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B. Roberts, W. Owen

Naval Postgraduate School (UNITED STATES)
The purpose of this paper is to provide the educator with a framework that considers the union of three concept sets to include characteristics of successful distance education students, the use of specification grading, and student learning outcomes. The authors will seek to demonstrate the compatibility of this union with supportive observations and data. The referent educational programs for this article are two graduate systems engineering programs that are delivered primarily by web-conferencing. The authors are faculty members who have served as program managers for these programs and have gathered lessons-learned for over a fifteen-year period of time. Research has shown that adult learners have a strong desire for self-direction and autonomous learning experience. When one considers adult distance education students, these attributes become more pronounced. As a result of this increased autonomy, distance education learners tend to take greater responsibility for the control and management of their educational goals. Thus, with this educational modality, control tends to shift from the instructor to the student. Results of affective characteristics to include personality and learning styles are offered in support of our proposal. Specification grading emphasizes students being in control of the grades they earn and offers evidence of attained competencies. It puts students in control of their grades, and requires students to be more intentional about their work. To explain and support this point, self-efficacy and expectancy (goal-setting theory) are referenced. Thus, the overall result being increased motivation on the part of students to learn. In addition, a learning taxonomy is introduced to highlight the types of knowledge acquisition that may be best realized given a compatibility and good fit between student goals and characteristics and the benefits of specification grading.