Clara Jackson

CECS 5610

Assignment #1 Summary


Source:  Lu, A., Zhu, J., & Stokes, M.(2000). The Use and Effects of Web-Based Instruction: Evidence from a Single-Source Study. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 11(2), 197-218.


Principle: This article used a single –source method to test Web-based instruction (WBI) and its effectiveness on a college freshman level Modern Physics course.


Design: A quantitative study where one class of full-time students and one class of part-time students enrolled in the same Modern Physics course used WebCT. The full-time section was during the day and the average age was 19. The part-time class met in the evening and the students were several years older with daytime jobs.  The study was to determine what factors, if any, affected the students’ use of WebCT and compare the two sections. Essentially, it was determining which dependent variables effected how much students use WebCT and how it altered final grades. The study is described as, “unobtrusive, longitudinal, behavioral, rigorous, and integrated.”


Independent Variables: The use of WebCT in a Modern Physics course. The WebCT site contained notes, glossaries, online quizzes, self-paced tests, a search engine, course calendar, bulletin-board, chat room, course record, progress tracking information, private e-mail, and a student self-made homepage.


Dependent Variables: In the survey given to both sections, the students were asked questions concerning their personal use of computers and the Internet. The dependent variables on the use of WebCT were: full-time or part-time student, ownership of a PC, home PC with a modem, convenience of WBI, time constraints, programming skills, web surfing frequency, office application frequency, prior knowledge of physics, and which feature (notes, chat room, quizzes, etc.) of WebCT was most helpful.


Procedure: A survey was given to both sections of a freshman level Modern Physics class. The survey asked questions relating to personal computer usage. Both sections were given the same instructions on how to use WebCT and all their online activity was monitored. The study kept track of how often the full-time class would log in and what WebCT feature they would visit most. It also tracked the other dependent variables to see if any of them would alter final course grades. At the end of the semester, the final exams and final grades were analyzed using the survey information.


Results: The study found that the part-time students used the tools page most often to read class announcements, chat, send private e-mail, and review their performance record. The full-time students used the tools page and notes page equally. Those students that reported to be regular web surfers visited more often than non-surfers. The self-reported web surfer scored, on average, 11 points lower on the final course grade. However, the regular surfers noted that the material viewed online was course-unrelated. The study reported that students, full or part-time, who regularly used the notes page, on average, scored higher on the final exam.


Comments: As a student who is familiar with WebCT, I found this study to be very interesting. It tested students to see how the notes/power point presentations on the site benefited a student. It also proved how course-unrelated surfing could hurt your grade. Age played very little role as did prior computer and course knowledge which I find to be great news! Simply stated, this study confirmed what we already know: the proper use of good technology will only enhance student performance.