Tech Distance Education Professor Publishes Study on Effective Distance Education Programs

by CYNTHIA MCKENNEY, ELLEN PEFFLEY, IGINO TEOLIS

March 22, 2010

There has been recent popularity explosion of university distance education courses. Universities increasingly use distance learning courses in an effort to increase enrollments and provide convenient access for students. One recent survey found that more than 3 million higher education students - about 20% of all postsecondary students in the U.S. - enrolled in at least one online course during the Fall 2006 term. This statistic represented an almost 10% increase in online course participation from the previous year, far exceeding the 1.5% growth in overall higher education enrollment for the same period.

It is commonly held that online courses are convenient and useful for increasing student enrollment, but there are challenges to implementing effective distance education programs. University faculty may need additional release time and workload adjustment to develop new courses, or additional training in technology and/or instructional methods. Researchers at Texas Tech University published an article in the latest issue of HortTechnology that contains several key recommendations for faculty and administrators of university distance education courses.

The research team of Cynthia B. McKenney, Ellen B. Peffley, and Igino Teolis from the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech set out to analyze communication methods between students and faculty in three distance learning modalities: web-facilitated, online, and interactive video conferencing (IVC) courses. They also studied the amount of time invested by faculty in course delivery, grading, student communications, and administrative activities across the three modalities.

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