Perspectives of Online Doctoral Students in Educational Leadership

Perspectives of Online Doctoral Students in Educational Leadership

Vicky Gilpin (Richland Community College and Cerro Gordo High School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-830-7.ch020
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This study examines the perspectives of adult learners in an online Educational Leadership doctoral program. A qualitative survey research instrument was used to elucidate and explore phenomenological themes connected to student attitudes and perspectives regarding the experience of adult online education, the perceived challenges of an online doctoral program, the perceived benefits of an online doctoral program, student or teacher-connected strategies for success within online graduate education, the on-ground residencies in connection with the asynchronous aspects of the program, the perception of an online doctoral degree within their fields, and recommendations for online doctoral programs in the future. The findings suggest that strategies to increase student success in doctoral online programs should include a recognition of differentiated instruction toward multiple intelligences, increased communication of the dissertation or program timeline, an examination of how online students meet the contact hour requirements through teams, residencies, and individual time management, and an exploration of the social aspect of online learning.
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In the last decade, the topic of online education has fueled the creation of various scholarly analyses and debate. Multiple studies exist about pedagogical strategies in the online environment (Bullen, 1998; Howell, Williams, & Lindsay, 2003; Young, 2006), primary benefits of online education (Dykman & Davis, 2008), possible pitfalls of asynchronous learning (Berge, 1998), and perspectives of stakeholders within distance education programs (Braun, 2008; Powell, 2007; Tello, 2007).

Transitioning to the online environment takes preparation from both the teacher and the student. Teaching and learning in the online classroom requires different techniques than teaching and learning in the regular classroom (Maddux, 2004). Educators have to be engaged differently, use alternate cues to understand students and their concerns, and provide feedback through diverse avenues (Dykman & Davis, 2008). In addition, the educator’s role is altered when in an asynchronous situation, and educators can face internal as well as external barriers to self-efficacy in the position as an online instructor (Berge, 1998). As Freeman et al (2004) note, “the new technology shifts the responsibility of the learning from the instructor to the student. The role of the instructor then changes from that of an information-provider to one of a facilitator, organizer, and monitor” (para. 4). Online educational environments have to be crafted to allow the student to fulfill the responsibilities necessary in self-directed asynchronous learning while educating instructors in differently utilizing educational strategies.

Mupinga (2005) notes that “given the challenges of technology, the need for student self-direction and motivation, and the inexperience of many faculty members with the demands of Web-based instruction, adequate student and faculty preparation is essential” (para. 17). An understanding of the technological requirements from students and teachers is necessary for effective instruction. Problems with technology create more student and teacher frustration in distance learning than lack of subject-area comprehension (Blackstock & Exton, 2005). Technological elements, situation-specific teaching strategies, and the importance of the student-centered classroom ensure that online learning requires more than subject-area expertise and dissemination.

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