Distance delivered education at Montana State University - supplementing or supplanting campus registrations : an exploration of changing patterns over time
Godwin, Ian Chandler Paterson
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The problem addressed in this study was that university system and institutional administrators need to know who (geographically and demographically) the consumers of online courses and programs are. The purpose of this comparative study was to identify student populations and registration patterns over an eight year period in on-campus and online courses offered by Montana State University. Whether or not distinct student populations could be identified based on the mode of course delivery (on-campus vs. online) was established through analysis of spatial and demographic data. The design of this project used a comparative approach to identify differences in population demographics and a spatially sensitive correlational approach to identify associations between the spatial nature of on-campus and online registrations over time. The population included all on-campus and online course registrations offered through MSU from academic year 2000-2001 through 2007-2008. A Chi Square test was used to provide a spatially unweighted assessment of "spatial" proportionality. The exploratory spatial data analysis tool GeoDa was used to assess the global and local spatial dimension of the research while ANOVAs, factorial ANOVAs, and logistic regression were used to assess the demographic research questions. The Chi Square tests indicated that there are significant differences in the proportion of registrations over time at the local, state and national level. Global spatial autocorrelation tests provide statistically significant, but moderately weak results. The Local Indicator of Spatial Autocorrelation (LISA) analyses point to considerable overlap in registration "footprints" between on-campus and online registrations. Those tests also indicated that changes in spatial patterns have been more evolutionary for online registrations than for on-campus registrations which showed less variation over time. The demographic tests indicated that on-campus and online populations differ both in age and gender composition. The conclusion based on the results is that online courses are likely supplementing, not supplanting campus registrations at MSU. While the geographic analysis points to significant, fairly extensive, and growing geographic overlap between the home-of-origin locations of online and on-campus populations, the age and gender differences clearly indicate that the online population is older and more female than the on-campus population.