Methods: This study examines the impact of student demographics, learning modalities, and academic backgrounds to perceived student confidence in diagnosing clinical clients. The overarching research question for the investigation was: “Are there differences in student perceptions of their own abilities to diagnose clients between those in web-based or face-to-face graduate courses?” Two related hypotheses: H1) There will be a statistically significant difference in student outcomes between on-line learners and face-to-face learners and H2) Student demographics will have as great impact on learning outcomes than mode of instruction.The study employed a time-limited pre-test/post-test OXO design utilizing three groups. A convenience sample of MSW students (n=110) was drawn from the student population of a large southeastern public university. Prior to data collection, a study protocol was submitted to and approved by an Institutional Review Board. Informed consent was secured. Survey Monkey was used to collect both the pre and posttest data. The study instruments, consist of The Clinical Problems Vignette (Wollerstheim & Walsh, 1993) and a demographic questionnaire.
Results: Results of data analysis (paired t-tests, independent t-tests, ANOVA and cross tabulations) indicated statistically significant differences (p< .05) in the change of scores between the “web-base,” and “face-to-face” classes. However, these differences were not as significant when “academic background” was controlled for.
Implications: It is extremely likely that teaching with technology will become an essential element in social work education. This study suggests that student characteristics, as well as teaching/learning modes, may moderate classroom outcomes. Recommendations for developing “best practices” for using web-based learning, gleaned from this research, are delineated.