A Comparison of Learning Outcomes for Adult Students in On-Site and Online Service-Learning

May 21, 2017

As noted by Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory, adults learn best through experiences.  Typically delivered in a traditional, face-to-face classroom setting, service-learning integrates the knowledge learned in the classroom with real-world experience and community service.  E-service-learning, service-learning delivered in part or entirely online, is uniquely positioned to provide adult students in online programs with access to service-learning opportunities that might not be as available to them in traditional settings.  Although e-service-learning can increase access to service-learning opportunities for adult students in online programs, it is unclear if there are differences in experiences and learning outcomes attainment for students who participate in online service compared to those who participate in service on-site.  This study utilized a cross-sectional, concurrent, mixed-methods design to examine the experiences of adult students (n=112) who participated in either on-site or online service.  Of the six learning outcome measures examined, a one-way ANOVA revealed a statistically significant difference in learning outcome attainment in civic responsibility.  Students who participated in on-site service reported higher learning outcome attainment in civic responsibility than did their online peers.  An analysis of the qualitative data showed that students in online and on-site service shared similar experiences.  The quantitative and qualitative data established that participants in this study had similar service experiences regardless of online or on-site delivery.

Online journal of Distance Learning Administration