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The virtual professor: Teaching on the electronic frontier, 1995–1999

, University of Maryland, College Park, United States

University of Maryland, College Park . Awarded


During the time of this research, American colleges and universities were beginning to experiment with online learning. The virtual classroom was emerging, and those who chose to teach online were faced with unprecedented challenges and unique opportunities. This dissertation examines what it was like to be part of the first generation to teach online.

This study reports on the experiences of eight professors who were teaching online between 1995 and 1999. It reviews the history of the “electronic classroom” and examines how online learning differs from earlier forms of electronic distance education. More importantly, it describes how digital technology is altering the traditional role of the professor. This qualitative study suggests that online learning is part of the broader convergence of the main communications technologies of the twentieth century. It suggests that while earlier forms of electronic distance learning were based on the one-to-many broadcast model, online learning is part of the shift toward a many-to-many or one-to-one collaborative model that characterizes what Mark Poster calls the Second Media Age. This study also suggests that unlike earlier forms of electronic distance learning, virtual classrooms have a greater potential to become highly interactive learning communities.

The primary research methodology is the ethnographic interview, however some data was collected online. After an explanation and interpretation of the data, this study suggests that there is a need for further investigation into a systems theory unique to online learning. This study is informed by an interdisciplinary American studies approach, and it examines the subject through the lens of postmodern culture studies. It is grounded in pragmatism, however, and is intended to be a useful guide to understanding and conducting an online course.


Kisner, C.G. The virtual professor: Teaching on the electronic frontier, 1995–1999. Ph.D. thesis, University of Maryland, College Park. Retrieved June 20, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 22, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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