Objective Evaluation in an Online Geographic Information System Certificate Program


Departmental decisions regarding distance education programs can be subject to subjective decision-making processes influenced by external factors such as strong faculty opinions or pressure to increase student enrolment. This paper outlines an evaluation of a departmental distance-education program. The evaluation utilized several methods that strived to inject objectivity in evaluation and subsequent decision-making. A rapid multi-modal approach included evaluation methods of (1) considering the online psychosocial learning environment, (2) content analyses comparing the online version of classes to face-to-face versions, (3) cost comparisons in online vs. face-to-face classes, (4) student outcomes, (5) student retention, and (6) benchmarking. These approaches offer opportunities for departmental administrators and decision-making committees to make judgments informed by facts rather than being influenced by the emotions, beliefs, or opinions of organizational dynamics.

KEYWORDS: Evaluation, Distance Education, Certificate Program, Geography