Wednesday, November 15, 2006 - 10:00 AM

Evaluation of Success Factors for an Online Introductory Turfgrass Science Course.

Cale Bigelow, Purdue Univ, 915 West State St., West Lafayette, IN 47907-4773

The interest in online computer-based courses continues to grow. Online courses allow non-resident students to access specialized information and class scheduling flexibility for resident and non-resident students. Currently very few online introductory turfgrass science courses are available but the interest expressed by transfer students, lawn care professionals and hobbyists for this information is high. The performance of two populations of an undergraduate Horticulture program taking an introductory turfgrass science course was assessed. Students took the course either as a traditional lecture version, 19 students, or a newly created online version, 11 students. The online course content was identical to the traditional lecture except that course materials were delivered using WebCt Vista which contained image-rich multimedia audio presentations created in Adobe/Macromedia Breeze Presenter. Student performance was evaluated using weekly quizzes, written exams and homework assignments. The only difference was that quizzes and homework assignments for online students were delivered via computer. Both populations took identical written exams. The final grade distributions for the two populations were very similar, with 72 and 84 % of students earning a C or better for the online and traditional lecture populations respectively. Three students from each population earned A’s. When evaluating success factors that differentiated these students from their peers, grade point average (> 3.1) and better than average performance, B or better, in related courses (e.g. Introductory Soils, Introductory Agricultural Economics) were important. This indicates that highly motivated students can effectively learn the content of an introductory turfgrass course regardless of information delivery mechanism.