The objective of this study was to explore the effect that providing distance education courses would have on enrollment in courses offered on the campus of the National Conservation Training Center. This is an exploratory study and the results should be interpreted as preliminary rather than conclusive. The study included two components: analysis of existing training-enrollment data for the time period from October 1, 2007 to June 24, 2009, and a survey of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) employees regarding their preferences for onsite training and distance education. The analysis of training-enrollment data included training records for 2,823 Service employees. Using this dataset, we created a database that included region, supervisory status, number of enrollments in online training, instructor-led web-based classes, correspondence courses, courses at the campus of the National Conservation Training Center, and instructor-led courses off campus. Our analyses focused on differences between enrollment in distance education and onsite courses and the effects of regional affiliation, supervisory status, and course format. Generally, the regions closest to the campus had higher enrollment in onsite training and regions farther away had higher enrollment in distance education. Nonsupervisors were more likely to enroll in training on campus and supervisors were more likely to enroll in instructor-led training off site. Enrollment in instructor-led courses was higher than in self-paced courses, although this may result from fewer offerings of self-paced courses. The second component of the study involved a survey of Service employees regarding their preferences for distance education and onsite training. The survey was administered online and 911 Service employees responded. Overall, survey respondents indicated a small preference for onsite training and were more likely to enroll in onsite courses than distance education. When asked to indicate reasons that would lead them to choose one type of training over the other, practical reasons were more frequently indicated as influential in the decision to enroll in distance education and interactions with others were more frequently cited as reasons to enroll in onsite training.We conclude that the information we assembled and analyzed indicates that distance education currently functions as a supplemental approach to training when participation in training onsite at the National Conservation Training Center campus is impractical.
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The effect of offering distance education on enrollment in onsite training at the National Conservation Training Center