A Tale of Two Courses: A Case Study of Transition from a Traditional to an Online Course

A Tale of Two Courses: A Case Study of Transition from a Traditional to an Online Course

Melanie Shaw (Northcentral University, USA), John Bracke (Eden Theological Seminary, USA), Kelley Walters (Northcentral University, USA) and David Long (University of Florida, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-985-9.ch004


In this case study, the researchers detail the transformation of a traditional, face-to-face, graduate-level seminary course into an online offering. The course, Biblical Studies 1: Torah and Former Prophets, part of the core curriculum at a Midwestern seminary, was adapted into a distance learning course. The first group of students enrolled in the online course for the spring 2009 term. Previously, the course was offered to first-year seminarians enrolled in traditional, face-to-face, degree and non-degree programs. This was the first course offered online at the graduate institution. This study provides a description of the process of adaption of the course to a distance learning option, and contains an analysis of student assessment outcomes for assignments required in both course formats. From the analysis of student outcomes, recommendations for future instructional practice are made.
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Research Questions

For this study, the following research questions were used to guide the inquiry:

  • 1.

    What were the factors that prompted seminary leaders to offer an online course?

  • 2.

    How was the traditional course adapted to fit the online course format?

  • 3.

    How do assignment grades for students in the fall semester traditional course compare with grades for students in the spring semester online course?

  • 4.

    What recommendations can be made based on data gathered about the transition from the traditional course to the online course?



Since the inception of the Internet, online programs have grown exponentially in higher education. In 1990, only 15% of households owned a computer in the United States (U.S. Department of Labor, 1999). In 2005, that number had jumped to 78%, with an estimated 88.9 million U.S. households owning a computer. Of those, 81.4% had Internet access (Carol, Rivera, Ebel, Zimmerman, & Christakis, 2005). By 2002, almost 2 million students had taken at least one course online. One quarter of those students were enrolled in completely online programs (Shelton, 2005). With the growth of online access, universities and colleges across the country vie to meet consumer demand for online programs (Song, Singleton, Hill, & Koh, 2004). Thompson (2009) noted, “information technology has revolutionized the way many people work and interact, but the evidence is that many further education and skill training providers need to pick up the pace of adopting new [online] developments” (p. F4). Fully two-thirds of colleges and universities assert that online education is the most significant development in higher education, as it offers students flexibility and convenience, while a minority indicate that distance learning programs are inappropriate and inadequate substitutes for traditional, face-to- face instruction (Shin & Lee 2009).

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