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  • 标题:Achieving quality enhancement program (QEP) objectives: impact of on-line and on-ground course characteristics by undergraduate student personality traits.
  • 作者:Anitsal, M. Meral ; Anitsal, Ismet ; Barger, Bonita
  • 期刊名称:Academy of Educational Leadership Journal
  • 印刷版ISSN:1095-6328
  • 出版年度:2010
  • 期号:January
  • 语种:English
  • 出版社:The DreamCatchers Group, LLC
  • 摘要:With technology progressing at a rapid rate, and the advent of more and more sophisticated interactivity programs, the field of on-line education has experienced enormous growth in recent years. The literature dealing with on-line education is extensive and varied. The focus of this discussion is the personal characteristics of on-line students; the types of students that are more successful in on-line education; and the differences between on-line students and traditional students.
  • 关键词:Cognitive styles;Collaborative learning;College students;Group work in education;Learning ability;Online education;Personality;Personality traits;Team learning approach in education

Achieving quality enhancement program (QEP) objectives: impact of on-line and on-ground course characteristics by undergraduate student personality traits.


Anitsal, M. Meral ; Anitsal, Ismet ; Barger, Bonita 等


INTRODUCTION

With technology progressing at a rapid rate, and the advent of more and more sophisticated interactivity programs, the field of on-line education has experienced enormous growth in recent years. The literature dealing with on-line education is extensive and varied. The focus of this discussion is the personal characteristics of on-line students; the types of students that are more successful in on-line education; and the differences between on-line students and traditional students.

On-line students demonstrate a greater level of comfort with, and use of, computers (Maki and Maki 2000). The notion of successful on-line students being adept at using computers is intuitive (Maki and Maki 2000; Maki and Maki 2002; Shany and Nachmias 2002). Successful online students are technologically capable, but this conclusion is less than revelatory. What other characteristics do successful on-line students possess? Some research has shown that introverted students are more successful in on-line courses, as are students high in intellect and imagination (Maki and Maki 2003). The research was unclear, however, if these traits were predictive of success for on-line students especially or for all students. Shany and Nachmias (2002) identified students with a "liberal" thinking style (i.e. student goes beyond existing rules and procedures, to maximize change, and to seek out situations that are somewhat ambiguous) as the most successful on-line students. But within that study, the most significant predictor was not a personality characteristic/trait at all, but prior experience with information and communication technology, which was consistent with prior research (Maki and Maki 2000; Maki and Maki 2002). Other research has shown that, for the most part, the only significant personal differences in on-line students are demographic in nature (e.g., age and marital status), except for the counterintuitive finding of higher levels of motivation for on-campus students (Qureshi and Antosz 2002). In 2008, Bayram, Deniz, and Erdogan found that the personality traits of achievement, counseling readiness, and ideal self were significant predictors of academic success for e-MBA students in Turkey. The researchers also positively correlated two of those personality traits (achievement and ideal self) with a positive attitude toward web-based education, which itself was the most positive predictor of success in the courses.

Kim and Schniederjans (2004) offer the most compelling evidence for a definitive personality aspect of on-line education. The researchers administered the Personality Characteristics Inventory (PCI) to 140 undergraduate students in "totally web-based education" courses. They ultimately identified the "ideal totally web-based education student" as someone who is compliantly cooperative, considerate, even-tempered, self-confident, a creative thinker, and committed to work. This student also showed leadership, needed to achieve, and had a positive learning orientation. Conversely, research indicates that students who procrastinate may be very ill equipped for success in on-line education. Elvers, Polzella, and Graetz (2003) found that while there was no difference in procrastination tendencies between on-line and lecture students, the on-line students who did procrastinate were likely to perform more poorly than the lecture student procrastinators.

As the aforementioned studies show, there is little consistency in previous findings. Little replication can be found in this particular field. Despite numerous efforts to identify the traits necessary for success in on-line education, the research to this point is inconclusive. Nearly all of the previous studies used at least slightly different methodology and/or variables, making it nearly impossible to compare their findings. Future emphasis in the field should be placed on replicating the findings of previous researchers, to obtain consistent results.

PERSONALITY

Academic success predictors usually consist of cognitive measures, pertaining to mental ability or intelligence, and non-cognitive measures, especially personality traits (Lounsbury and Ridgell 2004). In the late 1980's personality psychologists came to a general consensus that five distinct factors of the Five Factor Model (FFM) could serve as a tool for organizing personality traits (Parkinson and Taggar 2006). A personality trait is defined as a distinguishing, relatively enduring way in which one individual differs from another. Personality trait theory stresses the notion that consistent personality traits underlie habitual behaviors (Levas, Noel, and Michaels 2003). The five tenets of FFM represent basic tendencies, characteristic adaptations, self-concept, objective biography, and external influences. The belief is that they develop during childhood, remain stable through adulthood, and influence patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors (Farley and Sumerson 2007). The elements of the FFM are as follows: Extroverts are assertive, active, sociable, and talkative. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to be reserved, even paced, and independent. Individuals who score high on emotional stability (sometimes called neuroticism) tend to experience effects such as fear, sadness, embossment, disgust, anger, and guilt. Those who score low in this dimension are usually calm, relaxed, and even tempered. Agreeable individuals are sympathetic to others, cooperative, and expect others to be accommodating in return. Disagreeable individuals are egocentric, competitive, and skeptical of other's intentions. Conscientious people are determined, strong-willed, reliable, punctual, and good at consolidation. A low score on this dimension suggests that the individual is spontaneous, less precise in applying moral principles and less directed when working toward goals. High scores on openness to experience mean that the individual is original, has an active imagination, enjoys variety, is attentive to inner feelings, and demonstrates intellectual curiosity. Those who score low on openness to experience tend to act more conventionally and have a more conservative outlook. These factors are often studied in relation to various outcomes, and research has found several Big Five predictors of academic success: agreeableness and conscientiousness (Fritzche, McIntrie and Yost 2002); conscientiousness (Busato, Prins, Elshout and Hamaker 2000; Musgrave-Marquart, Bomley and Dalley 1997; Paunonen and Aston 2001); and openness (Paunonen and Aston 2001). The main purpose of this research was to find, if possible, if there is a concrete difference in the personality frameworks of those who choose to take on-line courses versus traditional courses.

The body of work addressing the role of personality in on-line education is currently very small, and, when considered in combination with other studies of the relationships between personality, computer use, and computer literacy, it is difficult at this point to generate clear predictions about what the influences of personality traits on choice of on-line education might be (Mattes, Nanney and Coussons-Read 2003). Several of the research papers consulted to complete this review of the literature had very different results. In most cases the research from one paper to another seemed quite contradictory. One study found that introverts in particular found the asynchronous "anonymous" environment a comfortable space in which to express their personal opinions. The asynchronous on-line space was more conducive to presenting their voice, which often goes unheard in a face-to-face environment. However, introverts can be overwhelmed when there are too many participants in one group. The same study found that extroverts tend to prefer a face-to-face environment (Russell 2002). Another study of 146 students taking on-line and in-class introductory courses indicated that extroverts, rather than introverts, showed a stronger preference for the ways in which information is presented in on-line courses. The extroverts liked the involvement of the chat rooms, threaded discussion, and e-mail correspondences of the on-line courses. The introverts, by contrast, had little participation in chatting or threaded discussions, though they did participate in e-mail more than any of the other participatory activities (Daughenbaugh, Daughenbaugh, Surry and Islam 2002). A separate study, however, found that academic extroverts think most effectively when interacting with others because they become aware of what they are thinking when they are verbalizing, suggesting that extroverts are better suited to traditional classes. This study also suggested that academic introverts focus their energy on reflection of ideas without the need for interaction with others, alluding to the idea that introverts would be better suited for on-line classes (Lin and Overbaugh 2007). A separate study suggests that more conscientious students may be drawn to on-line classes because of their structure and the way they allow the students to express themselves. The study stated that on-line discussions provide students with the opportunity to analyze a conversation before they post a comment for others to read, thus resulting in a reduced level of anxiety (Mattes, Nanney, and Coussons-Read 2003). Another study supports the premise that more conscientious students might prefer on-line courses because, in the distance-learning environment, learners must be motivated to direct their own learning process, since the teachers and students are physically separated. A high degree of self-discipline, self-organization, and self-planning are essential elements for distance learners (Hsu and Shiue, 2005). An additional study supports the idea that conscientious students might perform better in on-line classes due to the time constraints and need for self-efficacy created by this unique learning environment. In this study Kelly (2003) developed the Time Use Efficiency Scale (TUES) to better study time use efficiency. Kelly reported that higher scores on the scale correlated with less procrastination, a greater sense of purpose in time use, more use of routines and time structure, use of time management behaviors, setting goals and priorities, self-efficacy, less stress, and an internal locus of control. TUES scores strongly, positively correlated with conscientiousness scores (Johnson and Kelly, 2005).

With all of these conflicting results, it makes sense to assume that there might be another cause for why some students opt to take on-line classes rather than traditional classes. The explosion of technology-based education provides a unique opportunity to address the role of personality in adapting to new learning situations. A group of researchers at the University of Colorado wanted to look further into what little research there is about personality and its links to on-line versus on-ground choice of classes. They found that it might not be the link between personality and the method of delivery (on-line versus on-ground classes), but rather a link between personality and the medium in which it is delivered. Their research found that high scores on the personality dimension of introversion are associated with the choice of a computer-programming career, but not with performance (Pocius 1991). Pocius (1991) concluded, "Personality facets not only affect human computer interaction at the task level, but may determine whether individuals will choose to use the computer to accomplish a task." In addition, the introverted personality style correlates positively with computer aptitude and achievement (Pocius 1991). These, and other, study results support the rationale that different types of people are drawn to a computer based environment (MacGregor 2002). Interestingly, studies on the impact of introversion and extroversion in on-line courses have not shown a difference in levels of participation in on-line class discussion between individuals with either personality type (Dewar and Whittington 2000). Literature on the psychological correlates of successful computer assisted instruction (CAI) show that student characteristics such as high overall academic performance and cognitive style are related to high success with CAI (Mattes, Nanney and Coussons-Read 2003).

Several other studies suggest that the link between personality and academic success in online courses or traditional courses may not be as relevant as other factors, such as general intelligence and work drive. A study of 186 subjects showed that the correlations between openness to experience and academic success and conscientiousness and academic success were high, but not as high as the correlation of a high SAT score and academic success (Farley and Sumerson 2007). In a study analyzing the influences of work drive, general intelligence, and the Big Five traits on GPA and course success, researchers found that work drive and general intelligence have much stronger correlations with course success than any of the Big Five personality traits (Lounsbury and Ridgell 2004). In a study consisting of 305 undergraduate business students that examined the relationship between GPA and success and the traits of the FFM and success, researchers found that GPA was a better indicator of a student's potential success. The study focused on conscientiousness (but also examined the other factors) and found that, contrary to the researchers' hypothesis, conscientiousness was negatively correlated with the students who scored on problem identification. Although there were no other expectations for the other traits, some significant relationships were found. Openness to experience was positively correlated with problem identification (Parkinson and Taggar 2006). Because of the contradictory nature of these studies, and the research now available, there is no evidence of a tangible link between personality and preference for, or success in, on-line versus traditional classes.

Studies of learning outcomes for both face-to-face and distance education classes have repeatedly shown that distance education students are not at a disadvantage when it comes to learning (MacGregor 2002). Information about student's personality is important, however, to both the instructor and the student for several reasons. First, completing a task that does not fit the nature of an individual can be stressful. Information about personality can help instructors become more sensitive to the differences that students bring to the classroom, and can assist instructors in working with poorly prepared or new students, since the highest drop-out rates occur with these groups. Second, instructors with an understanding of their students' personalities are better able to adapt their teaching methods appropriately. Third, students who learn about their own personalities become better learners; they achieve higher grades and have more positive attitudes about their studies, display greater self-confidence, and possess more skill in applying their knowledge in courses (Parkinson and Taggar 2006).

QUALITY ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM (QEP) OBJECTIVES

"The Quality Enhancement Plan is a five-year university initiative to improve the quality of student learning. The plan is designed to improve students' critical thinking/real-world problem solving using active learning strategies. The QEP is part of the University's Strategic Plan and a component of the Accreditation Process (Adapted from the University Website). The implementation of QEP emphasizes improvements on creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, and real life problem solving abilities of students at the end of a course.

Towards this end, faculty (researchers) from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), management and marketing disciplines meet together to collaborate. They exchange information on course design and delivery approaches in on-line and on-ground environments, as well as evaluating course achievement of QEP objectives. Even though these disciplines can be viewed as drastically different from course requirements to curriculum, each objective of QEP--namely creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, and real life problem solving--have been incorporated carefully into both on-line and on-ground course designs. As a result, this collaborative work enables the faculty (researchers) to investigate how personality traits of students influence the successful achievement of QEP objectives in both on-line and on-ground delivery environments.

Creativity

In the management courses, creativity is encouraged throughout the semester. Class norms make explicit that "creativity is expected," and the 360-degree survey asks students to assess the "creativity of the products." In the marketing courses, creativity is encouraged on multiple fronts, from discussions and teamwork to presentations. Rather than concentrating on only "previously known solutions" in discussing real life marketing problems, students are encouraged to understand multiple viewpoints not only for critical thinking but also for "creative thinking" (Stein 2006).

In the management courses, creativity is encouraged throughout the semester. Class norms make explicit that "creativity is expected," and the 360-degree survey asks students to assess the "creativity of the products." In the on-ground courses, students present their research through role-playing and enacting cultural rituals associated with business transactions and management practices. This "hot" communication, accompanied by artifacts, food, and traditions from the culture, enhances the perception of creativity and student engagement. While the asynchronous on-line classes are devoid of "hot" communication, students are challenged to present their research using methods beyond the conventional tools offered by Desire to Learn (chat, e-mail, and discussion threads). For example, teams create game show formats and award prizes to winning members.

In the marketing courses, creativity is encouraged on multiple fronts, from discussions and teamwork to presentations. Rather than concentrating on only "previously known solutions" in discussing real life marketing problems, students are encouraged to understand multiple viewpoints not only for critical thinking but also for "creative thinking" (Stein 2006).

In the STEM courses creativity is encouraged through hands-on term projects. Student groups are formed in the middle of the semester; their task is to work on a solution to an industrial problem. The solutions are simulated and prototyped. In an on-ground course the final product is demonstrated to the entire class through oral presentations. On-ground students use almost all available labs, from the welding lab to the foundry. In an on-line course, the solution is presented via a PowerPoint presentation in Desire to Learn. On-line student teams extensively use the remote rapid prototyping laboratory for their part production in on-line CAD for Technology and Rapid Prototyping courses.

Teamwork

In the management courses, teamwork is essential. Thirty-five to forty-five percent of each student's final grade is based on a 3600-degree assessment of a team product. Each team presents its work during one week in which it "takes over and teaches" the course. These "weeks of team management" become competitive, with teams attempting to surpass prior team presentations.

In the marketing courses, teamwork provides many opportunities to students to engage in active learning efforts that make up 35 to 50 percent of their final grade. Students in marketing classes participate in two to three teamwork activities a week; these include in-class applications, team presentations, and team projects. Every student has an opportunity to evaluate and rate their teammates' overall performance during the semester, as well as students on competing teams that presented projects.

In both on-ground and on-line STEM courses, teamwork is an essential component. A comprehensive term project is required for both on-line and on-ground STEM courses. Teams are formed in the middle of the semester, and project topics are identified; team sessions are scheduled in every class. Teams report their findings and accomplishments every two weeks. Team members report their timelines, task to-do lists, document the mechanisms they use for communication, the amount of time they spend in each meeting, and their findings/accomplishments. In an on-ground course, the project time and documented work are presented during the last class of the semester. In an on-line course student teams present their work in a PowerPoint file.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking in management courses challenges the teams to solve business related problems in real time, current situations. The on-line delivery of cases enhances this QEP objective; introverted students have more time to think, process the information, and respond via discussion threads. Often in on-ground courses, extroverted students dominate the conversation and solutions. In marketing courses, team members in class applications and individuals in interactive class discussions approach unique cases from the marketing world from different viewpoints that represent multiple stakeholders in the same context. Sometimes team members act as managers of a local company; other times they act as consumers or consumer advocates. To enhance critical thinking, students are encouraged to use different players in the marketing network such as suppliers, distributors, and competitors.

In STEM courses, students participate in and converse about frequent discussion board postings/topics related to course learning objectives. Students also complete various homework assignments related to material and process selection, design changes, and cost estimations. "What-if" scenarios help students grasp the challenges in the variations of design, process, and final product. In final semester projects, student teams report their practices, approaches, and solutions.

Real Life Problem Solving

Management assignments focus on assessment of "real life business problems" through the use of assessing a company, culture, case, and country. Focus is on application and knowledge of managing global business practices and the environment, knowledge of the influences of national culture on the internal arrangements of a company, and the influence of internal arrangements on the strategy of a company. In addition, emphasis is placed on applying International Human Resource Management issues in making the company strategy work under cross-cultural negotiations and communication. Students receive experience in interviewing and interacting with people from other countries and cultures. After secondary and primary research, teams present their work in an on-line or on-ground week of management or one-hour presentation; their directive is to "bring to life" their findings in an interactive, engaging manner.

In marketing classes (such as marketing research), students act as market researchers and investigate a real-life marketing problem provided by a local company. The students then design research to solve the managerial problem, collect both qualitative and quantitative data, and recommend a course of action for the company. In junior level marketing courses, students actively learn, interpret, and discuss the many facets of current marketing issues.

In the STEM courses, problems faced in the manufacturing, automation and design industries were the core subject student teams. After consulting with the course instructor, the teams select one final problem as the topic for the final course project. Based on the cost, size, quality, and resource constraints, a final product is developed as a prototype or real piece. Product implementation is presented as either simulation or real/mock-up product. If there is no cost constraint, students usually come up with an actual final product. This same procedure is followed in both on-line and on-ground CAD for Technology and Rapid Prototyping courses.

The information exchange among researchers indicated that they used extensively the tools offered by the Desire to Learn (D2L) program to implement QEP objectives. An investigation of all offered courses by researchers revealed that courses could be classified as fully on-line if there was no opportunity for face-to-face interaction among students and faculty. If students and faculty did communicate face-to-face, but they used D2L for further virtual interaction, the course could be classified as on-ground with on-line elements. If the course was taught without using D2L for any interaction or objective, it was classified as fully on-ground. However, whether and how QEP objectives were implanted in any course, as designed by the faculty, was independent of the delivery system.

METHODOLOGY

Data for this research was collected in undergraduate management, marketing, and STEM courses offered by a southern university during Summer-2007 to Fall-2008 semesters. This research is an outcome of a multidisciplinary, collaborative effort of instructors teaching on-line, on-ground courses and using the Desire-to-Learn (D2L) program to facilitate teaching efforts. At the end of each semester, instructors invited students to take an anonymous survey about the course for extra credit. Students from 21 courses were approached for this purpose. The survey was completed by 355 undergraduate students. The data can be divided by students of completely on-line courses (n= 65), students of completely on-ground courses (n=37), and students of on-ground courses with online elements (extensive use of D2L software including on-line exams, team and class discussion boards, on-line access to course slides and grades, etc. n=254).

Measurement items have acceptable scale validity and reliabilities. Principle Component Analysis and Quartimax rotation were used to investigate convergent and divergent validities of the personality scales. Factor loadings for need for cognition, self-sufficiency, and the five factor model of personality (extraversion, neuroticism, open to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness) indicate that measurement items load into proposed measures and therefore provide evidence about the existence of validity. Cronbach's alpha values for each measure ranged between 0.531 and 0.790, indicating sufficient reliability.

FINDINGS

The first step in the analysis of results was to evaluate the degree of achievement towards QEP objectives. Students from 21 courses were asked their perceived development of real life problem solving, teamwork, creativity, and critical thinking skills at the end of each course and using a 5-point Likert scale. The means values for each objective for the total sample were considerably high, (real life problem solving = 4.12, team work = 4.15, creativity = 3.85, and critical thinking= 3.96) indicating successful QEP implementation.

However, comparison of means of the four QEP objectives on three delivery methods revealed some significant differences (Table 1-A, B, C). Teamwork is an important differentiating factor that is statistically significant at 0.05 level not only for comparing fully on-line courses with fully on-ground courses, but also for comparing fully on-ground courses with on-ground courses with on-line elements. Specifically, fully on-line courses have a higher means on teamwork component than fully on-ground courses; likewise do on-ground courses with on-line elements than fully on-ground courses. Another QEP objective, creativity, is also statistically significant at 0.10 level, where fully on-line courses have slightly higher mean value than on-ground courses with online elements.

The second step of analysis was the comparison of personality trait difference among the students. For this purpose, personality characteristics of students of fully on-line courses, students of fully on-ground courses, and students of on-ground courses with on-line elements were compared and contrasted.

In terms of need for cognition, students in fully on-ground courses prefer to think about small, daily projects to long-term ones. They also prefer to do something that requires little thought than something that is sure to challenge their thinking abilities. Students in both fully on-line courses and students in on-ground courses with on-line elements seem to enjoy challenges to their thinking. Moreover, it seems that students in fully on-ground courses feel relief rather than satisfaction after completing a task that required a lot of mental effort. On the contrary, students in fully on-line courses seem to find that learning new ways to think is more exciting than students in fully on-ground courses. Students in both fully on-line courses and students in on-ground courses with online elements share a similar level of excitement about thinking (Table 2).

The self-sufficiency concept reveals interesting findings. Students in on-ground courses with on-line elements say more often that they like to take responsibility for making decisions, and are more capable than other people, than do students in fully on-line courses. Similarly, students in fully on-ground courses, compared to students in fully on-line courses, seem to feel that they can live their lives in any way they want to (Table 3). These self-perceptions of students attending on-ground courses with on-line elements or fully on-ground courses seem to need a reality check. Based on the findings from Table 1, students in fully on-line courses seem to develop their teamwork abilities better than those in fully on-ground courses. This may be an indicator of a gap between perception and implementation. Students in on-ground courses with on-line elements have a higher mean on teamwork than those in fully on-line courses, though this difference is statistically insignificant. That may mean students in on-ground courses with on-line elements may be able to combine all positive aspects of face-to-face and virtual teamwork interactions to generate a higher level of performance.

In terms of FFM, students of fully on-line courses score significantly lower than the students of two other course delivery methods in introversion (Table 4). They also have higher emotional stability scores. Fully on-ground course students have the highest level of neurotic tendencies. Agreeableness was another important element of FFM that showed significant differences among three groups of students. Students of fully on-line courses were found to be the least agreeable group, while students of fully on-ground courses were the most agreeable. Conscientiousness and openness to experience scales did not show meaningful differences among the three groups of students.

The final step of analysis was to look at correlates of personality traits, types of courses, and four objectives of QEP (Tables 5). Among students of fully on-line courses, agreeableness was the most important correlate of development in real life problem solving, teamwork, and creativity skills. Openness to new experiences was the most important correlate of critical thinking skill development. Need for cognition was very important for this group of students and significantly associated with development of real life problem solving, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Developing higher level of teamwork skill related to higher levels of self-sufficiency and extraversion characteristics of students besides agreeableness.

Correlates of personality and achievement of QEP objectives were found to be drastically different for students of fully on-ground courses. The driving strong and significant associations were found between extroversion and teamwork as well as extroversion and creativity among the students of fully on-ground courses. Conscientiousness highly correlated with real life problem solving. Need for cognition (in the form of preference for small daily projects to long-term ones) highly and negatively correlate with the development of critical thinking abilities for this group. At a secondary level, correlates of team work, real life problem solving and creativity provided interesting insights about this group. Teamwork correlated with self-sufficiency, and agreeableness. Real life problem solving was related to agreeableness. Finally, creativity associated with openness to new experiences.

Finally, the most important correlate of achievement of all four objectives of QEP for students of on-ground courses with on-line elements was agreeableness. The need for cognition was the secondary important association of real-life problem solving and critical thinking skills developments. Self-sufficiency, on the other hand, linked to developments of real-life problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking skills. Unlike the other two groups, openness to new experiences was related to teamwork and extroversion to creativity for this group.

CONCLUSION AND FUTURE RESEARCH

Thanks to design elements of on-line courses, students realized statistically significantly higher levels of improvement in the development of their team work skills. Apparently on-line delivery medium when combined with carefully designed course elements to fully utilize available tools such as discussion boards and chat rooms enhanced student-to-student interactions. Considering the fact that on-line students had introvert tendencies, these courses encouraged them to get out of their comfort zones.

Furthermore, students of fully on-line courses perceived a higher level of improvement on their creativity skills compared to students of on-ground courses with on-line elements. This perception might stem from the personality differences between these two groups of students. Course designs were almost similar in both groups except face to face interactions among fellow students and instructor. The correlations of creativity and personality traits of students of both groups revealed that the driving force behind creativity for on-line students come from agreeableness and need for cognition. On the contrary, the driving forces among students of on-ground courses with on-line elements were extraversion and agreeableness.

This research provided more evidence to personality differences among fully on-line and on-ground courses students. In line with the existing literature (Kim and Schniederjans, 2004), on-ground course students were more extrovert and agreeable than on-line course students. Moreover, they were less emotionally stable and less need for cognition. However, on-ground course students considered themselves more self-sufficient. Although these findings seemed contradictory in nature, they explained higher levels of motivation among on-ground course students in Qureshi and Antosz's research (2002).

It is curious, and warrants further research, that students in fully on-ground courses feel relief upon project completion, while students in fully on-line courses find that learning new ways to think is more exciting than students in fully on-ground courses. In addition, students in both fully on-line courses and students in on-ground courses with on-line elements share a similar level of excitement about thinking.

The findings of this study, on the other hand, deviated from literature in terms of conscientiousness factor of FFM. Conscientiousness did not appear to be a differentiating factor of students' personalities in all three course delivery methods. Furthermore, it did not appear to be a significant correlate of QEP objectives. The only significant correlation was found to be real life problem solving for fully on-ground course students.

Educational goals of QEP in terms of improving students' skills in real life problem solving, team work, creativity and critical thinking cannot fully be achieved without taking students' personalities as well as course delivery mediums into consideration. For example, neurotic tendencies of students in on-ground courses with on line elements would have detrimental effects of the development of real life problem solving and creativity skill developments. While need for cognition and agreeableness were important for creativity skill development for students of fully online courses, it was openness to experiences and extraversion for students of fully on-ground courses that drove the creativity development. Understanding these personality traits will help educators fine-tune their course designs and delivery methods based on their students' needs.

While instructional design may be the key process, what is it in the media and delivery system on-line that generates enhanced excitement about thinking? Do the media enhance interactions and generate a higher level of performance and critical thinking? This analytical study represents the in-depth research results of the university QEP core objectives collected from Management, Marketing, Math, and Engineering courses. Continuous improvement actions on QEP objectives--especially in teamwork and corrective actions taken in four different majors--will be reported in the future.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This research was made possible by the Tennessee Tech University--Collaborative Research Award provided by the Office of Research, Quality Enhancement Plan Grant, College of Business, Distance MBA Program, Department of Mathematics, Center for Energy Systems Research, and School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Extended Education.

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M. Meral Anitsal, Tennessee Tech University

Ismet Anitsal, Tennessee Tech University

Bonita Barger, Tennessee Tech University

Ismail Fidan, Tennessee Tech University

Michael R. Allen, Tennessee Tech University
Table 1: Comparison of Means on Qep Objectives
For Undergraduate Courses

TABLE 1-A                   (a) Fully    (b) Fully
                             On-Line     On-Ground
                             Courses      Courses
                              (n=64)       (n=37)

Real Life Problem Solving      4.14         4.11
Teamwork                       4.08#        3.76#
Creativity                     4.02         3.86
Critical Thinking              3.91         3.95

TABLE 1-B                   (b) Fully     (c) On-
                            On-Ground      Ground
                             Courses      Courses
                              (n=37)      with On-
                                            Line
                                          Elements
                                          (n=254)

Real Life Problem Solving      4.11         4.10
Teamwork                       3.76#        4.21#
Creativity                     3.86         3.80
Critical Thinking              3.95         3.97

TABLE 1-C                    (c) On-     (a) Fully
                              Ground      On-Line
                             Courses      Courses
                             with On-      (n=64)
                               Line
                             Elements
                             (n=254)

Real Life Problem Solving      4.10         4.14
Teamwork                       4.21         4.08
Creativity                     3.80~        4.02~
Critical Thinking              3.97         3.91

Note: Bold = Significant at [alpha] = 0.05 are indicated with #.

Note: Italic = Significant at [alpha] = 0.10 are indicated with ~.

5 Point Likert Scale; 1 = Strongly Disagree; 5 = Strongly Agree

Bold = Significant at [alpha] = 0.05; Italic = Significant at
[alpha] = 0.10

Table 2: Need for Cognition

Items          Significance   (a) Fully    (b) Fully     (c) On-
                               On-Line     On-Ground      Ground
                                Course       Course      Courses
                                Means        Means         with
                              ([n.sub.1]   ([n.sub.1]     OnLine
                                = 64)        = 37)       Elements
                                                          Means
                                                        ([n.sub.3]
                                                          = 254)

Thinking          -/-/-          2.25         2.59         2.33
is not my
idea of
fun.

I would         ab#/-/bc#        2.11         2.62         2.14
rather do
something
that
requires
little
thought
than
something
that is
sure to
challenge
my
thinking
abilities.

I prefer        ab#/-/bc#        2.94         3.35         2.87
to think
about
small,
daily
projects
to
long-term
ones.

Learning         ab/-/bc#        2.16         2.51         2.11
new ways
to think
doesn't
excite me
very much.

I feel           ab/-/-          2.60         3.03         2.72
relief
rather
than
satisfaction
after
completing
a task
that
required a
lot of
mental
effort.

Note: Bold = Significant at [alpha] = 0.05 are indicated with #.

Note: Italic = Significant at [alpha] = 0.10 are indicated with ~.

5 Point Likert Scale; 1= Strongly Disagree; 5= Strongly Agree

Bold = Significant at [alpha] = 0.05; Italic = Significant at
[alpha] = 0.10

Table 3: Self-Sufficiency

Items             Significance      (a)          (b)        (c) On-
                                 Fully On-    Fully On-      Ground
                                    Line        Ground      Courses
                                   Course       Course      with On-
                                   Means        Means         Line
                                 ([n.sub.1]   ([n.sub.2]    Elements
                                   = 64)        = 37)        Means
                                                           ([n.sub.3]
                                                             = 254)

I rarely depend      -/-/-          3.54         3.81         3.70
on anyone else
to get things
done.

I like to take      ab/ac#/-        3.98         4.27         4.22
responsibility
for making
decisions.

I am more            -/ac#/-        3.56         3.73         3.80
capable than
other people.

I can live my       ab/-/-          3.73         4.11         3.89
life in any way
I want to.

I always know       -/-/-           3.28         3.19         3.30
what I am
doing.

Note: Bold = Significant at [alpha] = 0.05 are indicated with #.

Note: Italic = Significant at [alpha] = 0.10 are indicated with ~

5 Point Likert Scale; 1= Strongly Disagree; 5= Strongly Agree

Bold = Significant at [alpha] = 0.05; Italic = Significant at
[alpha] = 0.10

Table 4: The Five Factor Model of Personality

  Items        Significance      (a)          (b)          (c)

                              Fully On-    Fully On-    On-Ground
                                 Line        Ground      Courses
                                Course       Course      with On-
                                Means        Means         Line
                              ([n.sub.1]   ([n.sub.2]    Elements
                                 =64)         =37)        Means
                                                        ([n.sub.3]
                                                          =254)

Extraversion

  I like to      ab#/ac#/-       3.31         3.70         3.59
  have a lot
  around me.

  I really        -/-/-          3.47         3.81         3.59
  enjoy
  talking to
  people
  even
  complete
  strangers.
  of people

  I would         -/-/-          3.78         3.83         3.94
  rather be
  a leader
  of others.

Neuroticism

  I am not a     ab#/ac#/bc#     3.14         2.11         2.78
  worrier.

  I am            -/-/-          3.63         3.35         3.45
  seldom sad
  or
  depressed.

  At times I     ab#/-/bc#       2.27         3.05         2.31
  have been
  so ashamed
  I just
  wanted to
  hide.

Open to Experience

  I often         -/-/-          3.30         3.68         3.52
  try new
  and
  foreign
  foods.

  I often         -/-/bc~        3.33         3.11         3.45
  enjoy
  playing
  with
  theories
  or
  abstract
  ideas.

  I am            -/-/-          3.59         3.46         3.54
  intrigued
  by the
  patterns
  I find in
  art and
  nature

Agreeableness
  I try to       ab#/ac#/-       4.14         4.65         4.51
  be
  courteous
  to
  everyone I
  met.

  I would        ab#/-/bc#       3.67         4.46         3.73
  rather
  cooperate
  with
  others
  than
  compete
  with them.

  I don't        ab#/-/bc#       3.95         4.43         4.10
  like to
  get into
  arguments
  with my
  family,
  friends
  and co-
  workers.

Conscientiousness

  I am not a     ab/-/bc#        2.81         3.14         2.74
  very
  methodical
  person.

  I never         -/-/-          2.39         2.38         2.28
  seem to be
  able to
  get
  organized.

  I find it       -/-/-          2.33         2.30         2.14
  hard to
  keep my
  belongings
  clean and
  neat.

  I waste a       -/-/-          2.94         3.32         3.10
  lot of
  time
  before
  settling
  down to
  work.

Note: Bold = Significant at [alpha] = 0.05 are indicated with #.

Note: Italic = Significant at [alpha] = 0.10 are indicated with ~.

5 Point Likert Scale; 1= Strongly Disagree; 5= Strongly Agree
Bold = Significant at [alpha] = 0.05;
Italic = Significant at [alpha] = 0.10

Table 5: Pearson Correlations for Qep Objectives by Personality
Traits for Three Course Delivery Methods

Personality         Type of Course    Real Life    Teamwork
Traits                                 Problem
                                       Solving

Need for            Fully on-Line       0.304       0.271
Cognition           Fully on-ground      n.a         n.a
(reverse            On-ground w/        0.216        n.a.
coded)                On-Line E1.

Self-               Fully on-Line        n.a        0.323
Sufficiency         Fully on-ground      n.a.       0.352
                    On-ground w/        0.203       0.171
                      On-Line E1.

Extraversion        Fully on-Line        n.a.       0.298
                    Fully on-ground      n.a.       0.396
                    On-ground w/        0.163        n.a.
                      On-Line E1.
Neuroticism         Fully on-Line        n.a.       0.266
                    Fully on-ground      n.a.        n.a.
                    On-ground w/        -0.135       n.a
                      On-Line E1.

Openness to         Fully on-Line       0.266        0.28
Experiences         Fully on-ground      n.a.        n.a.
                    On-ground w/        0.134       0.185
                      On-Line E1.

Agreeableness       Fully on-Line       0.394       0.457
                    Fully on-ground     0.343       0.349
                    On-ground w/        0.309       0.354
                      On-Line E1.
Conscientiousness   Fully on-Line        n.a.        n.a.
                    Fully on-ground     0.375        n.a.
                    On-ground w/         n.a.       0.125
                      On-Line E1.

Personality         Type of Course    Creativity   Critical
Traits                                             Thinking

Need for            Fully on-Line       0.392       0.525
Cognition           Fully on-ground      n.a        0.455
(reverse            On-ground w/        0.135       0.149
coded)                On-Line E1.

Self-               Fully on-Line        n.a.       0.288
Sufficiency         Fully on-ground     0.348        n.a.
                    On-ground w/        0.170       0.123
                      On-Line E1.

Extraversion        Fully on-Line       0.252       0.390
                    Fully on-ground     0.497        n.a.
                    On-ground w/        0.229        n.a.
                      On-Line E1.
Neuroticism         Fully on-Line        n.a.        n.a.
                    Fully on-ground      n.a.        n.a.
                    On-ground w/        -0.182       n.a.
                      On-Line E1.

Openness to         Fully on-Line        n.a.        0.57
Experiences         Fully on-ground     0.466        n.a.
                    On-ground w/         n.a.        n.a.
                      On-Line E1.

Agreeableness       Fully on-Line       0.403       0.449
                    Fully on-ground      n.a.        n.a.
                    On-ground w/        0.288       0.231
                      On-Line E1.
Conscientiousness   Fully on-Line        n.a.        n.a.
                    Fully on-ground      n.a.        n.a.
                    On-ground w/         n.a.        n.a.
                      On-Line E1.

a) Fully On-line (n=64), (b) Fully On-ground (n=37), (c) On-ground
with On-line Elements (n=254) 5 Point Likert Scale; 1 = Strongly
Disagree; 5 = Strongly Agree; All figures are significant at [alpha]
= 0.05 n.a. = no significant correlation
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