The Meaning of Quality in Online/Blended Courses to American and Malaysian Administrators, Faculty, and Students

The Meaning of Quality in Online/Blended Courses to American and Malaysian Administrators, Faculty, and Students

Esther Smidt (West Chester University, West Chester, US), Cecilia Yin Mei Cheong (University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Emily Dachroeden (West Chester University, West Chester, US), and Timothy Kochem (Iowa State University, Ames, US)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJDET.2019040103
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This article compares two studies, investigating administrator, faculty, and student perceptions of quality in online/blended courses conducted in two different contexts, namely (1) two midsize public universities in the United States, and (2) a college in a public university in Malaysia. The research question explored in both studies was: What is the meaning of “quality” in an online/blended course to administrators, faculty, and students? Survey data from the three constituents in both contexts were obtained. Qualitative data analysis revealed the top 7-8 quality features of each context as ranked by number of references. The results revealed similarities and differences in the rankings of the quality features between constituents and between contexts. Similarities suggested that different constituents had different priorities with regards to quality features while differences appeared to be based on where each institution was on their distance education trajectory. These findings should be considered and reflected on in online course design, teaching strategies, and student support.
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Literature Review

Distance Education in Higher Education Institutions

Higher education institutions (HEIs) are faced with the problem of meeting the demands of thousands of students attending universities each year. Some universities see in excess of 100,000 students, and fitting these students into classrooms becomes problematic in terms of scheduling and availability (Keegan, 1996). With this influx of students, it is imperative for educational facilities to modify their approach to meet the needs of students. Distance education provides one possible solution based on its ability to reach students who previously might not have been accommodated (Keegan, 1996).

With its rise in popularity within the last decade, there have been many attempts to define distance education (see Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2014). However, it is generally agreed that distance education refers to a learning environment where a student is separated by distance from the instructor, and that learners use some form of technology (e.g., computers, tablets, etc.) to access learning materials provided by the teacher (Anderson, 2008). Presently, distance education is commonly recognized as being synonymous with online learning, and in some contexts, blended learning, the latter being an educational model that combines the strengths of both online and face-to-face learning. Blended learning has grown increasingly popular in HEIs due to its promise of increasing students’ competence and confidence in learning, providing a quality educational experience, and developing critical thinking in the classroom (Azizan, 2010).

Research in distance education during the 20th century focused heavily on answering the question “Which learning environment or which delivery technology or media is more effective when the outcome variable is the average scores of two or more groups of learners?” (Black, 2013, p. 6). Kozma (2001) states that it is not the medium of instruction that impacts the learning of students as much as it is the use of authentic materials and the interaction between students and materials. Furthermore, Moore (2013) argues that distance education is especially beneficial in countries where traditional education is not as readily accessible to students. However, critics of distance education believe that there is still much to be desired in assuring quality control in distance education.

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