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Comparing Student Performance in Online and Blended Sections of a GIS Programming Class

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Educators and non-educators alike commonly assume that online courses cannot match the effectiveness of their traditional, face-to-face counterparts. This article describes a comparative study of the performance and study habits of two groups of students in a course in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software programming and customization: one delivered online to adult professionals working asynchronously; the other delivered in a blended, online/face-to-face environment to upper-level undergraduates in residence. Course grades show that the undergraduate cohort underperformed in comparison to the online cohort, in spite of the fact that their version of the course included face-to-face lecture and lab time in addition to the online course materials. To explore differences in the study habits of the two groups, all students were asked to keep a diary of the time they devoted to coursework. Information from these diaries suggest that a student's ability to meet learning objectives is less dependent on the course content delivery mechanism than it is on the student's motivation, maturity and time management skills.

Keywords: GIS education; GIS programming; learning outcomes; online education

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography The Pennsylvania State University

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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