Comparison of equated learning for online and on campus postgraduate students on academic achievement

Iain McPhee, Timothy Duffy, Douglas Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study assesses the effects of study mode on student achievement in two modes of study: on-campus learning and online learning. The University of the West of Scotland has been offering flexible postgraduate programmes in Alcohol and Drugs Studies online since 1999 and uses Blackboard, the Virtual
Learning Environment (VLE), to support equated learning. The explicit focus of this continuing longitudinal study (dating originally from 2002) is on student achievement. In this continuing evaluation comparing on-campus and online student grade performance, online study groups have exactly the same module syllabus as their on-campus counterparts. There is equivalence of support in that students on both modes of study are taught on the same traditional 15-week trimesters as students on the on-campus version, have the same learning materials, live interactive lectures using the VLE as a central hub, and the same assessment methods including assignments, projects, and class tests. Most importantly, the online and oncampus modes of study had the same learning outcomes, the same academic module moderator and also the same external examiner to ensure that assessed work by students on each mode of study was marked to the same standard. Statistical analysis of academic outcomes revealed no significant differences in grades (summative marks) between online and on-campus groups. This finding indicates that students are not disadvantaged by selecting to study via online learning and that equated learning is indeed occurring in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-88
JournalResearch Review: A Special Topics Journal from the University of the Fraser Valley
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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