The Impact of Online Teaching on Faculty Load – Revisited: Computing the Ideal Class Size for Traditional, Online, And Hybrid Courses

The Impact of Online Teaching on Faculty Load – Revisited: Computing the Ideal Class Size for Traditional, Online, And Hybrid Courses

Lawrence A. Tomei (Robert Morris University, USA) and Douglas Nelson (Seton Hill University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJOPCD.2019070101

Abstract

In 2006, The Impact of Online Teaching on Faculty Load: Computing the Ideal Class Size for Online Courses, shared the results of early research into the ideal class sizes for traditional (i.e., face-to-face) and online courses based on faculty load. The research was limited to a single instructional technology class taught at the graduate level in both formats. The initial study analyzed the impact of distance learning demands on faculty teaching load and computed the ideal class size for both traditional and online courses. It determined that the ideal class size for graduate courses in technology was 17 students for traditional and 12 students for the distance learning format. This article expands the initial research by examining two universities and their: (1) undergraduate, graduate (i.e., master's), and doctoral-level courses; (2) traditional, online, and hybrid formats; (3) both 8- and 15-week terms; and, (4) three academic disciplines of general psychology, education, and business. Ideal class sizes are presented for a wider range of post-secondary courses.
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Literature Review

The original article (Tomei, 2006) offered readers a scrutiny of the technologies just being introduced to online learners and faculty. Those interested in what has now become an historical examination of the evolution of technology should refer to that initial publication (The Impact of Online Teaching on Faculty Load: Computing the Ideal Class Size for Online Courses, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (Volume 14, Number 3, pp. 531-541).

For the purposes of this revised study, the literature reviews move forward from 2006 to present day.

According to Seaman, Allen, and Seaman (2018), by 2016, 6.3 million students were taking at least one distance learning course. Of this population, 18 percent were at non-profit institutions, 13.1 percent were at for-profit institutions, and 68.9 percent were at public institutions. Undergraduate students comprised 5.2 million of this population while graduate students numbered the remaining 1.1 million. The proportion of higher education students taking advantage of distance learning has increased each year from 27.1 percent in 2012 to 29.7 percent in 2015. Nearly half of those students (47.2 percent) take distance courses exclusively. Research indicates that students perceive significant advantages for online learning over traditional methodologies. These advantages include better use of time and more flexible access to courses and class schedules (O’Malley & McCraw, 1999).

With the evolution of Internet connectivity, a third form of learning has arisen in classroom modalities. Added to this revised study, the hybrid course (sometimes called “blended learning”), offers the idea that students learn best through a combination of online and traditional classroom instruction that allows them some face-to-face interaction while still progressing at their own pace. Students in blended learning classrooms scored 18 percent higher on spring 2015 reading tests and 7 percent higher in math than those in traditional classrooms (Deruy, 2015).

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