Vagnoni, Libby

Evaluation of the Distance-Education Program at a Community College

Poor distance-education retention rates, burgeoning enrollments, and the difficulties of developing quality distance-education programs continue to be problematic for higher education institutions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the distance-education program (Internet courses only) based on research in distance-education quality standards and to identify whether the distance-education program aligned with the organizational goals of the community college.

This summative evaluation synthesized literary research and identified 44 quality distance-education program standards. These were organized into 4 key quality constructs organizational structures, faculty skills, program resources, and learning standards. Three Likert-like participant perception surveys were produced, incorporating the 44 quality standards and 4 quality constructs. The 3 surveys were electronically administered to a sampling of 1,358 stakeholders: the administrator survey to 34 administrators, the faculty survey to 70 faculty members, and the student survey to 1,254 students. The analysis was largely correlative, searching for trends that indicated strong participant perceptions. The results revealed that (a) 35 or 80% of the 44 quality standards did not meet the 3.0 benchmark; (b) students’ perceptions toward the distance-education quality standards were significantly higher than the faculty’s and administrators’ perceptions; and (c) faculty’s nonresponsiveness to student e-mails, course-testing issues, professional development opportunities for faculty, and program quality standards received the lowest scores.

The findings, along with an executive report consisting of 27 recommendations each supported by distance-education quality standards literature, were presented to the community college administration.