Development in Instructional Technology
Helps Extend Access to Instruction at Southeast Missouri State
A. Starrett, Michael L. Rodgers
Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Abstract: One of the
findings that made this faculty development study worthwhile
was the discovery that, as intended, technology based distance
learning is indeed increasing the institutionís ability to
serve distant learners rather than only making education more
convenient for students on or near campus.
Our campus is a regional
comprehensive institution serving a 26 county area in
Southeast Missouri including some of the most
socio-economically depressed counties in the U.S. Our 1995 Strategic Plan included integration of technology
into the curriculum with the ultimate goal of using
technology- enhanced teaching to increase access to learning
via online course development and delivery.
In 1997, we initiated a faculty development program
aimed at increasing the use of technology by faculty to
enhance teaching in the classroom and, ultimately, facilitate
the development of online courses. As a result of the program,
our campus has been delivering online courses since 1999.
In 2001, we began to
assess the impact of the faculty development program on
student learning and access to education.
We used a wide variety of indicators to determine the
increased technology competence of faculty.
In order to assess the impact on student learning and
access, we decided to survey students who had taken online
courses at Southeast. After
a preliminary survey in 2001, we developed a 42 question
survey that was administered in spring of 2002.
The survey was developed by the Center for Scholarship
in Teaching and Learning in conjunction with a Graduate
student in Information Systems (MBA, Southeast Missouri State
University, 2002). The
questionnaire was put on our instructional Web site as a
simple form designed with FrontPage 2000.
Data were saved to a text file with an email message
generated and HTML file saved as a back-up.
An email inviting students to participate in the survey
was sent to 2,134 students who had taken at least one online
course at Southeast in the previous 3 years.
In the end, 408 students from 1,854 viable email
One goal of delivering online courses is to increase access to
students in the service region.
A concern on campus had been that the majority of
students in online courses were taking these courses while
living on or near campus, rather than from the counties out in
the service region. Access
can mean access in time as well as distance; an asynchronous
course provides increased access across time.
Many of our students are non-traditional students,
often with full time jobs and other commitments.
Convenience of scheduling is therefore a promising way
to increase in access across time.
Nonetheless, the mission is increased access via
distance education opportunities to the region.
We hoped that the survey would tell us the geographic
distribution of our online students. We also wanted to find
out whether students felt that online courses provided quality
education and a viable alternative to on campus face-to-face
The survey showed that
only 5% of students took online courses while on campus, but
more than 50% took online courses from outside the county.
Students in our online courses consisted of a greater
number of non-traditional students (over age 24) and a greater
number of female students than in face-to-face courses.
On all 22 questions relating to teaching/learning,
students reported that they felt our online courses were
providing quality instruction.
Students also reported that convenience of access
across time and distance were the primary reasons for taking
online courses. In
summary, the survey showed that our goal of providing quality
education to the service region was met by our online courses.
results reassured us that the resources invested in developing
and delivering online courses were not being wasted.
We have continued to create online courses all across
campus, increasing the number offered each semester and
developing an extensive summer online program.
Additionally, the data encouraged us to develop another
survey to be administered this semester and also to obtain
data on grade distributions as well as other types of data
from the Institutional Research databases.
It is expected that this data will substantiate our
claims of delivering quality instruction to desired target
audiences in our 26 county service region.