Effectiveness of Web-Based Virtual Learning Environments in Business Education: Focusing on Basic Skills Training for Information Technology.
Calls for transforming the learning industries and revolutionizing business education are being answered by a proliferation of virtual learning environments, capitalizing on ever-growing and universal Internet-related technologies. This dissertation describes research investigating the effectiveness of web-based virtual environments by comparing traditional and information technology enhanced learning environments. A conceptual framework is proposed contrasting the effectiveness of these two environments across two learning models---the objectivist and the constructivist. Although technology may serve as a moderator that enhances the implementation of certain features of a learning model, there is a consensus that the learning model---not the technology---is the primary cause of learning. Theory predicts that higher levels of "learner control" will lead to more effective learning. Control and flexibility, among other advantages offered to the learner in virtual environments, lead us to propose that such environments are more effective than traditional environments regardless of the learning model employed. Furthermore, it is proposed that virtual environments are even more effective with the constructivist model, because of the better match between the characteristics of the virtual environments and the assumptions of the constructivist model, as compared to the objectivist model. The effectiveness of the learning environment is measured in terms of self-efficacy, performance and satisfaction. A field experiment was set up to test the components of the proposed research model with 192 business undergraduate students in an introductory Information Technology course. In this research, several hypotheses comparing students' performance, satisfaction and self-efficacy in both traditional and virtual learning environments were evaluated. The results of hypotheses testing indicated that subjects in the virtual environment have reported higher levels of self-efficacy in both learning models. However, there was no statistically significant difference in performance between the two environments. Another interesting result was that subjects in the virtual environment, despite showing higher levels of self-efficacy, were less satisfied with the learning environment. The findings of this study may improve our understanding of the implications when virtual environments are implemented. As we prepare to enter the third millennium, web-based virtual learning environments present great and exciting opportunities for both academia and business communities.