|Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 [ Proceedings Contents ]
A comparison between the use of the Internet and conventional lectures in educationJanelle D'Souza and Stuart Bunt
Department of Anatomy and Human Biology
The University of Western Australia
There has been concern about the effect of having to obtain information from a computer on different groups of users. Females have been reported to be know less about information technology than males (Reinen & Plomp, 1997, Durndell & Thompson, 1997). However, other studies show that there is no correlation between students' confidence in computing and gender (Ward & Newlands, 1998, Kirkpatrick & Cuban, 1998) or preference for computer aided learning over normal education (Inoue, 1998). However it has been found that unlimited access to an online course rather than a normal lecture based course produced no difference in student grades (Smeaton & Keogh, 1999). Another study that evaluated the combined effects of audiovisual and Internet delivery of high school content, showed that this was as effective a medium as traditional course delivery (Urven et al., 1997).
The level of computer usage may affect the grades that students gain as well as their attitudes toward computers (Selwyn, 1998) computer experience had a positive effect on computer confidence, attitudes towards computers (Levine & Donitsa-Schmidt, 1997) and computer based learning. Conversely, computer confidence exerts a strong negative effect on commitment to learn new computer uses (Levine & Donitsa-Schmidt, 1997). Handedness and brain dominance may also influence productivity on computers (McCluskey, 1997).
Figure 1: Experimental design. Diagram showing division of students, possible combinations and timings of questionnaires. S=standard lecture, P=passive website, A=active website.
Three different topics (T1, T2, T3) were presented using the three teaching conditions (S,P,A) for each cohort. Thus, one group of subjects (A, B, C) completed one lecture topic (T1, T2, T3) under one teaching condition (S, P, A) for each cohort.
At the end of each class, a quiz requiring short answers, one-word answers, illustrations or labeling of a diagram was administered to each student in order to test the knowledge retained. A Student Perception Of Teaching (S.P.O.T.) survey was administered at the end of the experiment.
|Overall Group||Three Conditions Group|
|No||Mean||Std dev||No||Mean||Std dev|
|Overall Group||Three Conditions Group|
The results did not show any relationship between breadth of uses, hours spent on the computer or hours spent on the Internet and the amount recalled after each condition.
The responses to the statement 'the teacher has been an effective instructor' (mean=4.0) demonstrated that the lecturers in the study were of an average to high standard compared to the database of S.P.O.T. results, collated by the Centre for Staff development at the University of Western Australia.
The few subjects who declared themselves ambidextrous right handed achieved significantly higher marks in sort term memory task of immediate recall after the lecture (in contrast there was no relationship between previous semester grades and declared handedness which may be indicative of long term retention). However, the small base of quiz scores from left handed students (n=4) and ambidextrous students (n=9) and the crude measure of handedness i.e. "Are you left handed, right handed or ambidextrous?", reduces the significance of this result.
Those who stated that they were "Internet confident" achieved significantly higher quiz scores after using the passive website. This may be because the passive website was not as user friendly as the active website. Therefore some knowledge of the Internet, or the confidence to investigate the different ways to gather information may have been advantageous. Increasing the interest of the website by adding interactive tests, animations and outside links improved the less "Internet confident" student's short-term recall of class content. The S.P.O.T. survey also demonstrated that all the students perceived the effectiveness of the passive web site to be less than that of the standard lecture or active web site even though this affected one group of students more than the other.
In this study it was found that females did not recall as well as males after the standard lecture. This was independent of whether the lecturer was male (cohort 1) or female (cohort 2, in agreement with Hartley et al. (1989), who found no correlation between the sex of lecturer and the amount learned. This result may be a reflection of the fact that females perform significantly better in an open learning environment (Darwazeh, 1998). Gender studies have shown that females have a better visual memory than males (Trahan & Quintana, 1990; McGivern et al., 1998), while other studies have shown no differences in verbal or visual memory across gender (Savage & Gouvier, 1992) or hemisphere dominance (Gadzella et al. 1991).
Considering that students achieved the same results across the three different types of lectures, it can be concluded there is no disadvantage in using the Internet for distance learning. The finding that females had significantly lower scores in the standard lecture, yet no difference was seen between sexes using the websites should be a reason to explore this teaching medium, to provide a fair learning environment. Particularly as the previous semester grade average was significantly lower for females than for males, suggesting that the standard lecture could be a detriment to female learning.
It could be argued that if web sites are no more effective overall than a standard lecture, then there is no need for change. The standard didactic lecture system is effective and takes far less time (and therefore cost) to prepare and maintain than a web site based system. If the Internet is to be used in education it should be used where its advantages such as access, time and geographical independence, and interactivity outweigh the extra costs involved in its production.
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|Please cite as: D'Souza, J. and Bunt, S. (2000). A comparison between the use of the Internet and conventional lectures in education. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2000/dsouza.html|