Importance of Distance Education

Since the advent of distance education via technology, much debate has transpired between distance education technology advocates and those who believe distance education (DE) is a threat to traditional methods of learning. An ideal analysis of distance education versus traditional modes of education will consider an important intrinsic variable. The variable in question is the attitudes of faculty members toward DE.

Investigation into the attitudes of faculty members toward distance education may reveal reasons for the slow adoption by institutions of higher education.An examination of the literature, including dissertations, journals, and studies revealed a number of variables affecting the attitude of faculty members. Such variables included the type of academic institutions, the age range of faculty members, faculty member’s gender, computer-mediated distance education, and whether research was localized research or conducted on a national scale. This review will discuss information in the literature about negative and positive attitudes of faculty toward distance education.

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Additionally the review will attempt to collect information about attempts to change faculty attitudes, compare and contrast several faculty distance education studies, gaps in studies or areas that need more research (limitations of studies), and specific directions for future researchNumerous studies have addressed faculty attitudes toward distance education technology (Bender, 2002; Clark, 1992; O’Quinn, 2002; Smith, 2004). Of these studies, the Clark study is the most comprehensive. The Clark study described and analyzed the attitudes of faculty members at public U.S.

institutions of higher education towards college-credit distance education (Clark, 1992).  Taylor & Todd (1995) stated that an individual’s behavioral intention is determined by his attitude toward an innovation’s perceived ease of use and his awareness of its usefulness.Two prevailing schools of thought governing attitudes have emerged; brick-and-mortar mentality and a brick-and-click mentality. Brick-and-mortar mentality is a mindset that denigrates DE in favor of traditional means and methods of education; in contrast, brick-and-click promotes the use of technology in higher education.

Faculty attitudes are governed by these two paradigms: negative and positive. Challis (1998) cited Kirby (1988), who mentions that on one hand, the traditionalists often view distance education as the ultimate erosion of academic standards, whereas, distance education advocates see opposition to their cause as obstructionism and academic protectionism. Black’s (1998) studies reported that faculty in the hard and pure disciplines were significantly less supportive of distance education than those in the soft and applied disciplines. O’Quinn, however, after an intense study of 334 faculties, explains that the majority of educators at all levels ( baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral) believed DE was a useful tool and held positive attitudes (2002).

However Smith’s study suggests a gender correlated difference in attitude toward DE. Women’s  mean scores all benchmarks showed they had much more positive attitudes than men.[S1]   Clark also found that women at two-year institutions were significantly more positive than men. [S2]Four reasons given for differences in faculty attitudes toward distance education were: 1) computer anxiety level; 2) technological experience; 3) peer influence; and 4) discipline types.

( Citation needed )[S3];Today positive attitudes towards DE are more prevalent than negative ones. It is now a known fact that distance education accommodates nearly all available face-to-face programs. More than 96 percent of the very largest institutions (more than 15,000 total enrollments) have some offerings online, which is more than double the rate observed for the smallest institutions.[S4]  Previously, existing systems were not in place to accommodate today’s widespread use of computer technology; therefore, faculty and non- faculty could not make intelligent and well-informed decisions concerning long-term outcomes of distance education technology.

Attitudes vacillate and gravitate from one minute to the next, making attitudes toward distance education a very complex issue to investigate. As technologies appear, disappear, and reappear, attitudes tend to be reflective of one’s exposure to technology and its facilitation of education. Additional evidence in support of the limitations which are based on attitude was observed in Bender (2002), who remarked that simply taking the pretest may change a person’s attitude (Solomon, 1949).One reason that distance education was slow in gaining acceptance was faculty perception that if they participated in or supported DE, their jobs and security would be at stake.

Several studies (Heinich, 1985; Lewis ; Will, 1990; Shrock, 1985) suggest that some faculty perceive technology-based distance education instruction as a threat to the normalcy and reliability of their position . The impact on faculty attitudes is one of the single most influential factors in determining what universities do about their online distance education programs. Faculty members and departments which are supportive of distance learning are more likely to have successful distance learning programs. In contrast to faculty attitudes, the benefits perceived by graduates, such as one’s sense of achievement and personal job competitiveness resulting from obtaining a distance education degree are equivalent to those benefits resulting from obtaining degrees via traditional face-to-face routes.

As is common in much contemporary research, there are gaps in the studies or areas that need more research. Much research remains to be done concerning the basis of faculty attitudes and the role they play in the diffusion process of distance education in higher education institutions (Betts, 1998; Challis, 1998; Clark, 1992; Dillon ; Walsh, 1992; LaRose, 1986; Lindquist, 1978; Mani, 1988; McNeil, 1990).  Gaps relating to gender are found in the studies of Clark (1992) and Smith (2004). For example Smith remarked that reasons behind the gender differences are speculative, but might be explained by traditional gender roles of women (Smith, 2004).

Other opportunities for further research exist in eliminating the limitations that are documented to exist in much of the research concerning faculty attitudes toward distance education.  Much of the existing body of literature cannot be generalized based on the structure of the research or the possibility of skewed populations. Another unexplored element that could factor into faculty attitudes toward distance education is attitudes of students toward DE. Specifically a study on how student perceptions influence or affect faculty attitudes toward DE would be a vital concern.

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Retrieved September 3, 2007, from[S33];;;[S1]Citation of Smith’s study here and in ref section needed.[S2]Citation for source of Clark’s finding needed i.

e. direct quote or indirect?[S3]Original Paragraph citation was unclear.  Was this from the UNLV study? Citation needed.[S4]Citation needed[S5]Many of your citations indirectly reference Clark but the Clark study is not listed as a reference.

Based on its importance to your chosen subject of research I think it ought to be of interest as a primary rather than a secondary or tertiary source.;Additionally almost none of the listed references are cited in the text of your Literature Review.  Indeed only 2 sources listed are cited in the text of your Literature review.  This means you have either not included the material or have not cited the contributions these papers made to your review.

At least 5 of your sources should have some direct attribution.[S6]Not directly cited in this chapter[S7]Not cited in text[S8]Not cited in text[S9]Not cited in text[S10]Not cited in text[S11]Not cited in text[S12]Not cited in text[S13]Not cited in text[S14]Not cited in text[S15]Not cited in text[S16]Not cited in text[S17]Not cited in text[S18]Not cited in text[S19]Not cited in text[S20]Not cited in text[ Lauren K21]This seems to be incomplete.[S22]Not cited in text, duplicate reference from a different online collection.If it is a different article this reference citation is out of order and should be moved.[S23]Not cited in text[S24]Not cited in text[S25]Not cited in text[S26]Not cited in text[S27]Not cited in text[S28]Not cited in text[S29]Not cited in text[S30]Not cited in text[S31]Not cited in text[S32]Not cited in text[S33]Not cited in text

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