Learning Outcomes in Online and Distance Learning: A Study of Learners’ Experience

Soon Seng Thah and Latifah Abdol Latif
Open University Malaysia
Penang, Malaysia

Online and distance learning (ODL) institutions have often been seen as possessing an innovative and technology-driven delivery approach in teaching and learning practices. The key lies in the online delivery of instruction for working learners. Online delivery requires e-tutoring and the use of teaching and learning materials to facilitate instruction across diverse groups of learners in a ubiquitous learning environment. This study focuses on Open University Malaysia’s (OUM) approach in leveraging online learning for its stakeholders. The research attempts to confirm factors which affect the learning outcomes in ODL. The study was conducted via a Web survey on 397 learners enrolled at OUM from 2012 to 2015, with the sample consisting of learners aged between 18 and 64. The measurement of learning outcomes was determined using a 5-point Likert rating scale questionnaire. Three key constructs emerged from factor analysis, viz. (1) teaching and materials; (2) e-tutoring; and (3) learners’ experience. These three factors were then confirmed using structural equation modelling (SEM) techniques to determine model fit. The results showed a good fit of the hypothesized model with the structure of the data. As ODL institutions enrol learners from various demographic groups, this study attempts to look at whether demographic differences – such as gender, age, experience in online learning, the learners’ CGPA results and the time spent on online learning – have a significant bearing on the learning outcomes. An interesting finding was that the time learners spend in logging-in to the online sessions had a significant effect on the learning outcomes. The study concludes that the more time expended in logging-in online, the better the outcomes in teaching and the use of the materials, e-tutoring and learners’ experiences. Based on the empirical evidence of the study, it is proposed that the ODL programme in OUM is an effective delivery system for working learners, leading to good learning outcomes. ODL can guide such learners to acquire the desired knowledge and the skills needed to excel in academic pursuits.