Online vs classroom instruction: student satisfaction and learning outcomes in an undergraduate Allied Health pharmacology course

J Allied Health. Summer 2009;38(2):e36-42.


Online instruction is frequently utilized in allied health education yet only a small number of controlled comparative studies specifically in healthcare education have been published.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare student satisfaction and objective learning outcomes of an undergraduate allied health online pharmacology course using streaming media lectures to traditional classroom instruction.

Methods: The online (n=47) and classroom (n=177) courses for fall 2005 and spring 2006 used the same instructor, notes, text, learning objectives, and exams. Student characteristics, learning style preferences, and aptitude for distance learning were measured. A statistically reliable, valid survey measured student satisfaction with elements of the course, instructor, and self-perceived knowledge gains. Learning outcomes were evaluated using withdrawal rates and exam scores.

Results: Mean satisfaction scores for both courses were high, generally >4.0/5.0. Mean scores from the classroom students were significantly higher than online students regarding students' ability to share ideas, instructor's ability to establish rapport, self-perceived knowledge gains, fundamental principles and application of material, and overall excellence of course. There were no significant differences in objective exam scores or withdrawal rates.

Conclusion: The online and classroom pharmacology courses had similar withdrawal rates and exam scores, indicating similar learning gains. Overall, both courses had high student satisfaction ratings in all 43 criteria measured. However, students in the online course were less satisfied with 8 criteria related to student satisfaction with instructor rapport, course excellence, peer interaction, and self-perceived knowledge gains.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Allied Health Personnel / education*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Curriculum
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Pharmacology / education*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Teaching / methods*
  • Young Adult