Choosing a Path for Doctoral Studies in Educational Leadership: A Look at the Online Format

Choosing a Path for Doctoral Studies in Educational Leadership: A Look at the Online Format

George W. Semich (Robert Morris University, USA) and Julie A. Ray (Robert Morris University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jicte.2011100103
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Current indications (U.S. Department of Education, 2003; Zandberg & Lewis, 2008; Picciano & Seaman, 2009) are that distance learning, in particular online learning, will continue to expand into the foreseeable future. There are some completely online doctoral programs presently operating, but many students continue to flock to the non-traditional executive type leadership cohort-based, on-ground programs at colleges and universities. However, this trend may change. Erickson, Howard, Borland, and Baker (2004) have noted the advent of the virtual university has actually changed the expectations of doctoral students. The focus of this study is to examine the perceptions of doctoral students at a small, private university toward the online format. The findings of this study indicated a less than favorable support among doctoral students to a completely online format for the non-traditional executive management/leadership doctoral program. However, there was support given to a hybrid model for the program.
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Literature Review

From the review of the related literature, there is an abundance of research on the perceptions of undergraduate and sometimes masters degree students about online education (Thomas, King, & Cetinguc, 2004; Kortemeyer, Hall, Parker, Minaei-Bidgoli, Albertelli, Bauer, & Kashy, 2005; Meisner, Hoffman, Strickland, Christian, & Tlitus, 2000; Loving, 2000, Harmes & Barron, 2001; McDonald, Yanchar, & Osguthorpe, 2005). However, the available body of research fails to address the perceptions of doctoral students relative to their views toward the online learning format and online degree programs. It is well established in the literature that the average institution has doubled its investment in information technology (Office of Higher Education, 2001). In a study by Schiffman, Vignare, and Geith (2006), the authors surveyed students at various degree levels in higher education to examine the reasons institutions embrace online learning formats. According to their findings, these institutions are primarily focused on attracting new students and contributing to extension efforts by introducing online programs. However, these efforts are more in line with the goals of the institution with little interest in how students may view this online format. Instead, as suggested by Christo-Baker (2004), the importance of this technology (online) in education should be determined by its effectiveness in facilitating the accomplishment of the education goals. Hence, the educational goals ought to be as Groves and Zemel (2000) argued as valued for their contribution to teaching and learning and not by using computer delivery systems as ends in themselves and especially as marketing tools. Other issues according to Cookson (2000) include tradition, consensus, governance, roles, and responsibilities.

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