IN WHICH LEARNING ENVIRONMENT DOES STUDENT LEARN MORE – ONLINE OR FACE TO FACE?
Our society lives in a moment called Techno-human Condition. This moment has as principal characteristic the ability to change processes, positions, and strategies. It gives for educational environment a possibility to re-analyse itself and use technological innovations into classes. Students, educators, school directors, parents and researchers are trying to discuss educational process into this new society. Use of ICTs is a current interest of researches in order to find the best practices in educational scenario. Face-to-face is not the only learning environment so it is important to consider how face-to-face and online learning environments can help students to develop knowledge.
This research is an exploratory and descriptive study and had a quantitative approach. Method was built to analyse a discipline held in two different learning environments: face-to-face and online. A longitudinal data collection was made to measure level of knowledge before and after student exposure to the discipline (regardless of his environment). It was conducted in a Private Institution of Higher Education in the State of São Paulo (Brazil). Study population was composed of students from an undergraduate course offered in both environments who were enrolled at it in the first half of 2012 and agreed to participate. Discipline had the same teacher, workload, objectives and contents in both learning environments. Data collection instrument for knowledge measurement constituted in a form done with closed questions with multiple-choice answers about the discipline’s main subjects, containing only one correct answer. Ten questions were formulated. Instrument was applied in both environments before and after the discipline.
Thirty-three students participated in the survey, 52% of them in the face-to-face learning environment, and 48% in the online learning environment. Students were characterized as women with income less than a US$ 600,00 monthly salary, with proper house, computer and broadband Internet. The proportion of correct answers in the post-test of both groups was higher than pre-test (face-to-face: increase 46% to 69%; online: increase 46% to 62%). Chi-square statistical test demonstrated that the proportions of correct answers in post-test (in both environments) were statistically significant. However, no significant difference was identified between the proportions of correct answers in the post-test between environments. Thus, it is clear that groups in this study had the same degree of learning, regardless of the environment, after discipline exposure. But a look beneath the literature about the performance of students in online learning environments realizes that the topic is an old interesting subject for researchers and there is no consensus, since the findings diverge: to better performance in online learning environment, for performance without significant differences between online and face-to-face environments.
This study found that (in study population) both environments enabled learning without significant differences, since the discipline (and its objectives and contents) and the teacher were the same. However, this study has a limited number of students participating on it. So, it is important to replicate it in other realities and for higher groups. And, it is also important to analyse the impact of each learning strategy inside environments and its contribution for knowledge.