J. Wu, L. Zhou

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HONG KONG)
With more flexibility for students to learn, the popularity of online learning has been growing (Maier & Thomas, 2013). Sigala (2002) stated that there are an increasing number of tourism and hospitality educators incorporating Internet tools in their teaching. Zhang et al. (2004) argued that e-learning may not be able to replace traditional classroom learning due to a variety of learning styles of students. Blended learning appears to be a more sophisticated method to maintain the benefits from both e-learning and classroom learning. However, deciding which types of components which work best with individual learning methods may not be an easy task.

This research studies a case of transforming a face-to-face class session into an online session for the ‘Hospitality Distribution Channels Management’ class at School of Hotel and Tourism Management in a university in Hong Kong. Replacing the in-class group discussion within a fixed class hour, students were required to complete the discussion online at their own schedule within a period of week. Questionnaires were completed by the class of 29 undergraduate students regarding their e-learning experience compared with their face-to-face learning one. 71 per cent of the students found that they spent more time in the online lesson while 43 per cent stated it was more convenient to learn online. 14 per cent of the learners claimed to be more motivated to learn in the virtual environment. One of the main reasons for the low motivation was the lack of instant feedback whereas immediate responses may be elicited in the classroom. 86 per cent of the respondents indicated that the amount of learning in the online mode was the same as or more than that in the classroom session.

The findings reveal that learning objectives in a discussion session can generally be achieved regardless whether it is conducted online or face-to-face. Learning goals may sometimes be better accomplished in a virtual environment though the amount of time spent by learners may be more than that in a face-to-face session. The convenience of e-learning appears to be arguable due to diverse preferences in a class. Low motivation in e-learning may be improved if smaller and simpler activities are arranged within a shorter timeframe and feedback can be provided more efficiently. The results of the study will help teachers in formulating a better strategy when deciding appropriate e-learning components.

[1] Maier, T. A., & Thomas, N. J. (2013). Hospitality Leadership Course Design and Delivery: A Blended‐Experiential Learning Model. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 25(1), 11–21.
[2] Sigala, M. (2002). The Evolution of Internet Pedagogy: Benefits for Tourism and Hospitality Education. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education (Oxford Brookes University), 1(2), 29–45.
[3] Zhang, D., Zhao, J. L., Zhou, L., & Nunamaker, J. F., Jr. (2004). Can e-Learning Replace Classroom Learning? Commun. ACM, 47(5), 75–79.