Panel Paper: Online, Blended and Classroom Teaching of Economics Principles: A Randomized Experiment

Thursday, November 6, 2014 : 8:30 AM
Aztec (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kenneth Couch, Oskar Harmon and William Alpert, University of Connecticut
This paper contains a field study of learning outcomes and delivery modality for principles of economics.  The experimental design randomly assigns students to one of three delivery modalities: online, blended, or classroom based instruction. In the classroom, students meet with an instructor, once in a lecture session and once in a discussion session.  In the blended format students meet weekly with the instructor in a discussion session, and view online lecture materials.  In the online course students view online lectures as their course instruction and have access to extensive online materials developed to be consistent with a set of external standards for best practices in online education. 

With University IRB approval, data is being collected on academic achievement, demographic characteristics, and personality traits on four consecutive semesters.  The class size for each arm of the experiment is capped at 35.  The experiment began in fall 2012. Three semesters of data collection are complete.  The fourth and final semester of data collection is being collected during the spring 2014 term.  Power analyses were conducted prior to running the experiment to assure we would be able to detect reasonably small changes in academic outcomes across the types of course offerings.

The learning outcomes based on the first three semesters of data collection on exam scores are not, at a statistically significant level, different between the control group (traditional modality) and blended treatment group.  However, the exam scores for the control group are higher, at a statistically significant level, than for the purely online treatment group. The preliminary results suggest that if equivalence of learning outcomes is a goal, then as higher education moves forward with online education more instructional resources should be directed at online relative to traditional instruction (e.g. smaller section size for online).