Skip to main content

Development and Validation of an Instrument for Assessing Distance Education Learning Environments in Higher Education: The Distance Education Learning Environments Survey (DELES)

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to develop and validate a new learning environments instrument designed to aid investigators and practitioners in measuring and researching the psychosocial learning environment in post-secondary distance education. Using a three-stage approach, the Distance Education Learning Environments Survey (DELES) was developed, field-tested with 680 distance education students, and then validated. The DELES has 34 items allocated to six scales: (1) Instructor Support; (2) Student Interaction and Collaboration; (3) Personal Relevance; (4) Authentic Learning; (5) Active Learning; and (6) Student Autonomy. An additional scale of Enjoyment was included in this study to explore associations between the psychosocial learning environment and student affective traits. Each learning environment item had a factor loading of at least 0.50 with its own scale, and less than 0.50 with all other scales. The alpha reliability coefficient for each scale ranged from 0.75 to 0.94. Simple correlations between Enjoyment and the DELES scales ranged from 0.12 to 0.31, with the scale of Personal Relevance having the strongest correlation with Enjoyment when all other scales were mutually controlled. The DELES, an online instrument that can be utilized by students at any location, eliminates data transfer errors and does not allow for non-responses, adding to the overall validity of the instrument. The development of DELES relied extensively on literature pertaining to high-quality distance education and expert content validation techniques. It treats distance learning as having a distinct social-psychological climate unlike those found in other post-secondary classroom environments.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Aldridge, J. M., Dorman, J. P., & Fraser, B. J. (2004). Use of multitrait-multimethod modelling to validate actual and preferred forms of the Technology-Rich Outcomes-Focused Learning Environment Inventory (TROFLEI). Australian Journal of Educational and Development Psychology, 4, 110–125.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anderson, G. J., & Walberg, H. J. (1974). Learning environments. In H. J. Walberg (Ed.), Evaluating educational performance: A sourcebook of methods, instruments and examples (pp. 81–98). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boling, N. C., & Robinson, D. H. (1999). Individual study, interactive multimedia, or cooperative learning: Which best supplements lecture-based distance education? Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 169–174.

    Google Scholar 

  • Butler, S. M. (2001, May). Creating a constructivist on-line learning environment. Paper presented at the Sixth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference, Kapi'olani Community College and University of Hawaii. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/tcon01/papers/butler.html

  • Chang, V., & Fisher, D. L. (2001a). A new learning instrument to evaluate online learning in higher education. In M. Kulske & A. Herrmann (Eds.), New horizons in university teaching and learning (pp. 23–34). Perth, Australia: Curtin University of Technology.

  • Chickering, A. W., & Ehrmann, S. C. (1996, October). Implementing the seven principles: Technology as the lever. American Association for Higher Education Bulletin. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://www.aahebulletin.com/public/archive/ehrmann.asp

  • Cookson, P. S. (2002). Editorial: Online postgraduate education: Some reflections. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://www.irrodl.org/content/v3.2/editorial.html

  • Diaz, D. P. (2000, March/April). Carving a new path for distance education research. The Technology Source. Retrieved September 30, 2004, from http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=648

  • Diaz, D. P., & Cartnal, R. B. (1999). Students' learning styles in two classes: Online distance learning and equivalent on-campus. College Teaching, 47, 130–135.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dorman, J. P. (2003). Cross-national validation of the What Is Happening In This Class? (WIHIC) questionnaire using confirmatory factor analysis. Learning Environments Research, 6, 231–245.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fahy, P. J. (2003). Indicators of support in online interaction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 4. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://www.irrodl.org/content/v4.1/fahy.html

  • Fish, M. C., & Dane, E. (2000). The classroom systems observation scale: Development of an instrument to assess classrooms using a systems perspective. Learning Environments Research, 3, 67–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, B. J. (1981). Test of science-related attitudes. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, B. J. (1986). Classroom environment. London: Croom Helm.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, B. J. (1997). Classroom environments. In H. J. Walberg & G. D. Haertel (Eds.), Psychology and educational practice (pp. 323–341). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, B. J. (1998a). Classroom environment instruments: Development, validity and applications. Learning Environments Research, 1, 7–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, B. J. (1998b). Science learning environments: Assessment, effects and determinants. In B. J. Fraser & K. G. Tobin (Eds.), International handbook of science education (pp. 527–564). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, B. J. (2002a). Learning environments research: Yesterday, today and tomorrow. In S. C. Goh & M. S. Khine (Eds.), Studies in educational learning environments: An international perspective (pp. 1–25). River Edge, NJ: World Scientific.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, B. J. (2002b). Preface. In S. C. Goh & M. S. Khine (Eds.), Studies in educational learning environments: An international perspective (pp. vii–viii). River Edge, NJ: World Scientific.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fraser, B. J., Giddings, G. J., & McRobbie, C. J. (1992). Assessing the climate of science laboratory classes (What Research Says, No. 8). Perth, Australia: Curtin University of Technology.

  • Fraser, B., & McRobbie, C. (1995). Science laboratory classroom environments at schools and universities: A cross-national study. Educational Research and Evaluation, 1, 289–317.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frederick, J., Cannon, M. M., Umble, K. E., Steckler, A., & Shay, S. (2001). “We're living what we're learning”: Student perspectives in distance learning degree and certification programs in public health. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 7, 49–60.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garson, G. D. (2004). Factor analysis. In StatNotes: An online textbook (main topics). Retrieved December 4, 2004, from http://www2.chass.ncsu.edu/garson/pa765/statnote.htm

  • George, D., & Mallery, P. (2001). SPSS for Windows step by step: A simple guide and reference 10.0 update (3rd ed.). Toronto, Canada: Allyn and Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gilbert, S. W. (2004). If it ain't broke, improve it: Thoughts on engaging education for us all. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(1). Retrieved September 30, 2004, from http://www.sloan-c.org/publications/jaln/v8n1/v8n1_gilbert.asp

  • Goh, S. C., & Khine, M. S. (Eds.). (2002). Studies in educational learning environments: An international perspective. River Edge, NJ: World Scientific.

    Google Scholar 

  • Golbeck, S. L., & Sinagra, K. (2000). Effects of gender and collaboration on college students' performance on a Piagetian spatial task. The Journal of Experimental Education, 69, 22+.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graves, W. H. (2004). Academic redesign: Accomplishing more with less. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(1). Retrieved September 30, 2004, from http://www.sloan-c.org/publications/jaln/v8n1/v8n1_graves.asp

  • Gururajan, V. (2002). Knowledge management a new game in higher education: A discussion paper on the new trends of technology influencing the higher education landscape. In Focusing on the student. Proceedings, 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5–6 February 2002. Perth, Australia: Edith Cowan University. Abstract retrieved December 3, 2004, from http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/abstracts/gururajan-abs.html

  • Harnar, M. A., Brown, S. W., & Mayall, H. J. (2000). Measuring the effects of distance education on the learning experience: Teaching accounting via PictureTel. International Journal of Instructional Media, 27, 37–49.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harnish, D., & Reeves, P. (2000). Issues in the evaluation of large-scale two-way interactive distance learning systems. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 6, 267–281.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hartley, R. (2000). On-line collaborative learning environments. Educational Technology & Society, 3(3). Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/vol_3_2000/hartley.html

  • Hase, H. D., & Goldberg, L. R. (1967). Comparative validity of different strategies of constructing personality inventory scales. Psychological Bulletin, 67, 231–248.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ho, C. P., & Tabata, L. N. (2001, May). Strategies for designing online courses to engage student learning. Paper presented at Sixth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference, Kapi'olani Community College & University of Hawaii. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/tcon01/papers/ho.html

  • Howland, J. L., & Moore, J. L. (2002). Student perceptions as distance learners in Internet-based courses. Distance Education, 23, 183–195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). (1999). What's the difference? A review of contemporary research on the effectiveness of distance learning in higher education. Washington, DC: Institute for Higher Education Policy.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jaeger, R. M. (1993). Statistics: A spectator sport (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jegede, O., Fraser, B. J., & Fisher, D. L. (1998, April). The Distance and Open Learning Environment Scale: Its development, validation and use. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, San Diego, CA.

  • Keeton, M. T. (2004). Best online instructional practices: Report of phase I of an ongoing study. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 8(2). Retrieved September 30, 2004, from http://www.sloan-c.org/publications/jaln/v8n2/v8n2_keeton.asp

  • Khine, M. S. (2002). Study of learning environment for improving science. In S. C. Goh & M. S. Khine (Eds.), Studies in educational learning environments: An international perspective (pp. 131–151). River Edge, NJ: World Scientific.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klopfer, L. E. (1971). Evaluation of learning in science. In B. S. Bloom, J. T. Hastings, & G. F. Madaus (Eds.), Handbook on summative and formative evaluation of student learning (pp. 559–641). New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kreijns, K., Kirschner, P. A., & Jochems, W. (2002). The sociability of computer-supported collaborative learning environments. Educational Technology & Society, 5, 8–22.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kyle, W. C. (1997). Editorial: Assessing students' understanding of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34, 851–852.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leh, A. (1999). Computer-mediated communication and foreign language learning via telecommunication technology. In B. Collis & R. Oliver (Eds.), Proceedings of Ed-Media 1999: World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia, and Telecommunications, Seattle, WA, June 19–24, 1999 (pp. 68–73). Charlottesville, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

  • Levine, J. (2003). Quality distance education: Appropriate interdependent and collaborative environments. In R. Ham & J. Woosley (Eds.), Proceedings of the 10th Annual International Distance Education Conference (pp. 18-1–18-5). College Station, TX: Center for Distance Learning Research.

  • Merisotis, J. P., & Olsen, J. K. (2000). The `effectiveness' debate: What we know about the quality of distance learning in the U.S. TechKnowLogia, 2, 42–44.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mioduser, D., Nachmias, R., Lahav, O., & Oren, A. (2000). Web-based learning environments: Current pedagogical and technological state. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33, 55–76.

    Google Scholar 

  • Molenda, M., & Harris, P. (2001). Issues and trends in instructional technology. In R. M. Branch & M. A. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Educational media and technology yearbook (Vol. 26, pp. 3–15). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moos, R. H. (1974). Systems for the assessment and classification of human environments: An overview. In R. H. Moos & P. M. Insel (Eds.), Issues in social ecology: Human milieus (pp. 5–29). Palo Alto, CA: National Press Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moos, R. H. (1979). Evaluating educational environments. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, C. K., & McKenzie, A. D. (2003). Is enough too much? The dilemma for online distance learner supporters. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 4. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://www.irrodl.org/content/v4.1/mckenzie_morgan.html

  • Morihara, B. (2001, May). Practice and pedagogy in university web teaching. Paper presented at the Sixth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference, Kapi'olani Community College & University of Hawaii. Retrieved September 30, 2004, from http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/tcon01/papers/morihara.html

  • Murphy, K. L., & Cifuentes, L. (2001). Using Web tools, collaboration, and learning online. Distance Education, 22, 285–305.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nader, N. A. (2001, May). What do you want to be when you grow up? Keynote address presented at the Sixth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference, Kapi'olani Community College & University of Hawaii. Retrieved September 30, 2004, from http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/tcon01/greetings/nader.html

  • Olsen, J. K. (2000). Is virtual education for real? Issues of quality and accreditation. TechKnowLogia, 2(1), 16–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Olsen, T. M., & Wisher, R. A. (2002). The effectiveness of Web-based instruction: An initial inquiry. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://www.irrodl.org/content/v3.2/olsen.html

  • Oren, A., Mioduser, D., & Nachmias, R. (2002, April). The development of social climate in virtual learning discussion groups. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3. Retrieved September 28, 2004, from http://www.irrodl.org/content/v3.1/mioduser.html

  • Owen, M. (2000). Structure and discourse in telematic learning environment. Education Technology & Society, 3(3). Retrieved June 12, 2001, from http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/vol_3_2000/b04.html

  • Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace: Effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

  • Park-Kim, K. (2001, May). Improving interactivity in online courses. Paper presented at the Sixth Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference, Kapi'olani Community College & University of Hawaii. Retrieved September 30, 2004, from http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/tcon01/papers/park-kim.html

  • Spender, D. (2001). Panel discussion: Online education – are universities prepared? In Online learning in a borderless market. Proceedings of a conference held 15–16 February 2001 at Griffith University Gold Coast Campus (pp. 21–27). Canberra, Australia: Department of Education, Training, and Youth Affairs. Retrieved December 3, 2004, from http://www.dest.gov.au/archive/highered/eippubs/eip01_7/01_7.pdf

  • Swan, K. (2001). Virtual interaction: Design factors affecting student satisfaction and perceived learning in asynchronous online courses. Distance Education, 22, 306–331.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tobin, K. (2000). Catalysing changes in research on learning environments: Regional editor's introduction. Learning Environments Research, 2, 223–224.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tobin, K., & Fraser, B. J. (1998). Qualitative and quantitative landscapes of classroom learning environments. In B. J. Fraser & K. G. Tobin (Eds.), International handbook of science education (pp. 623–640). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Walberg, H. J. (1974). Evaluating educational performance. In H. J. Walberg (Ed.), Evaluating educational performance: A sourcebook of methods, instruments, and examples (pp. 1–9). Berkeley, CA: McCutchan Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zandvliet, D. B., & Fraser, B. J. (2004). Learning environments in information and communications technology classrooms. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 13(1), 97–124.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zhu, E., & McKnight, R. (Eds.) (2001). Principles of online design. Fort Myers, FL: Gulf Coast University, Office of Instructional Technology.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Scott L. Walker.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Walker, S.L., Fraser, B.J. Development and Validation of an Instrument for Assessing Distance Education Learning Environments in Higher Education: The Distance Education Learning Environments Survey (DELES). Learning Environ Res 8, 289–308 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-005-1568-3

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10984-005-1568-3

Key Words

  • asynchronous learning
  • DELES
  • distance education
  • distance learning
  • evaluation
  • psychosocial learning environment