Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

Perceptions of Higher Education Faculty Members on the Value of Distance Education

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

Perceptions of Higher Education Faculty Members on the Value of Distance Education

Article excerpt

Perceptual differences among higher education faculty members regarding distance education were examined. It is noteworthy that only the perceptions were measured rather than actual learning outcomes and quality of distance education. The results suggested those faculty members with experience responded favorably to questions about distance education, while those without experience were less receptive. This research could be used by the administration of institutions of higher learning exploring the possibility of adding distance education. Distance education is a dynamic area; the results of this study of higher education faculty members' perceptions may impact the higher education culture. Further research is needed to compare learning outcomes for distance and traditional college and university courses.

INTRODUCTION

While more colleges and universities across the nation offer or require distance education courses, many institutions must still make this important transition (Broady-Ortmann, 2002; Hochmuth, 2002; Merisotis & Phipps, 1999; University of Idaho, 2003; Zuzolo & McCallister, 1996).

Faculty members and administrators of some institutions of higher education argue that the problem appears to lie in the misconception that distance education sacrifices quality (Keuy, 2003). There are those who argue distance education is not as effective as traditional learning in terms of learning outcomes. Stith (2000) suggested that a large proportion of institutions simply do not yet recognize online education as a credible process. This uncertainty in the field created ample room for debate. This study investigated the perceptions of distance education among higher education faculty members. Rather than limit the study to a particular model, structure, or online course, the study provided insight into the overall perceptions of distance education among higher education faculty members.

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

This study investigated the perceptions of distance education among faculty in institutions of higher education in a southeastern state. More specifically, this study sought to answer the following questions: What are the general perceptions of faculty who have not used distance education in their educational experiences as a medium with regards to its affects on educational outcomes, and how do faculty in general compare the quality of the educational experience of distance education to traditional, face-to-face classroom setting?

RELATED LITERATURE

Uhlig (2002) examined the history and future of distance education, pointing out that distance education is not new, but the arrival of an affordable personal computer (PC), the expansion of the Internet, and the willingness of national and regional accreditation agencies to consider other than traditional instructional milieus has encouraged the rapid development of online courses. It is useful in this context to remember that the PC, the critical building block of Internet-based online education and educational programming, is now only about 20 years old. In tracing the emergence of modern distance education, Uhlig (2002) reported that universities and colleges have long offered text-based or print-based correspondence programs covering virtually everything from high school courses to advanced degree programs, licensure and certification programs and examinations, and traditional college-level courses. The critical difference identified by Uhlig between the earlier distance education programs and today's Web-based programs is the option of immediate or nearly immediate feedback.

Universities are finding themselves, as Piotrowski and Vodanovich (2000) suggested, deeply challenged by the demand of students for virtual or distance education programs and the need to inculcate in the faculty members a more positive attitude toward these programs. With an apparent transformation from "print learning" to "electronic learning," administrators and faculty members might harness the Internet as a prominent instructional medium to provide access and flexibility to the learning environment (Piotrowski & Vodanovich, 2000). …

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