Date of Conferral
Anthony R. Perry
Participation in, and acceptance of, distance education has reached an all-time high. Yet many academics, policy makers, and laypeople remain concerned that distance education can adversely affect one's social development. The purpose of this quantitative study was to test that concern by comparing the social intelligence of distance undergraduates with the social intelligence of traditional undergraduates at different class ranks (i.e., freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) while limiting the ages of the participants (n = 190) to 18-24. Social intelligence, an operationally defined measure of the construct often referred to as social development has been a popular focus of research in the last few decades, and the benefits of social intelligence are numerous. This study used Bandura's social learning theory and Goleman's theory of social intelligence as the theoretical framework. A 2-way ANOVA was used to measure the main effect of class rank, the main effect of learning environment (traditional vs. distance), and the interaction between these variables on social intelligence. There was no statistically significant difference in the level of social intelligence between distance and traditional undergraduates, there was a statistically significant difference in the level of social intelligence among undergraduate class ranks, and there was no significant difference between learning environments in social intelligence across levels of class rank. The results of this study can provide meaningful insights to course architects, educators, parents, and students who all have an interest, even if just exploratory, in distance education and its social implications by addressing concerns that distance learning environments might impede social intelligence development of undergraduates.