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A Little Knowledge Goes a Long Way: Student Expectations and Satisfaction with Hybrid Learning

Mary Beth Pinto (Penn State University - Erie, US)
Wayne Anderson (Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, US)
Session Information
April 23, 2012 - 5:30pm
Areas of Special Interest: 
Blended Course
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Poster Session
Executive A-D
Session Duration: 
60 Minutes

This presentation reports the results of a multi-phase study of undergraduate student expectations and satisfaction with hybrid course delivery.

Extended Abstract

Since the 1990's, a number of colleges and universities have modified traditional face-to-face classroom instruction to include more of an online format. Data suggests that there has been a steady rise in the number of students enrolling in online courses - over 5.6 million students during the fall term of 2009 (Allen and Seaman 2010). Online course delivery covers a range of options from web-facilitated courses to blended/hybrid courses to fully online courses. The primary difference between these options is the percent of course content that is delivered online (Allen and Seaman 2010). Specifically in the area of blended learning, the movement is to "perfecting the blend" and enhancing delivery methods for this innovative technique. One heavily researched area is student satisfaction. Among the determinants of student satisfaction, creating a match between actual and expected learning experiences is shown to directly impact student satisfaction. Indicative of this stream of research is the recent work of Sinclaire (2011) and Jackson, Jones and Rodriquez (2010), both of which examined student satisfaction with online learning. With the notable exception of O'Leary and Quinlan (2007), most of the work investigating the phenomenon of expectations includes single-item measures of expectations (i.e., "Expectations were clearly stated either verbally or in the syllabus") and/or single point in time measurement of expectations at the beginning of the semester. A richer understanding of the construct, expectations, is missing. Students bring "preconceived expectations" into the learning environment, defined as "forming an opinion or idea before possessing full or adequate knowledge or experience" (American Heritage Dictionary 2000). These expectations often change through receiving new information or updated experiences and become "informed expectations." For example, once a student has received a course syllabus, explored the course website, and become familiar with the nature of the assignments, their expectations may change concomitantly. The issues of preconceived expectations is complicated by the fact that some students have had experiences with online learning while other students have not. Many students enter college having experienced blending learning in elementary, through high school. According to Gabriel (2011), there has been an increase in hybrid learning in K-12, and the growth is expected to continue through 2020. In addition, students are influenced by the experiences of others (family/friends) who have taken online courses (either hybrid or fully online). Therefore, students enter a class with preconceived notions; however, the level of sophistication in their preconceived notions varies dramatically depending on factors such as: rumors, personal experiences, peer experiences, reputation of instructor, and lack of standardization across online courses. They may have negative perceptions also due to their time management skills, comfort with technology and discipline (Napier, Dekhane and Smith 2011). Thus, satisfaction with hybrid courses is a complex and multi-faceted construct that requires more systematic understanding. The current study is intended to address the following research questions: 1) What are student expectations regarding hybrid learning? 2) Is there a difference between preconceived expectations and informed expectations? 3) How satisfied are students with hybrid courses? METHOD Data for this study was collected during the fall term, 2011 from one section of an upper level marketing class at a public northeastern university. Prior to this semester, this course was taught exclusively in a residential setting. The instructor received approval to modify the course and transition it to a hybrid learning format. Students were unaware of the change in course delivery. Using a similar method employed by O'Leary and Quinlan (2004), we assessed student satisfaction with the hybrid course delivery format following the expectancy confirmation/disconfirmation paradigm originated by Oliver (1980). We followed a two-phased approach in this study. First, students were given two pre-course questionnaires consisting of 41 expectation items covering six factors and demographic questions. The first pre-course survey on "preconceived expectations" occurred on the first day of class before students received any information about the hybrid delivery format. The second pre-course survey on "informed expectations" occurred on day two after the following events: 1) The students were informed of the hybrid course format; 2) The instructor reviewed the hybrid course syllabus; and 3) The students were assigned homework to thoroughly review the hybrid course materials on the university's class management system. The final survey will occur at the end of semester. This survey converts the expectation questions used in the first two surveys into perceived performance statements. RESULTS A total of 44 students participated in this study, including 20 men and 24 women. Fifty-two percent were seniors and 48% were juniors. Fifty-two percent or 23 participants indicated they had previously taken an online course. In Phase One, data suggests that there was a significant difference between preconceived and informed expectations. Preconceived expectations were often quite negative. For example, student initially expected the hybrid course to be boring, have less camaraderie, slow instructor feedback, and inspire lower interest in learning course material. However, following the course orientation and students' review of course related materials and website, many expectations became more positive. Phase Two of this study will investigate student satisfaction with the overall hybrid experience at the completion of the course. We will be using the confirmation/disconfirmation paradigm to match expectations with perceived performance. When there is a gap between expectations and perceived performance, students should be dissatisfied. When expectations meet perceived performance, students should be satisfied with their course experience. The implications from Phase One of this study suggest the need for an eLearning orientation program for all students enrolling in hybrid and online courses. For many students, preconceived expectations tend to be negative which further complicates the teaching experience for these courses. However, this study shows that when adequate time is taken to orient students toward course content and delivery methods, they are more receptive to hybrid learning and their expectations improve as a result. The second critical piece in this puzzle is still yet to be discovered. How do these modified expectations match up with perceived performance? And hence, are students satisfied or dissatisfied with the overall hybrid experience?

Lead Presenter

Dr. Mary Beth Pinto is the Samuel A. and Elizabeth B. Breene University Endowed Professor in Business and Professor of Marketing. Her teaching and research interests include: eLearning and Higher Education, Pedagogical Strategies, Consumer Behavior, Health Care Marketing, Credit Card Marketing, and Retail Management. Dr. Pinto is the author of over 40 articles and conference presentations. She is a member of the Advisory Panel for the Center for eLearning Initiatives at Penn State Behrend. In addition, she is a faculty member in the iMBA Program of Penn State's World Campus where she teaches Global Marketing. She also teaches a Blended course, Retail Management, at Penn State Behrend.