study would have been much more better if it had taken place for an entire semester. The study was also not that diverse or representative of the entire college population of the United States, as it featured 60% White females. The language used was very poor on the term word processor and using it as an independent variable. Most computers purchased now come with pre-installed word processors and other types of software. Another thing to consider in the study is that it took place in 2003 and internet use has grown even larger since then. The report’s strengths lay among that it was very clear and had a clear set of goals it was looking to test. The study did not try to prove too many things and it was well-defined. The implications of the research are that technology can be a huge assist to aiding learning and that more use should be made of this technology. Also instructors must decide what is the best way to implement technology to enhance the learning experience. The study also paves the way for future studies to build upon the foundation that was set with this study, with more room to learn about how this best research this issue.

1.Alavi, M. MIS Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jun., 1994), pp. 159-174
2.Lavin, B. Teaching Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Jan., 1980), pp. 163-179

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