A comparative study on the traditional and intensive delivery of an online course: design and facilitation recommendations
In this paper, we present findings from a comparative study on a fully online postgraduate course offered in traditional (i.e. 13-week academic session) and intensive (i.e. 6-week academic session) delivery formats. Keeping the course curriculum, structure and quality consistent in both delivery modes, the study investigated student participation and academic performance given different facilitation techniques applied to the discussion forums. Using data from the learning management system and students’ final marks, we conducted quantitative and qualitative analysis and found no difference in the academic performance of students in both courses; however, there was a statistically significant relationship between student participation and academic performance in the intensive delivery format but not in the traditional delivery format. We also found differences in the type of interactions in the different delivery formats. Two key takeaways emerge from our study. Firstly, intensive online courses can be as effective as traditional courses in terms of achievement of learning outcomes with variations in learning design, in this case, the facilitation approach used. Secondly, considering the level and nature of interactions, student-centred discussion forums that allow students to assume different roles work well in the intensive delivery format especially in open discussions. These are important findings for academics and practitioners who wish to offer intensive courses without compromising on course quality and student success.
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