Orientation Practices for Effective Distributed Learning Coursework: Students Speak Their Minds
Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration Volume 7, Number 3, ISSN 1556-3847
As an increasing number of graduate education courses are moved either online or into hybrid formats, instructors and administrators need to consider strategies for how to transition students into these new learning environments. This exploratory, qualitative study looked at one case study course and provides practical recommendations for stronger orientation programs. Colleges and universities have increasingly moved coursework and professional development programs from traditional classroom environments to online or hybrid forums in an effort to maximize potential participation and minimize costs. This drive for online learning has been well documented in a variety of forums, and has been estimated to be worth $23 billion per year to higher education (Wei, 2001). The primary challenges to moving courses into a technologically mediated forum have typically fallen into two categories: instructor and technology. Technological limitations have been dramatically reduced in recent years as commercial providers such as WebCT and Blackboard have begun to provide commercially available products marketed specifically to higher education. The dominant problem, documented by a number of scholars and practitioners, has been trying to get faculty members to participate in offering courses online or in hybrid formats (Pajo & Wallace, 2001; Lynch & Lynch, 2003). Faculty resistance might have initially been based on technology ability or apprehension (Crooks, Yang, & Duemer, 2003), and has most recently been discussed in the form of motivation and compensation. Many institutions initially provided financial incentives to faculty to develop courses that used an online component, and increasingly, colleges and universities are expecting faculty to make the transition to mediated instruction without special compensation or consideration as online learning becomes more common. Recently, a third problem domain has arisen: student participation. The pace of moving courses online has been so rapid that many students who have anticipated a more traditional collegiate experience have been frustrated and hostile to the online and hybrid delivery of courses ( Brescia, 2002). Although mediated instruction has been a positive step in serving students who are physically removed from campus by some distance or who have competing demands, such as a full-time job or familial responsibilities, some students who participate in higher education expect a traditional in-class experience. As institutions have become even more cost conscience, they have placed courses to serve traditional on-campus students online, thus serving two populations (those removed and those on campus) simultaneously and saving financial resources. This type of scheduling, while logical from an efficiency standpoint, can produce anxiety, anger, and frustration for those who anticipate and believe that they are paying for something different than what they are receiving. The purpose for conducting the current study was to identify and describe the feelings of one class of students who anticipated a traditional course experience and were actually enrolled in a mediated course. Findings from the study would be particularly valuable to college administrators, distance education administrators, continuing education personnel, and department chairs, and faculty members who have responsibility for transitioning students into an online environment.
Brescia, W., Miller, M., Ibrahima, P. & Murry, J. (2004). Orientation Practices for Effective Distributed Learning Coursework: Students Speak Their Minds. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 7(3),.