Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16636 Research That Makes a Difference: Comparing Outcomes of a Web-Based MSW Course to Outcomes of a Face-to-Face MSW Course

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 4:30 PM
McPherson Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Shawn A. Lawrence, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Eileen Mazur Abel, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL
Background and Purpose: The last decade has seen a significant increase in the prevalence of web-based learning in higher education (Ferguson & Tryjankowski, 2009). It is now possible to earn a full degree without ever setting foot in a traditional classroom (Lam, 2009). Social work education, consistent with this trend, has increased web-based course offerings that include blended (combined web and face-to-face instruction) and fully on-line courses (Ayala, 2009). Despite the increasing use of the on-line teaching environment little is known about the effectiveness of this mode for specific student populations (Moore, 2005). Technology is changing the manner in which social work educators teach and students learn (Vernon, 2001). Changes in technology are occurring so rapidly that little is known about the most efficacious ways to employ technology. There is a paucity of information about the type of student (i.e. age, gender, race, academic background) who may choose to be enrolled in an on-line class as opposed to a traditional class. Research is needed to evaluate differences in student learning, between web-based and face-to-face learning environments (Ferguson & Tryjankowski, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to assess differences in student learning between three sections of a graduate Psychosocial Pathology course. The study sample (n=110) is comprised of second year MSW students enrolled in: 1) a daytime face-to-face class; 2) an evening face-to-face class and 3) a fully web-based class.

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.

Previous Abstract | Next Abstract >>