The development of online learning: Understanding faculty and student experiences in an organizational context
Laura C. Brewer, Arizona State University, United States
Arizona State University . Awarded
In this project, the development of online learning environments in higher education and the experiences of faculty and students in these settings are examined. Because not much is known about the development of online learning in general, and experiences with online learning in particular, this research used an inductive approach. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected using multiple methods with the goal of answering organizational level, course level, and individual level substantive questions about the development of online learning at one university. In addition, theoretical concepts were uncovered and connected in a model that will be valuable for the study of online learning in other settings. It was found that the university's organizational context affects faculty decisions and their ability to design online learning environments. Specifically, the structure of the organization influences the ability of members to establish a shared vision for online learning. In a decentralized organization like the university under study, a dispersed pattern of development is more likely. Some faculty decisions about how to design online learning environments were influenced by departmental characteristics. Others, however, were directed by a personal vision for using online learning to improve the quality of education. Effective online learning environments were found to connect innovative features of the technology (i.e. discussion board, chat, quiz, and groups) with characteristics of an innovative pedagogy (i.e. flexibility, interaction, and collaboration). Two less successful online learning environment designs were also described. Through interaction in these innovative settings, faculty and students assign meaning to their online learning experiences. In the effective design, faculty and students were more likely to describe their online teaching/learning experiences as better than traditional education. Those faculty and students who reported positive experiences were more likely to participate in online learning again and those who reported negative experiences were likely to withdraw. Therefore, individual experiences with online learning ultimately influence the future development of this instructional technology.
Brewer, L.C. The development of online learning: Understanding faculty and student experiences in an organizational context. Ph.D. thesis, Arizona State University.
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