Student Motivation for Learning at a Distance: Does Interaction Matter?
Kathleen D. Kelsey, Ph.D.
Oklahoma State University
466 Agricultural Hall
Stillwater, OK 74078
Alan D'souza, Ph.D.
Director of Research and Development for TRiO Programs
Wichita State University
105 Grace Wilkie Hall
Wichita, KS 67260-0008
Acknowledgement: This research was paid for by the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station through HATCH funds. Abstract
The case study evaluated a distance education program offered by a land-grant university agricultural college. The study used Holmberg's and Moore's theoretical frameworks of didactic conversation and multiple interactions to determine the importance of interaction on the efficacy of distance learning. The mixed methods approach used an original survey instrument and long faculty interviews. While students found the technology manageable, the faculty perceived technology as a barrier to effective instruction. Both, students and faculty were satisfied with the nature of interactions between them, although the faculty had individual preferences and faced some barriers to interaction. The study supported Holmberg's and Moore's contention that interaction may be a predicating factor for the success of distance education courses. The study also found that student-student interaction was not considered critical to learning. More research is necessary in the direction of curriculum modification to suit distance student needs. Introduction
Offering distance education courses is consistent with the mission of the land-grant university and is a critical endeavor for the survival of the modern educational institution (Kambutu, 2002). Keegan (1990) defined distance education as a system characterized by 1) the separation of instructor and student during most of the instructional process, 2) the influence of an educational organization, 3) provision of student assessment, 4) use of educational media to deliver course content, and 5) two-way communication between instructor and student. With the intent of making university courses more accessible, an agricultural college situated in a southwestern land-grant university delivered a series of graduate level courses that would lead to a Master of Science in Agricultural Education or a Master of Agriculture degree. Distance delivery began in the spring of 2001 and continues today. Five faculty volunteered to teach via distance modes and used a variety of technologies including 1) Interactive Video Conferencing (IVC), 2) Streaming Video, 3) videotaping the live course and sending a copy of the videotape or a CD-ROM to distance students, and 4) Blackboard.com®. In the case of IVC courses, students had the option to attend the weekly three-hour lectures live at a remote IVC download site or to view the Streaming Video of the same lecture on the Internet. Blackboard.com®, videotape, and CD-ROM courses were asynchronous only. An important aspect of any distance education program is evaluation for continuous improvement. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of systematic evaluation research focusing on distance education courses (Roberts, Irani, Lundy, & Telg, 2003). Only 19 states have developed systematic evaluation programs to assure the quality of distance education (National Governors Association, 2003). Purpose Statement
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the overall distance education program offered by the college, specifically focusing on the impact of the distance education context on learning using Holmberg's (1995) and Moore's (1989) theoretical frameworks for interaction in distance education. The main research questions that guided this study were:
1. Did the student-content and student-interface interactions motivate learners to favorable learning outcomes? 2. Did the learner-learner interactions motivate learners to favorable learning outcomes? Theoretical...