The Effects of Using On-Line Instruction on Sultan Qaboos University Students'
Achievement and their Attitudes Towards it: an Article for Publication
The Effects of Using On-Line Instruction on Sultan Qaboos
University Students' Achievement and their Attitudes Towards it
This paper describes a quasi-experimental research conducted on on-line instruction
(OLI). It specifically uses WebCT (Web Course Tools) courseware package to evaluate
the effectiveness of OLI at Sultan Qaboos University students' achievement and their
attitudes towards it in educational technology course. The results show that there is no
significant difference in the achievement of both groups (experimental and control). In
addition, there is no significant difference due to gender variable. Further, the results
show a significant difference due to grade point average (GPA) variable in favor of high
achievers as compared to low achievers. Concerning the interaction effects, the results
suggest an interaction effect between (GPA and gender) and (method and GPA) only.
The results also show a positive attitude toward OLI. The researchers give some
recommendations and suggestions to improve OLI environment at Sultan Qaboos
The Effects of Using On-Line Instruction on Sultan Qaboos
University Students' Achievement and their Attitudes Towards it
On-Line Instruction (OLI) becomes a useful instrument in various university disciplines.
Academic content is designed and offered on-line by the means of e-mail, faculty sites,
and specific software such as WebCT (Web Course Tools). The latter, for example, is a
courseware package originally developed to manage on-line course provision. It has been
described as "one of a new generation of software that provides easier solutions to
problems encountered in using the Internet" (Agarwal & Day, 1998a). Sultan Qaboos
University (SQU), in its endeavor to improve teaching/learning methods, provides faculty
members with the opportunity to use this package. This method is combined with face-to-
face teaching. Therefore, conventional class sessions remain essential part of teaching.
This experimental study evaluates the effectiveness of OLI on students' achievement and
their attitudes towards it in educational technology course. The course is compulsory for
all students in college of education. In this study, only two groups were selected.
The instructional effects of media have provided a platform for diverse opinions. On one
hand, Clark (1983, 1994) maintained that media do not influence learning in any
condition. In contrast, Kozma (1994) argued that technologies such as computers and
video influence learning by interacting with an individual’s cognitive and social
processes in constructing knowledge. Literature that is more recent has supported
Kozma’s above argument. Felder (2001) mentioned that the meta-analyses of hundreds of
studies show that students who learn through interactive web-based technologies tend to
do better than students taught the same courses with chalk-and-talk. Thus, many
researchers suggest assessing learners’ psychological factors before formal distance
instruction (Ross, 1998) in order to individualize instruction.
Online education differs from traditional education in that includes a variety of formats:
asynchronous web-based instruction, bulletin board discussion, e-mail communication, as
well as synchronous online chat and net conferencing (Kearsley, 2000). Indeed, the
recent rapid development of educational technology has positively influenced many
aspects of education at all levels directly or indirectly (Troxel & Grady, 1989;
Muffoletto, 1990; CEO Forum, 2000). Recent research involving online education has
emphasized the learners’ achievement and course evaluation (Kearsley, 2000; Russell,
1999). Moreover, research shows that OLI promotes self-learning and develops an
understanding of learning styles (Hoven, 1999). It combines studying materials with
exciting context. OLI fosters the concept of 'open curriculum' (Candlin & Byrnes, 1994)
in which students are encouraged to look beyond the structure and the content of the
course and explore multiple channels of information. However, Carr (2000) suggests it is
crucial to strike a balance between content and student interaction.
Although there is some literary evidence that students are very concerned about the loss
of direct contact with the instructor and their emphasis on the importance of personal
relationships in OLI environment (White, 2000), students are generally in favor of on-line
delivery of courses. It was reported that students who had access to a set of web-based
instructional material performed better than students who did not have access to this
material and that on-line instruction has a positive impact on student retention and
learning of academic concepts, attitudes towards subjects, and perception of instructor
effectiveness (Agarwal & Day, 1998a; Navarro & Shoemaker 2000). Many studies found
that student satisfaction with on-line instructional techniques is increased, there is greater
interaction between students and between students and instructors, and critical thinking
and problem-solving skills are normally reported as improved. Moreover, grade point
average and other measures of student achievement are as high as or higher under online
teaching than in conventional teaching (Mason & Kaye, 1989; Bruce, et. al., 1993; Hiltz,
1994; Gregor & Cuskelly, 1994; Berge & Collins 1995; Makrakis, et. al., 1998).
However, Felder (2001) comments that "evidence from thousands of studies showing that
significant increases in learning, skill development, and confidence result from properly
implemented active and cooperative methods".
Although there is literary evidence that younger students tend to be less enthusiastic of
using on-line instruction, other research results show student utilization of the on-line
material was significant, especially when the fact that these students were primarily
freshmen and sophomores and campus residents is taken into account (Coates &
Humphreys, 2001). Kearsley, et. al., (1995) who studied the effectiveness of on-line
educational technology courses came to the same conclusions. They conducted a survey
on 14 students who had completed on-line educational technology courses. Students felt
they were more knowledgeable than before they started the courses. However, there is no
evidence that this is merely caused by on-line design of instruction. Zywno & Kennedy
(1999) conclude that student attitudes towards integrating the internet and multimedia
into instruction are positive and that "students greeted the technology-enabled course
Agarwal & Day (1998b) report that students clearly found WebCT very user-friendly.
More than three quarters of the students preferred the WebCT enhanced courses to
conventional course offerings, and their attitude towards taking a course that used
WebCT again was strongly positive. They add that the students rated all aspects:
communications, content delivery, and on-line testing of WebCT as very good, and
seemed to give content delivery the highest rating. Comments on the survey indicated
that students enjoyed the increased access to the instructor, and benefited from the class
notes available on the Web pages. Several students remarked about the availability of
their grades in a prompt and convenient manner. The researchers concluded, "The use of
these new programs does not have to be exclusive to on-line courses and distance
learning. In fact, the majority of our applications of the technology are in supplementing
and enhancing conventional course offerings".
In a recent study, Agarwal & Day (2000) found that it is possible to partially substitute
classroom (physical) capital and in-class instructor time with the on-line instruction
without diminishing the information content that students receive. They further found a
positive impact on both student performance and their perception of instructor
effectiveness using technology, and that women tend to benefit the most in the
experimental environment. They attributed the above results to active learning activities,
Internet monitored preparation prior to in-class meetings, graded and interactive on-line
quizzes and tutorials, smaller classes, and greater interaction among students and the
instructor. In addition, they suggest that a large part of the benefits stem from increasing
active participation and decreasing the passive learning components of the course. They
also found that one of the main value added aspects of on-line instruction use was the
ability to track student participation, and structuring of students’ out of class studying.
As an experimental stage at SQU, there are little reports on the effectiveness of WebCT
in specific and OLI in general. Research results show that Internet instructional uses at
SQU are mostly limited to obtain information. This suggests that these uses should be
encouraged and broadened beyond their present status (Abdelraheem & Al Musawi,
Objectives and Questions
This experimental research is aiming at studying effects of on-line instruction and the
attitudes of Omani students at the Sultan Qaboos University towards it.
In specific, the study looks carefully to answer the following questions:
1. Are there any differences in students' achievement due to teaching method
(conventional and on-line)?
2. Are there any differences in students' achievement due to gender (males
3. Are there any differences in students' achievement due to their total grade
point average (GPA) (high, average, and low)?
4. Are there any interaction effects gender vs. method, GPA vs. methods and
gender vs. methods vs. GPA?
5. Do students' attitudes differ before and after applying on-line teaching
Exploring the benefits/disadvantages of OLI in the field;
Promoting OLI at SQU by introducing field evidence;
Motivating efforts of instituting well-designed on-line programs; and,
Relating to other studies at SQU and elsewhere since literature evinces that
many conclusions are felt to be preliminary.
A one month 'educational technology' course was designed and delivered to:
1. Experimental group: Students on WebCT at multimedia labs with minimal
involvement on the part of the instructor
2. Control group: Students with conventional classroom meetings with no
access to WebCT
One instructor using the same text and tests taught both groups.
The OLI method was kept up to the original teaching arrangement and
objectives to reduce inherent limitations of the courseware.
The WebCT platform was composed of the following features: e-mail, on-line
teams/instructor discussions, and feedback. These activities are performed in four
on-line lab sessions (one session per a week), on-campus attendance
(asynchronous), and/or during office hours (asynchronous).
Both groups are taking the course material for the first time and they have no
prior knowledge in the subject matter. Pretest shows no significant difference in
their means score i.e. the two groups are equivalent (experimental group mean
was 15.65 and standard deviation of 1.79; control group mean was 15. 30 and
standard deviation of 1.67; t value was 0.886 and P> 0.05).
A final test was given to measure the experimental group achievement as
compared to the control groups. The Kuder-Richardson-20 internal consistency
reliability estimate of the test was 0.92.
An attitudinal instrument was (20 items Likert type survey) adapted and given
before and after to the students in order to measure the experimental group
attitude towards using OLI. Cronbach alpha internal consistency reliability
estimate of the attitude survey was 0.74
The research sample consists of 51 students in their sixth semester at SQU; due to
timetabling constraints, cluster sample was used. It comprises an experimental group of
31 students and a control group of 20 students. The two groups were randomly assigned
to experimental group and control group. Table (1) shows their statistics.
Design and Statistical treatments
A quasi-experimental design was used in this study with the following variables:
1. Students' achievements measured by their grades in the final test.
2. Students' attitudes measured by their response to the attitudinal scale.
1. Teaching methods [WebCT (OLI) and conventional].
2. Students' gender: (male and female)
3. Students grade point average: (high, average, and low)
While three ways analysis of variance (2x2x3ANOVA) was used to answer questions 1,
2, 3, and 4, t- test was used to answer question 5.
Results and Discussion
Basic descriptive analysis in Table (1) shows mean scores and standard deviations for the
subjects of the study. It also shows that both disciplines groups comprised 51 students: 31
(61%) students of the experimental and 20 (39%) of the control. They are approximately
of equal distribution on the three GPA levels as 17 students with low GPA, 21 students
with average GPA, and 13 students with high GPA. Data also shows an approximately
equal distribution of males (27 students; 53%) and females (24 students; 47%) in both
Mean scores and standard deviations
Teaching methods, gender, GPA and interactions effects on
To answer questions 1, 2, 3, and 4 concerning differences in students' achievement due to
teaching methods, gender, GPA; and interaction effects, three ways analysis of variance
Table (2) shows that among the three main effects only GPA has statistical significance
difference at 0.05. The findings of (Mason and Kaye, 1989; Hiltz, 1994; Gregor and
Cuskelly, 1994; Bruce, et. al., 1993; Makrakis, et al., 1998) support this finding.
Multiple comparisons Scheffe test was used to determine which group of GPA is better
than the others. The findings are listed in Table (3). It demonstrates statistical
significance in favor of students with high GPA in comparison to their low GPA
colleagues. This finding shows that students with high previous GPA achieve better than
those with low previous one regardless of teaching method or content.
Teaching methods, gender, and GPA effects on achievement
Type III Sum of
GPA * SEX
GPA * SEX
* means statistical significance at = 0.05
Multiple Comparisons Scheffe test for GPA
Based on observed means (The mean difference is significant
at the .05 level).
However, Table (2) findings also mean neither teaching methods (conventional or OLI)
nor gender has a significant influence on students' achievement. As for the teaching
methods, this finding does not necessarily sound very promising compared, in specific, to
Felder (2001) and Agarwal and Day (1998a, 1998b, 2000) studies. However, it is in line
with other research showing that the students' achievement in OLI is similar to face-to-
face method (Johnson, 2002, Carey, 2001; Gagne & Shepherd, 2001; Johnson, et. al.,
2000; Kearsley, et. al., 1995). Moreover, Clark (1983, 1994), negates the influence of
technology on learning. In view of this major finding, OLI should be approached with
caution at SQU since students might need more preparation to use technology. That
technology itself should be prepared as well in order to have greater effect on students'
In addition, the results indicate that there is no significant difference in the students'
achievement due to gender. That means males and females students achieve the same
results. This contradicts Agarwal and Day (2000) in that women tend to benefit the most
in the experimental environment. This result could be attributed to the fact that males and
females students at SQU have equal educational opportunities and accessibility to
learning resources. They all live on the same campus enjoying the same facilities:
housing, transportation, and financial aid.
As is shown above, there is an interaction effect between method and GPA and an
interaction effect between gender and GPA. However, Fig (1) graphically represents the
mean scores for the three levels of GPA.
Graphic representation of the mean achievement scores for WebCT and traditional
methods on three levels of GPA
From the above figure it is observed that students with high GPA and average GPA are
relatively scoring better in the WebCT method than their counter partner in the traditional
method. While students with low GPA in the traditional method are relatively scoring
better than their counter partner in the WebCT method.
Graphic representation of the mean achievement scores for males and females students on
the three levels of GPA
From the above figure, it is observed that female students with high GPA and average
GPA are relatively scoring better than male students with the same GPA. While male
low average high
low average high
students with low GPA are relatively scoring better than female students with the same
Students' attitude towards OLI
To answer the fifth question on students' attitudes before and after applying on-line
instruction method, t- test was used. Table (4) shows the findings.
T-Test for the difference in means in the attitudes
Pre- and post- experimental attitudes show statistical differences at 0.05. This means that
students' attitudes are in general positive towards OLI. These attitudes were practically
noticed by the instructor in the classroom and through off-classroom OLI applications by
means of e-mail discussion. This could be justified by the fact that students found
WebCT as exciting and enjoyable tool for learning especially when they are off-campus
since it provides them with freedom, flexibility, and privacy to express there own
thoughts and feelings. This finding is clearly mirrored in the literature (Kearsley, et. al.,
1995; Agarwal and Day, 1998b; Zywno and Kennedy, 1999; White, 2000; Navarro and
Shoemaker 2000; Agarwal and Day, 2000; Coates and Humphreys, 2001).
Conclusions and Recommendations
This research is one of the first experimental researches conducted on on-line instruction
at Sultan Qaboos University in the Sultanate of Oman. The following conclusions are the
summary of this research:
1. OLI is equally effective in students' achievement as traditional teaching
2. Students' achievement effected by one main effect: GPA.
3. Achievement is in favor of students with high GPA in comparison to their
low GPA colleagues.
4. Results show two interaction effects: method*GPA and GPA*gender.
5. Students' attitudes are in general positive towards OLI.
The followings are the research recommendations:
1. OLI should be approached with caution at SQU
2. Issues of technology availability and effective use should be addressed and
ensured before full implementation of OLI takes place
3. Faculty members at SQU should give more attention to their low GPA
students in due process of implementing OLI.
4. Faculty members at SQU should be trained to develop their hi-tech skills
specifically in Internet-based and on-line technologies.
Further, the following studies are recommended:
1. Analyzing SQU needs/standards of on-line instruction with/without face-
to-face teaching methods
2. Effects of using cooperative learning on individual and teams'
achievement in an on-line instruction course at SQU
3. Privacy and credibility of OLI and E-learning
Abdelraheem, A., & Al Musawi, A. (2002). Instructional Uses of Internet Services by
SQU Faculty Members, Part 2. International Journal of Instructional Media, 30(2)
Agarwal R., & Day, A.E. (1998a). The Impact of the Internet on Economic
Education, Journal of Economic Education, 29(2) Spring, 99-110.
Agarwal, R., & Day, A.E. (1998b). Taming the Internet with Instructional
Technology Software: Special Reference to WEBCT, Available:
Agarwal R., & Day, A.E. (2000). Using the Internet to Achieve Small Class
Interactivity, Working Paper, University of Central Florida, Available:
Berge, Z.L., & Collins, M.P. (1995). Computer-Mediated Communication and the
Online Classroom, Creskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Bruce, B., Peyton, J.K., & Baston, T. (1993). Network-based Classrooms: Promises
and Realities, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Candlin, C., & Byrnes, F. (1994). Designing for open language learning: Teaching
roles and learning strategies, In Gollin (ed), Language in Distance Education, how far
can we go? National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research, Macquarie
Carey, J.M. (2001). Effective Student Outcomes: A Comparison of Online and Face-
to-Face Delivery Modes, DEOSNEWS, 11(9), Available:
Carr, S. (2000). Learning to communicate online is a challenge for new case study,
Journal for Universal Computer Science, 4(3), 1-15.
CEO Forum (2000). School Technology and Readiness: a focus on digital learning,
The CEO Forum, Year 3 Reports, Washington, D.C., Available:
Clark, R.E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media, Review of
Educational Research, 53, 445-459
Clark, R.E. (1994). Media will never influence learning, Educational Technology
Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29.
Coates, Dennis, & Humphreys, Brad R. (2001). Evaluation of Computer-Assisted
Instruction in Principles of Economics, Educational Technology & Society, 4(2),
Felder, R. (2001). Technology-Based Instruction and Cooperative Learning, The
Interface- IEEE Education Society, 2–3, Available:
Gagne, M., & Shepherd, M. (2001). Distance Learning in Accounting: A Comparison
Between a Distance and Traditional Graduate Accounting Class, T.H.E. Journal,
Gregor, S.D., and Cuskelly, E.F. (1994) Computer mediated communication in
distance education, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, (10), 168-81.
Hiltz, R. (1994). Virtual Classrooms, Norwood, NJ: Ablex
Hoven, D. (1999). CALL-ing the learner into focus: Towards a learner-centered
model for CALL. In WORLDCALL: Global Perspectives on Computer-Assisted
Language Learning, Lisse, The Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger: 149-167.
Johnson, M. (2002). Introductory Biology Online: Assessing Outcomes of Two
Student Populations, Journal of College Science Teaching, 31(5), 312-317
Johnson, S.D., Aragon, S.R., Shaik, N., & Palma-Rivas, N. (2000). Comparative
Analysis of Learner Satisfaction and Learning Outcomes in Online and Face-to-Face
Learning Environments, Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 11(1), 29-49
Kearsley, G. (2000). Online education: learning and teaching in no cyberspace,
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Kearsley, G., William L., & D. Wizer. (1995). The effectiveness and impact of online
learning in graduate education, Educational Technology, 37-42.
Kozma, R.B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate,
Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19
Makrakis, V., Retalis, S., Koutoumanos, A., Papaspyrou, N., & Skordalakis, M.
(1998). Evaluating the effectiveness of an ODL hypermedia system and courseware at
the National Technical University of Athens: A case study, JUCS, 4(3), Available:
Mason, R., & Kaye, A. (1989). Mind weave: Communications, Computers, And
Distance Education, New York, N.Y.: Pergamon Press.
Muffoletto, R. (1990). Media education as critical pedagogy, Journal of Thought,
Navarro, P., & Shoemaker, J. (2000). Economics in the cyberspace: A comparison
study, Unpublished report [Online], CEO Forum, Available:
Ross, J.L. (1998). On-Line But Off Course: A Wish List for Distance Educators.
International Electronic, Journal For Leadership in Learning [Online], 2(3),
Russell, T.L. (1999). The No Significant Difference Phenomenon, Office of
Instructional Telecommunications: North Carolina State University.
Troxel, D., & Grady, W. (1989). The state of educational technology in the United
States of America. International Journal of Instructional Media, 16(1), 1-13.
White, Ken W. [ed.] (2000). The Kenneth White Online Teaching Guide: A
Handbook of Attitudes, Strategies, and Techniques for the Virtual Classroom, Allyn
Zywno, M., & Kennedy, D. (1999). Integrating the Internet, Multimedia Components,
and Hands-On Experimentation into Problem-Based Control Education, Journal of
engineering education, 4(1), Australia.