A Comparison of Students' Learning Outcomes in a Writing-Intensive Course Taught in Both Face-To-Face and Fully-Online Settings


  • Chaitanya Ravi Environmental Science & Policy
  • Ying-Ying Kuo Learning Support Services




teaching online, technology-enriched, digital tools, student writing, sustainability, Science, Technologym Engineering, & Math (STEM)


Most educators are interested in whether online teaching is at least as good as classroom-based courses in terms of students' learning outcomes, including academic achievement and learning satisfaction. This research study compared two sections of an upper-level, undergraduate, writing-intensive environmental policy course, which were taught in spring 2014 by the same instructor. The f2f session had a blended format with in class-lectures complemented by substantial online resources, while the 100% online course included documentaries, pre-recorded lecture videos, various readings, discussions, and online environmental games.

A total of 39 students from both sections voluntarily participated in this research study by taking a course survey online. Both qualitative and quantitative data and students' final grades were collected. The findings revealed no significant statistical difference in students' final grades and learning satisfaction. However, students' overall satisfaction level in the f2f class was higher than the online course. Also, their satisfaction level was associated with (1) receiving valuable feedback from instructor and (2) students' motivation to learn in the course.

Our research indicates that the quality of an online course can be equivalent to a f2f course if instructors can support students with regular feedback and keep motivating them to learn.