Third International Conference on the Teaching of Psychology
Sherri McCarthy,
Bennett Edgerly,&
Francisco Vasquez,
Northern Arizona University-Yuma,


Many universities around the world are offering psychology classes on the web in a variety of programs. The universities and programs who offer such courses generally assume that quality of learning may be the same for students in traditional and electronic classes. Although there has been some research on certain aspects of on-line instruction, systematic studies to support this are lacking. This paper compares the test scores and artifacts (specifically, papers reviewing journal articles summarizing empirical research studies, book reviews, case studies and PowerPoint presentations) of 162 students enrolled in on-line (N=90) and in-person (N=72) sections of four different graduate-level psychology courses taught by the same instructors and TAs at the same university in the southwestern U.S. during 2006-08. The classes considered included: Behavior Management (20 students in in-person class; 23 students in web class); Adult Psychology (10 students in in-person class; 20 students in web class); Educational Psychology (26 students in in-person class; 27 students in web class) and Personality (16 students in in-person class; 20 students in web class). Both sections of each class utilized the same textbook and required the same assessments and assignments. Both sections had the same web shell available for interaction with classmates and instructors. Papers submitted in the on-line course were somewhat better (in terms of perceived quality and assigned grades) than those submitted in the in-person section for two of the four classes examined. Scores on multiple choice and essay tests did not differ significantly between the two types of course sections. Student course evaluations were slightly higher for the in-person section of the courses than the web sections. Use of aspects within the web shell allowing editing and feedback from classmates and instructor within the web shell are credited for the improved performance on written assignments within these classes. Students' perceived rapport with instructor developed in the section taught in-person is credited for the higher course evaluations within those sections. Overall, learning seems to be equally obtained through both mediums by students and overall quality of work, assessments and evaluations does not differ significantly between the two types of instruction. Drop rates are slightly higher in web courses than in-person courses, however. The purpose of this presentation is to share data in support of the hypothesis that both on-line and in-person instruction can be equally effective as a medium for teaching psychology courses. Information, projects showing mastery, and retention of information by students as measured by standard assessment does not differ significantly between the two types of classes and both can be utilized interchangeably for teaching graduate students, at least within the program studied at Northern Arizona University. Implications for developing international, web-delivered psychology programs are also discussed.

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