Reynold Galope, Metropolitan State University
Reynold Galope, Metropolitan State University

Reynold Galope
Associate Professor
MPNA/MPA/MNLM Graduate Program Director
Public and Nonprofit Leadership
Metropolitan State University

Exploiting a Natural Experiment in Assessing Student Learning Outcomes in Public and Nonprofit Administration: A Demonstration
Reynold Galope, Robert Bilyk, and Daniel Woldeab

Teaching Public Administration (December 2023)

The effectiveness of online learning versus traditional classroom instruction has long been a subject of debate in public and nonprofit administration education. This study by Reynold Galope, Robert Bilyk, and Daniel Woldeab, published in Teaching Public Administration, presents a significant methodological contribution to this discourse by exploiting a natural experiment. The research reexamines the online versus classroom debate through a new lens, employing a novel dataset and estimation approach to assess student learning outcomes in both settings. The core question it seeks to answer is whether the format of course delivery fundamentally affects student learning.

Departing from traditional experimental designs and common analytical techniques like regression analysis, this study uniquely leverages a naturally occurring classroom phenomenon. This approach ensures statistical equivalence in student characteristics across online and face-to-face course formats, satisfying the exogeneity assumption critical in causal studies. By doing so, the research provides a more accurate assessment of the impact of course delivery format on learning outcomes.

The article originated as a conference paper at the 2019 NACC Biennial Conference in London, United Kingdom. Its roots in academic discourse and practitioner insights adds a layer of collaborative depth and real-world applicability to the findings. Moreover, the recommendations developed for both online and classroom instructors in public administration and nonprofit management stem from the collaborative efforts of three researchers with expertise in diverse fields, including research methodology, instructional design (with a particular focus on technology in teaching and learning), program/curriculum coordination, and adult education. This interdisciplinary approach enriches the article’s conclusions, providing a comprehensive perspective on optimizing educational strategies in the field.

The study goes beyond theoretical exploration, offering practical contributions to the field. It leverages contemporary research in online pedagogy and learning theory to discuss its findings and their implications for online education in public administration. Notably, it introduces a feedback-centered teaching philosophy aimed at bridging the gap between the learning outcomes of completely asynchronous online classes and traditional face-to-face courses. This nuanced approach promises significant insights for program coordinators, instructors, and policy analysts concerned with optimizing educational delivery in public administration.