Nine graduate-level counseling psychology instructors across the U. S. adopted the same commercially-produced online courseware to teach a graduate level course in counseling theories. The study focused on how the instructors taught the course and how they used the online resources in their teaching. The instructors faced similar challenges, but each used the technology in a different way.
The data in this qualitative study came from telephone interviews that were transcribed. The data was coded by a research team using the method of Consensual Qualitative Research (Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997) to determine the emergent themes. The themes were reviewed by an expert in the field, as well as the participants, who all agreed that the themes resonated with their experience.
Although the course content was widely praised, the computer interface presented problems to the instructors. Faculty who taught the theories course online managed to overcome most of the barriers. Two significant personal factors for implementing the courseware were the instructors’ stage of career and their motivation for adopting it. The online instructors, who were in the late stages of their career, used the courseware to the greatest extent. The younger instructors who were trying to obtain tenure used the courseware the least. When faced with obstacles, the younger instructors did not persevere.
This information is relevant to institutions of higher education because enrollment in online courses is increasing more rapidly than overall enrollment (Allen & Seaman, 2007). This study points to the need for universities to help new instructors develop their repertoire of teaching skills. Instructors’ work loads must be adjusted to allow them time on the job to get training in the use of pedagogy to use with technology, as well as use of the technology itself. The study also points to the need to hire and develop instructors who are flexible in their approach to teaching, who are interested in learning new teaching methods, and who have the communication skills to support online learning.
University of Houston
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