Activity 1.4 Reading 1

Questions: What research questions are being addressed?

Main objective of this project was to test whether it is possible to use CMC systems to improve access to and effectiveness of post-secondary educational delivery. Key questions posed are;

  1. Is the Virtual Classroom a viable option for educational delivery?
  2. What variables are associated with especially good and especially poor outcomes in this new teaching and learning environment?

Setting: What is the sector and setting?

Online version of introductory sociology and mixed-modes (blended) sections of two upper-level sociology courses.

Comparison between Virtual Classroom and the traditional classroom.

This study has been conducted in an era (21 years ago) where computer systems were not available throughout the student population (maybe not even for all tutors). Also the software being used must have been much basic and maybe more difficult to use.

Concepts: What theories, concepts and key terms are being used?

Virtual ‘online’ classroom (VC), traditional classroom (TC)

This paper discusses ideas which is still relevant today; collaborative learning, online and blended learning.

Methods: What methods of data collection and analysis are used?

Researchers observe various types of courses, students and implementation environments.

‘Data collection rested primarily on pre- and post-course questionnaires administered to students, but it also included more objective behavioural data (including grades, SAT scores, and records of the amount of on-line activity) and qualitative data (participant observation in class conference, personal interviewswith students, and case reports by instructors).’

Statistical methods of which ANOVA have been used on data.

Findings: What did this research find out?

  • Students seemed to feel more at ease than in TC about ‘revealing personal experiences to apply and illustrate sociological concepts.’
  • ‘the Virtual Classroom mode of delivery can increase access to and effectiveness of college-level education.’
  • ‘no significant differences in midterm or final examination scores in any courses.’
  • Majority of students felt that online courses were more convenient.
  • Students felt that through VC, they had better accesss to their professor.
  • Motivated and prepared students had very good results  online whereas students lacking basic skills did better in a traditional course (but could this be because of material or trainer?).

Limitations: What are the limitations of the methods used?

  • ‘students were able to select the mode of delivery‘. Students opting for online course may have different technical skills then those choosing F-2-F.
  • Hypothesis made in this study (p. 432) are based on what? Seems that these hypothesis want to see online learning as an ‘obvious’ better experience.
  • What about effect on tutors?
  • VC does not take into consideration those students which did not have computers ready available.
  • Why variation among courses?
  • Students needed motivation to participate online (deadlines were set twice a week).

Ethics: Are there any ethical issues associated with the research?

  • buddy ‘system’ may have led students’ to copy answers for the quiz
  • Why is it said that if a similar study is repeated, it will exclude an academically weak group?

Implications: What are the implications (if any) for practice, policy or further research?

This study suggests that the ‘virtual classroom’ may enhance the learning of motivated students whereas those lacking motivation and/or skills may find difficulties with online courses. This obviously should be seen in light of the context in which study has been done.


Hiltz, S.R. and Meinke, R. (1989) ‘Teaching sociology in a virtual classroom’, Teaching Sociology, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 431–46 (available from:


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