The Journey from Dissenter to Advocate: Insights Gained while Teaching Online

The Journey from Dissenter to Advocate: Insights Gained while Teaching Online

Terry S. Atkinson (East Carolina University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1906-7.ch001
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This chapter details the experiences of a university professor whose perspectives shifted from one of initial dissent to eventual advocacy for online learning as a delivery mode for her reading/literacy courses. Spanning eight years, her distance education teaching practices were shaped by her personal ventures as an online student, the outcomes gained by enhancing the social presence of her online courses, collaboration with colleagues, and systematic examination of her online teaching practice relative to its rigor, quality, and effectiveness within a teacher preparation program. Insights gained while teaching online conclude with recommendations for faculty members, institutions, systems, and organizations with vested interest in the future of teacher education.
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Online Learning: Facts, Figures, Challenges

The literature related to online distance education has a somewhat brief history since 1981 when online courses were first offered to adult education students through the Electronic Information Exchange System (EIES) (Harasim, 2006). Developed and managed with funding from the National Science Foundation at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, EIES was originally created for use in scientific research communities. Specialized communication systems that evolved within EIES later led to the initial development of courses delivered through university-based computer networks to undergraduates at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. By 1985, the first graduate courses offered in a similar manner premiered at the University of Toronto and New York’s New School of Social Research which led to degree programs at these same institutions one year later and at the University of Phoenix in 1989 (Hiltz, Turoff, & Harasim, 2007).

The launch of the Internet in 1989 paired with the advent of the World Wide Web in 1992 led to increased opportunities and global access for learners to further develop their understandings online. Few settings have been impacted more dramatically by this increase than American higher education (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). Enrollment in online classes at the college and university level has skyrocketed since the Internet’s debut and has most recently been further boosted by competition among for-profit, private, and public institutions. Evidence from the Sloan-C 2010 report, Class Differences: Online Education in the United States (Allen & Seaman, 2010), substantiates this significant and ongoing growth in online instruction since its early beginnings, designated by courses where at least 80 percent of content is delivered online.

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