6. ASSESSING DISTRIBUTED LEARNING



Distributed learning has been historical assessed with traditional assessment tools: surveys assessing students’ evaluation of instruction and learning, students’ completion rates, and faculty’s opinion of teaching through distributed learning.

In higher education, accountability to educational accreditation standards place pressures to show outcomes that distributed learning courses are maintaining teaching excellence. This level of assessment is done by surveys to both students and faculty members. An example of the outcomes of these surveys is the following from the University of Central Florida (n.d.): 1) distributed learning classes have a higher success rate/lower withdrawal rates; 2) ethnicity of the students was comparable to the face-to-face classes; 3) students expressed dissonance associated with their role in the course but a higher level of satisfaction with the course; and 4) faculty expressed a considerable dissonance with their role, heavier workloads, higher quality of interactions with students, and overall high satisfaction. The outcomes support that students and faculty are embracing this new teaching methodology.

Data being collected on distributed learning indicates that 2.3 million individuals took one form of an on-line course in the fall 2004 (Alien & Seaman, 2005). With this interest in a non-traditional teaching environment, there has only been a modest beginning in efforts to determine how to appropriately assess distributed learning. There is no disputing the emphasis that education has on learning how to better engage learners and improve the quality of distributed learning. Academia needs to equally open its mind to developing assessment tools that are valid and reality for the assessment of learning that occurs through distributed learning.