The Community College Leadership Perspectives of Quality E-Learning: A Case Study
Almala, Abed H., Distance Learning
Many institutions of higher education, educational organizations, the business community, and learners are embracing e-learning for a variety of reasons and needs. These parties refer to key factors such as flexibility, using mixed interactive multimedia, Internet research, archiving, electronic networks, telecommunications, and cost to support the idea that e-learning could serve as a viable and qualitative learning alternative. Some educators and learners, however, believe that e-learning cannot-and should not-replace classroom instruction, pointing out that the quality of face-to-face education must not be compromised by e-learning. Nevertheless, professional and scholastic individuals with such reservations often recognize that e-learning can be a valuable supplement to traditional learning, an effective learning tool for mature and responsible students, and so should be pursued. Hence, quality of learning is a deciding factor as to whether e-learning should be considered as a total and effective learning environment.
Recent educational statistics and forecasts have revealed that e-learning is gaining ground in community colleges and universities nationwide. Investigating and assessing the planning and implementation processes of e-learning courses and programs at these institutions of higher education is necessary to determine the quality of a Web-based learning environment. Quality e-learning is a Web-based learning environment designed, developed, and delivered based on several dynamic principles, such as institutional support, course development, teaching/learning, course structure, student support, faculty support, and evaluation and assessment (Phipps & Merisotis, 2000).
SPECIFIC RESEARCH PROCEDURES
Ensuring a quality e-learning environment is essential to provide students with the full range of benefits that e-learning entails. To provide a practical solution to the problem of evaluating the quality of e-learning and to answer the research question presented in this study completely and appropriately, a qualitative research method was used in investigating the e-learning process at a community college in Virginia. The purpose of using this method is to provide an in-depth look at and obtain new insights on the issues that impact the quality of e-learning courses from the perspective of the distance education leadership at this 2-year institution of higher education.
The qualitative data collection method used in this study was face-to-face interviews with three leaders involved directly in the community college e-learning process. Open-ended interviews were used in this study, and each interviewee was asked the same 10 sequenced and predetermined questions (Frankel & Wallen, 1996). Responding to the same set of questions may lessen interviewer bias and facilitate the analytical process. However, flexibility of rewording or generating new questions and making connections during the interview are limited, which could stiffen the interview atmosphere and outcome (Frankel & Wallen, 1996). The set of questions was on specific, major e-learning issues such as course offerings, cost, educational equity, accreditation, intellectual property, enrollment procedures, testing, and other administrative issues.
The author of this study and the community college determined the number of these leaders. When the process of gathering data, analyzing and compiling was completed, practical answers were provided to the following research question.
To what extent does the community college plan for and cope with important e-learning issues such as cost, accreditation, course offerings, educational equity, intellectual property, enrollment procedures, testing, academic honesty, and administrative issues?
This study investigated the e-learning process which is designed and managed by the community college to provide students and workers with quality education and training regardless of time and place. …