Comparisons of the Educational Outcomes from Distance Delivered versus Traditional Classroom Instruction in Principles of Microeconomics

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Virginia Tech

Recent advancements in the speed and availability of the Internet have catapulted distance education into the forefront of possible economic education alternatives. Distance learning courses are taught exclusively over the Internet. Economics distance courses provide alternatives for economics students to traditional classroom instruction, and also invite new students to the discipline who may not have otherwise enrolled. An increase in the number of distance courses in the economics field has sparked a debate over the ability of distance courses to provide equivalent educational outcomes as traditional in-class courses.

This study evaluates educational outcomes from a traditional section and two distance sections of introductory agricultural microeconomics courses, Economics of the Food and Fiber System (AAEC 1005), taught at Virginia Tech. The study compares student learning, attitudes and interests in economics, and perceptions of instructor effectiveness between traditionally taught students and those taught through distance education. Average exam scores, and common exam questions given to students in both course types, are the measures of student learning used in this study. Attitudes and interest are measured by student survey, and perceptions of instructor effectiveness are measured by student course evaluations. A variety of statistical tests are conducted comparing distance and traditional students in order to determine the influence of delivery method on educational outcomes. Results indicate that traditional students generally obtain higher grades on tests, and have a higher opinion of course instruction than distance students, suggesting that distance education is not an equivalent educational alternative to traditional classroom instruction.

Teaching economics, interest, attitudes, student learning, distance education, comparing instructional methods, Internet courses