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Hindryckx, J. and De Witte, K. (2015) The influence of the learning environment on course efficiency. Evidence from Flanders


Using an unique and rich dataset of a large European higher vocational institute, this paper examines what
program, student and didactical characteristics can explain the differences among courses in obtaining high
course grades and student success rates, given the student intake. Applying an advanced conditional and
robust efficiency model, we examine the role of an elsewhere available textbook, versus (or combined with)
a course specific textbook, and learning materials from video or internet. We also test the influence on
course efficiency from objectivistic versus constructivist learning activities. Finally, we test for the role of
the examination format (i.e., written exam, oral exam, multiple choice, internship, versus continuous
assessment). The results suggest that courses with distance learning have a significantly lower efficiency
than courses with face-to-face education. We observe that courses with objectivistic characteristics (mainly
lectures) have an unfavorable influence on the course efficiency in comparison to courses with only
constructivist characteristics (e.g. group work). In comparison to oral examinations, courses with written
examinations have lower grades and lower success rates, given the student intake. Courses using standard
text books and courses that combine own course materials with a general textbook and internet materials
have lower efficiency than courses which developed their own course materials.

Keywords: Higher vocational education; Conditional and robust efficiency; Learning environment; Student
outcomes; Student success rates

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