Current Issue

Prerequisites for Persistence in Distance Education

Britten Ekstrand

by Britten Ekstrand

In the last two decades, distance education has grown worldwide and is now established as a reliable educational method. Accompanying this development, questions about low rates of student persistence have come to interest governments, institutions, and university management. This article is based on an original local study at a university in Sweden investigating what it takes to get students to continue their enrolment in courses or programs. Teachers' views were captured in interviews and focus groups. These views were analyzed in the context of research in the field catalogued under the keywords "retention" and "persistence" in "distance education" and "distance learning." The results indicate that the teachers would like to see a shift in focus from students to the organization and its technical and administrative teacher and learner support. Staff attitudes, institutional structure, and the management views towards distance education seem to be critical factors.

Thirteen Years of the Online Journal for Distance Learning Administration: 1998 - 2011
Diane Burnette

by Diane Burnette
Meghan A. Conley

As online and distance education have become increasingly mainstream methods of delivery in higher education, print-based and online journals have formed to provide forums for research and practice. The Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration (OJDLA), founded in 1998, is the focus of this study, which seeks to identify topical themes and patterns across 13 years of articles and connect these themes to broader contexts and events in higher education. While the early years of the journal focused on faculty-related topics such as adoption, training, and support, topics related to outcomes and students emerged in the mid-2000s and gain the attention of researchers and practitioners. The paper ends by offering an assessment of current events and issues in both online and distance education and the broader higher education contexts and suggesting that future research should focus on outcomes including the impact on student success and rising costs.

How Adult Online Graduates Portray Their Degree

Eric J. Hagan

by Eric J. Hagan

This qualitative case study investigated how adult graduates of online Bachelor's degree programs describe the online aspect of their degree. Online education is promoted as a method for adult students to access the benefits of a college degree. Therefore, it is important for prospective online students, higher education institutions and policy makers to understand how online degrees are valued in society and by online graduates. The primary method of data collection was interviews of 24 graduates. The setting of this study, a well-regarded research university primarily known for its traditional campus-based programs, helped to isolate perceptions of the online delivery modality. All participants in the study held a high opinion of their online degree and of the university. However, the participants also recognized that some people have a negative opinion of online degrees. The participants described two strategies for dealing with encounters with people with negative perceptions of online degrees. Slightly more than half of the participants were forthcoming and open about earning a degree online. However, a large minority of participants were concerned about negative perceptions of online degrees. These participants often did not volunteer information about the online aspect of their degree to other people unless specifically questioned. Additional research is recommended to further explain the extent to which perceptions of online degrees are associated with the online delivery mode rather than other factors and to investigate the effect of delivery mode and institution type on the economic impact of an earning a Bachelor's degree later in life.

Quality Assurance in Large Scale Online Course Production

Cinda Holsombach-Ebner

by Cinda Holsombach-Ebner

The course design and development process (often referred to here as the “production process”) at ERAU-Worldwide aims to produce turnkey style courses to be taught by a highly-qualified pool of over 800 instructors. Given the high number of online courses and tremendous number of live sections running at any given time, maintaining quality was a significant concern. The model of faculty instructors each producing and delivering their own online course would make achieving consistency in design and delivery difficult. While this production model is common at many schools, it is known to be ineffective (Bates, 2000, Laird, 2004, Chao, Saj, & Hamilton, 2010), so at ERAU-Worldwide it was decided to centralize the process using a collaborative course production team, administered through the Instructional Design and Development (IDD) department. Over time, a process evolved that ensures healthy collaboration among production team members and meeting quality standards based on sound learning, teaching and instructional design theoretical foundations, both factors cited as key influences on the success of distance learning efforts (Chao, Saj, & Hamilton, 2010). Several ERAU-Worldwide courses have won industry awards, including Quality Matters and Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Program, and the influence of the external course review and awards process on the establishment of course design and development quality standards will be addressed below in detail.

The Difficulties of Online Learning for Indigenous Australian Students Living in Remote Communities – it’s an Issue of Access
Sarah G Anthony Michael S Keating
Michael Keating

by Sarah G Anthony
Michael S Keating

Online learning and new technologies are driving a trend in worldwide education that is not only gaining momentum, it is becoming a juggernaut. While the positives for online learning are clear and are often being touted by Universities and Vocational Education and Training providers as a panacea for educational access, what is not clear is the potential negatives for those who cannot reasonably be expected to engage with online learning. Through a review of current literature and research findings, this paper discusses the difficulties of online learning for Indigenous Australian students living in remote communities who do not have adequate access to online learning technologies. This paper proposes the idea that this seemingly reasonable trend towards increased online learning will in fact be hugely detrimental to this section of Australian society and will see the potential for a widening of the gap in education.

Enhancing On-Line Teaching with Verbal Immediacy through Self-Determination Theory
Stephen A. Furlich

by Stephen A. Furlich

This paper explores the use of instructor verbal immediacy behaviors for on-line classes. Specifically, it demonstrates how instructor verbal immediacy behaviors found in face-to-face classes can also be displayed for on-line classes. It is argued that self-determination theory describes identification of the student as an important role in the instructional context and instructor verbal immediacy behaviors can help with student identification. Implications are given for instructors and administrators at higher education institutions. Future researchers are encouraged to further explore student identification with their instructor for positive instructional outcomes with on-line classes.

Approaching K-12 Online Education in Pennsylvania
Kathryn Vadell

by Kathryn Vadell

The purpose of this study is to determine how K-12 schools are addressing the need to accommodate online learners in Pennsylvania. It is built upon a review of literature focusing on educational legislation, the personalization of online learning and online learning solutions. The study posed 21 questions utilizing a mixed methods approach to district decision-makers from across the state. There were 28 respondents. The data indicate that the driving force for developing online learning alternatives is student interest and while many district decision-makers are outsourcing the development of online education, most feel neutrally about the level of satisfaction with said efforts.

Undergraduate Students' Preference for Distance Education by Field of Study
Nancy M H Pontes
Manuel C F Pontes

by Manuel C F Pontes
Nancy M H Pontes

This research investigates the relationship between students' field of study and their preference for distance education. For this research, data were used from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: Undergraduate, which uses a complex survey design to collect data from a nationally representative sample of undergraduate postsecondary students in the US. Results show that a student’s field of study is significantly related to enrollment in distance education classes, enrollment in a distance education program, and satisfaction with distance education. Full-time employment, presence of dependents, and a mobility-limiting disability are also significantly associated with distance education preference. Enrollment trends show significant growth in distance education enrollment over 2000 to 2008 among students in all fields of study.

From the Editor

Melanie ClayHello Readers:

I write this on the morning of Friday the 13th, remembering all of the good luck I've had on this dreaded date. I became engaged in the late 90s on Friday the 13th (on top of the Empire State Building), and received my acceptance into UNL's doctoral program on a Friday the 13th. Today, as I look over the articles one more time, I clearly take pride in Burnette's article about the OJDLA. The author looks at changes the journal topics and content over a 13-year period (there's that number again), and finds that topics related to faculty and faculty support to be the most prevalent. A need for more solid research related to student success is clearly needed, as is research related to other DE management issues. Interestingly, this particular issue has several compelling articles related to various aspects of student success, including perceptions, persistence, and access. In closing, please enjoy this issue and have a fabulous and healthy fall. (Does that last sentence really have 13 words?)
Peace to all,

Melanie N. Clay, Ph.D.
September 13, 2013


A special thanks to Thinking Cap for being the premiere sponsor of DLA2013!


Visitors since March 1, 1998

To be notified of future publications contact the UWG Distance & Distributed Education Center

Last modified: September 13, 2013