Skip to content Skip to navigation

OpenStax_CNX

You are here: Home » Content » Discussion for "Faculty Use of Courseware to Teach Counseling Theories"

Navigation

Lenses

What is a lens?

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

This content is ...

In these lenses

  • UniqU content

    This module is included inLens: UniqU's lens
    By: UniqU, LLCAs a part of collection: "Faculty Use of Courseware to Teach Counseling Theories"

    Click the "UniqU content" link to see all content selected in this lens.

Recently Viewed

This feature requires Javascript to be enabled.
 

Discussion for "Faculty Use of Courseware to Teach Counseling Theories"

Module by: Jeannette Dixon. E-mail the author

DISCUSSION

This study examined how nine instructors taught the same course with the same textbook and online resources. The study revealed a range of strategies the participants used in teaching, and their levels of technology integration. All of the participants had adopted the online version of the text with the expectation of offering the students its rich array of resources. However, for a variety of reasons, the majority of the instructors were not able to use those resources fully. The goal of this chapter is to examine the reasons why.

The major factors in determining how instructors used the online materials provided with the textbook fell into five basic categories which emerged from the data:

  • The teaching environment,
  • Pedagogy,
  • Levels of technology integration,
  • Barriers, and
  • Career stage and age.

Each of these themes is explored in depth in separate sections of this chapter. The teaching environments varied greatly, depending on the course format. For those who taught online or hybrid courses, the website for Online Day served in large part as the teaching environment. The instructors’ pedagogy was examined to determine how they taught, to what degree they integrated technology, and barriers they encountered in using technology. The final section on career stage and age brings attention to common characteristics of technology integration the instructors shared at different stages of career development. The participants’ experiences will be related to existing literature on distance pedagogy and learning theory.

The Teaching Environment

Although each instructor had a unique teaching environment, several shared environmental factors that influenced how they taught: the Online Day software, the course format and classroom location, and university policies and practice. In this section each of these factors are examined to determine how they influenced the instructors’ implementation of the innovative technology.

Online Day

The publisher of Online Day, Houghton-Mifflin’s Lahaska Press, took one of its popular college textbooks to prototype in a unique format: an e-textbook combined with in a web-based proprietary course management system, with added media content such as videos, an in-text audio glossary, PowerPoint slide shows, and an online test bank. To create such a product, Lahaska contracted with an educational technology company, Intellipro, to turn the Day textbook into an online course.

Carrie, who was proficient in using WebCT, found the structure of the educator’s interface confusing when setting up her course:

For the instructor, it’s kind of, even though it’s very doable, but it’s almost like having to work in two classes, because you go into your managed class and create your assignment. And then you have to go into managed course, and then you enter the class to add the assignments, I believe that’s what it is. So it’s almost like the instructor has to operate in two classes.

In Carrie’s example, it’s clear that both the terminology and the functions on the instructor’s main navigation page were not clear to her. Splitting the functions into two categories added to the time it took her to learn how to navigate the course set-up.

Although the supplementary media in Online Day were listed under “Resources” on the course website, it was not easy for the instructors to find. To help the instructors to find out about the special resources in Online Day, Lahaska posted a teacher’s guide on the publisher’s website that listed the special features, such as the case videos, the primary source material, and the in-text audio glossary. However, having the guide at a different location from the teacher website required the instructors to switch back and forth between the two for information to customize their course websites.

Course Format and Class Location

The researcher made an assumption at the beginning of this study that the instructors who adopted the online version of the textbook would be teaching the course online or hybrid. Only two of the nine instructors, Ed and Ken, taught online. Two others, Carrie and Miller, taught hybrid courses, and the remaining five taught face-to-face. However, there was variety within these categories. Of the two instructors who taught online, Ed never met the students face-to-face, while Ken taught face-to-face in a residential orientation at the beginning of the term. One of the hybrid instructors met face-to-face over three weekends of 13 hours of class. Miller taught a hybrid which met every other week after the first month of face-to-face classes. The remaining six instructors taught their courses face-to-face on a conventional schedule.

Off-campus Teaching and Access to Technology

Three instructors, Carrie, Lyle and Nancy, taught off campus. They were required to teach at least one course off campus each semester in order to reach students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend the university due to distance. In each of the off-campus classes, over half of the students were adults, many of whom worked full-time, and the great majority was female. While Lyle and Nancy commuted to the off-campus locations each week, Carrie created a compressed hybrid course.

Lyle’s off-campus classroom had far greater access to the necessary technology to make use of online resources than his on-campus section, such as high-speed internet, computers, a computer projector and screen. He was able to supplement his lectures with examples from the course website, and from the web at large. This contrasts with his on-campus section, who did not meet in the education building, but rather in an older classroom without any Internet access or computer equipment. One time Lyle carried his own television and VCR to the class to show videos. He sometimes ordered an audiovisual cart to be delivered, but this proved to be a challenge because the service was inconsistent. This made it very difficult to use technology in that class.

Nancy was required to drive an hour and a half to her off-campus classroom. After attending a workshop on hybrid teaching, she was seriously considering teaching hybrid with her off-campus class in the future. However, she planned to use the textbook she had used in the past, not the Day textbook.

Lyle taught two sections of the course, one on-campus but in a classroom without Internet connections, the other off-campus with technology. The two classes were kept in synch through use of a shared course website using Online Day. Having the technology available in class gave Lyle more examples to draw from. The off-campus class was smaller and all female. Lyle described it as a more intimate environment, where the students talked easily about their personal change plans. These plans allowed the students to apply the theories they were learning to themselves in order to change something about themselves. The larger class was mixed gender and more passive. As the semester progressed, the students focused less on discussing their personal change plans and more on getting the information to pass the tests.

Carrie taught her class as a hybrid, with a non-traditional schedule for class meetings. She compressed the class meetings into three weekends that met 13 hours each. In addition to lecturing, Carrie showed the videos in class, where they discussed them at length. During the weeks that the class did not meet face-to-face, Carrie assigned the students to read the chapters and take the online quizzes. She also assigned the chapter reflections, which they emailed to her. Carrie’s institution was originally a free-standing graduate college, but later became the graduate component to a major university that caters to undergraduate students. Teaching was the number one priority of the school, and Carrie was very engaged with her students. The classrooms were all outfitted with technology tools for teaching, such as televisions, DVD players, laptops with projectors, and drop down screens from the ceilings. Fortunately, for the course that Carrie taught off-campus, the classroom was similarly equipped with all the features mentioned above.

The media resources provided in Online Day, particularly the videos, were very helpful to Carrie in teaching the course in a compressed schedule.

University Policies and Practice

The Online Day software did not fit with the usual practices of university course management. All of the schools in this study had purchased campus-wide course management systems. Most had policies requiring instructors to create a course website on the campus-wide course management system (i.e.-Blackboard, WebCT) for each course they taught. The small private colleges in this study were less likely to require this than the state funded institutions. Most of the schools used the syllabus contained in the course management system for the accreditation board assessment.

Conflicting Systems

The required use of the campus-wide system conflicted with the way Online Day was designed. Online Day was created as a fully integrated, seamless interface through which students and instructors could communicate, carry out, and assess assignments. When instructors were required to use campus-wide course management, they had three options: to create two websites, to place a link to the Online Day inside the required course website, or to operate under the radar, using the Online Day website as it was designed. Carrie chose the last option and taught with Online Day for one semester, then discussed it afterwards with the campus technology expert. When she did, sparks flew.

I had a discussion with our on campus tech support person who helps with all our WebCT stuff, and I was so excited, it’s so wonderful, it goes with the book, and I said, “They can get the book for a little less,” and then she said, “I’m going to tell you something right now. I didn’t hear this conversation. I didn’t hear it. Because the students would have to pay – okay, if I were to import the Dot.learn into WebCT, however that’s done, the school’s going to charge the students more.”

This situation was a hot button for the university technology support staff trained specifically in the campus-wide course management system. When faced with helping instructors using a different system, usually one produced by a textbook publisher, the support staff was frustrated at not being prepared to deal with the problems encountered. As demonstrated in Carrie’s quotation above, the technology expert felt her ability to perform was undermined by instructor’s adoption of the new software. In this instance, Carrie went back later and worked out a compromise which entailed putting Online Day as a link within the WebCT course, and not using all the functionality.

Ed found himself in a position similar to Carrie’s. Although Ed had used Online Day in the two previous semesters, the third semester he was required to teach his course with Blackboard. He dealt with the conflict by embedding a link to the Online Day materials within the Blackboard interface. Ed had to resort to this method to be in compliance with university policy, but it seemed to hinder the students in finding the Online Day resources. When I asked Ed about the biggest problem he encountered during the semester, he responded, “I think just kids not knowing how to get into Online Day. We get into Online Day kind of through the back door in the sense that we do have it now on Blackboard.” Embedding the link to Online Day under a layer of Blackboard navigation may have added to the difficulty of the course for some of the students. Ed indicated that he experienced more difficulty than in previous semesters helping the students learn to use the technology. The students asked repeatedly for him to reopen the online tests beyond the allotted time frame.

It seems like I had to kind of keep going back and nurse some of them along. It’s like, come on, you know, I’m not going to open any more for you again, stop doing this. Some would get behind. I had two students that failed. I’ve not had that before.

Another way of dealing with the requirement to use the campus-wide system was to simply create and maintain two different websites for the course. Lyle and Mark both tried this approach. Lyle had difficulty deciding what to put on which website in order for the students to be able to distinguish between the two. Mark dealt with the ambiguity by creating two identical sites, but eventually stopped maintaining the Online Day website. The clash of the two course management systems created some of the most serious problems for the instructors and students using Online Day, which will be discussed in greater detail later in the chapter.

Instructor Technology Training

Universities differed in the level of technology training provided to instructors. Most of the instructors had received training in their campus-wide course management system, but they did not always get to practice their new skills within the training session. According to Miller, she had not been given time to practice with Blackboard at the training session. She would have liked to work with her own “real” course materials, and have a head-start to setting up the rest of the course on her own. The literature on cognitive information processing corroborates Miller’s instincts that both rehearsal and working with real materials have been very reinforcing to learners of technology. As information is processed into long-term memory, the learner combines the new information with prior knowledge (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1971). Any sensory cues that aid this process help anchor the information, therefore using one’s own course materials would fill this function very well. This fits with Ausubel’s meaningful learning theory (1963) which listed three essential conditions: the learner must use a meaningful learning set; the material to be learned must be potentially meaningful; and what the learner already knows and how it relates to what is to be learned. The last item provides the cognitive structure for linking new ideas, which Ausubel referred to as anchoring ideas.

The short training sessions did not allow Miller time to practice the new skills to absorb what she had been shown. There was not have time to make mistakes, get help, and try again. Miller described her experience:

Your institution offers professional development training and things like Smart Board and Blackboard, and I’ve sat through a few of those for those two-hour long courses and gotten excited about it and then really had trouble in the application phase, when you come and try to get to use it. I have not really put the time or the energy into doing that.

Nancy’s situation was very similar to Miller’s. Although she used Blackboard for the theories course, besides posting her syllabus, she only used it to post a couple of announcements. Learning to incorporate constructivism in her online pedagogy was a challenge for Nancy. She lacked the time to learn the technology, due to her full teaching load in addition to her involvement in professional societies at the leadership level.

Pedagogy

Several of the instructors had not developed pedagogy that integrated technology. None of them mentioned being introduced to technology by their university instructors. Although e-learning was in use in the late 1980s, the instructors who finished their doctorates ten or more years ago did not have classrooms with the computer technology that is widespread today, such as podiums designed for laptops, classroom Internet connections, or computer projectors.

E-learning is a relatively new phenomenon. Personal computers did not come into use until the late 1970s. Yan, et al. (2003) described e-learning as “a learning system that uses various electronic techniques as its primary medium for learning.” According to Alonzo, et al. (2005), e-learning is basically an alternative way to teach and learn that has not yet incorporated the pedagogical principles of teaching. Govindasamy (2002) found that software tools for e-learning over the Internet were found not to extend to pedagogy; therefore, the pedagogical manner for teaching with these tools was left to the instructors.

Although the instructors in this study had become adept at technology for personal use, such as Word, email, and the Internet, the instructors did not have equal skill levels with using technology in the classroom. Only a few of the instructors had mastered a course management system.

Pierson (1999) found that in order to fully integrate technology in teaching, the instructor needed to be firmly grounded in three types of knowledge: pedagogical, content, and technological.

Technology in the hands of an exemplary teacher is not a foregone conclusion of integrated use. Unless the teacher views technology use as an integral part of the learning process, it will remain a peripheral supplement. True integration is the intersection of multiple types of teacher knowledge and is likely as rare as expertise. (p. 225-226)

The instructors were clearly experts in the areas of subject content and pedagogical knowledge. Several were very experienced in the use of course management systems. However, for the vast majority, there was a distinct lack of technological pedagogical knowledge (Pierson, 1999).

An example of a lack of technological pedagogy was Carrie’s previous attempt to use discussion boards. Carrie was very experienced in her field of study, and had extensive training in the course management system, WebCT. She had successfully implemented discussion boards with classes before, but because her method of assessment was highly individualized and time consuming, she had stopped using discussion boards years ago. The two online instructors, Ed and Ken, did not emphasize grades for discussion board postings. Ken’s assessment took place within the discussion board. Ken chose one idea to comment on, and posted it to the whole class. Ed actively participated in the discussions. He explained to the students that they would not receive grades for the postings, but their active participation and quality of responses could boost their grade a point or two, if they were on a borderline between one letter grade and another. These types of assessment encouraged participation and did not require extra time on the part of the instructors. Research shows that teacher participation in discussion boards increases student engagement (Durrington, Berryhill, & Swafford, 2006).

How Did They Teach?

Figure 6 shows the range of teaching methods used as reported by the instructors. All of the instructors were aware of the importance of, and therefore used, a variety of methods to work with students who had different learning styles.

Tabla 1: Participants’ levels of technology use in the CBAM Levels of Use of an Innovation.
  Lyle Nancy Laura Ken Mark Miller Neal Carrie Ed
Teacher Centered                  
Lecture x x x   x x x x  
Multiple choice tests x     x x x x x x
Demonstration x         x x    
Large class discussion x x x   x x x x  
Student Centered                  
Students teach students       x   x     x
Group projects     x x          
Online discussion       x         x
Student presentations     x     x      
Instructor scaffolding               x x
Experiential exercises x   x     x x    
Reflective writing x x   x     x   x
Small group discussion   x x     x   x  

The pedagogical methods in Figure 6 give a picture of how each instructor taught. The teaching methods are divided into two types: teacher centered and student centered. Teacher centered methods, such as lecture, presentation, and demonstration, are used by the instructor to present information to students. Large class discussions are considered teacher centered when the instructor asks questions of the class in general to lead them to a specific right answer. Multiple choice tests require the student to choose the correct answer from a short selection of possible answers. These methods provide little opportunity for the students to express their ideas and demonstrate that they have integrated the information into their practice. In Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, this kind of transaction is at the lowest level, Knowledge (1984).

Learning theorists, such as Bloom and Vygotsky, discuss a higher level of learning that indicates that the student has synthesized the knowledge, and is able to use it in new situations to solve new problems. Situated learning theory also supports the idea that student-centered teaching methods lead to better integration of knowledge (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Bloom referred to this stage of knowledge acquisition as high order thinking, or critical thinking. Vygotsky’s theory of constructivism concerns the interaction between two people in which one helps the other to understand something by providing just the right scaffolding, or assistance, at the right time, to help a student solve a problem she or he was unable to solve completely on their own. This takes place in social interactions between a student and an instructor, or between two students.

Learning theorists also consider learning styles as an important aspect of teaching. Howard Gardener’s theory of multiple intelligences (1997) leads to the idea of using a wide variety of teaching methods in order to reach more students. Therefore, it is good pedagogy to use multiple methods. The instructor who used the greatest number of instructional methods was Miller, who taught a hybrid course. Of the face-to-face instructors, Laura used the greatest variety of teaching methods, followed by Neal. Of the online instructors, Ken used the greater number of teaching methods.

Overall, the instructors who used the greatest number of student-centered methods were Ken, Miller, Ed, and Laura. Each of these instructors believed that a high level of interaction with the students and among the students was important to learning.

Instructors as Technology Experts

Another issue that confronted the instructors was that the students turned to them as the technology experts. Most of the students went directly to the instructor for technology troubleshooting, which added significantly to the instructors’ duties. Most of the instructors, however, had not developed a high level of expertise with the software, and did not have a repertoire of techniques to draw from when faced with technology problems. This unexpected demand from the students increased their teaching load, and caused one instructor to abandon Online Day halfway through the semester.

Lack of Experience

Miller talked about difficulties some of the students had with learning to use Online Day:

I would say the start up for about 5 of the 25 students was a little rough. They were pretty panicky, pretty scared when they couldn’t post or when they had a cookie that wouldn’t allow them to do anything and they couldn’t get the videos, so that was a problem. I don’t think we really had any others. I think once everyone was able to access the videos and do their postings it was very smooth. And because it’s hybrid, because they come in every week, every other week, any time they have a problem it’s really fairly quick to deal with it.

Miller’s solution to the students’ problems was reactive rather than proactive. Rather than preparing the students for possible problems and how to cope with them, she addressed technology problems that students had encountered in class. Although the students learned how to function within the system over time, there were times that they had to wait a week until the next class meeting to get help with the technology, and experienced some frustration in the process.

Instructors’ Technology Support

Ed did not have the technical skills needed to teach an online course. However, he was able to teach online because he had the support of dedicated technical staff who worked with instructors who teach online. Ed had high praise for the technology expert, Tim, who worked with Ed extensively. Tim not only filled in the course webpage template for Ed using Ed’s syllabus, but he also communicated with the publisher’s technical staff to solve problems for Ed and the students. Ed recounted his relationship with Tim:

The guy’s personable, he’s helpful, you can’t offend him, he works well, and he solves problems very quickly. And I would say I probably could not have done this without him. So technical support, unless you are a master at programming and online instruction, you’ve got to have the technical support in-house. I couldn’t have done it otherwise.

Although Laura and Miller were new to using any kind of course management system, they showed determination to learn to use Online Day by making use of tutoring over the phone provided by the publisher. This service was offered to all the adopters of the Online Day material, as well as the direct phone number to the company who created the software. The tutor coached them in filling out the website class template as well as posting their assignments and the course syllabus.

Levels of Technology Integration

The burning issue in this study was to what degree the instructors integrated this new technology with their teaching. In this section I have used two instruments to inform my development of tables of the participants’ levels of technology implementation. The first chart was created using the Levels of Use of an Innovation which is part of the Concerns Based Adoption Model, or CBAM (Hall & Loucks, 1977). CBAM is a well established measurement of technology adoption by teachers in K-12 education which has been effectively used in educational research over the past 31 years. The second chart is one I created by listing some major components of the Online Day website. It clearly shows how many of the components were used by each participant to indicate their levels of technology integration.

The Concerns Based Adoption Model

The Concerns Based Adoption Model (Anderson, 1997) is a widely applied theory and method for studying the process of teachers integrating a new innovation. It is concerned with measuring and describing the process of change experienced by teachers involved in attempts to implement new curriculum materials and instructional practices. This study will be using the Level of Use dimension to examine how the participants incorporated the Online Day course materials. Initially there were only six levels of use in this tool, but over time it has been revised and expanded to eight levels:

  • Level 0--Non-use.
  • Level 1--Orientation; seeking information about the innovation but not yet decided to adopt.
  • Level 2—Preparation; actively preparing to use the innovation, but not yet used it in class.
  • Level 3—Mechanical; beginning to implement change and struggling with logistics; teacher centered.
  • Level 4a--Routine Use; establishing a pattern of regular use.
  • Level 4b--Refinement; changing innovation to be more student centered.
  • Level 5--Integration; collaborating with other teachers to benefit students.
  • Level 6—Renewal; needing to make major changes in the innovation or explore alternative practices.
Tabla 2: Participants’ levels of technology use in the CBAM Levels of Use of an Innovation.
  Lyle Nancy Laura Ken Mark Miller Neal Carrie Ed
Level 6 - Renewal         x     x  
Level 5 - Integration                  
Level 4b - Refinement                  
Level 4a - Routine x     x   x x   x
Level 3 - Mechanical use             x    
Level 2 - Preparation     x            
Level 1 - Orientation   x              
Level 0 - Non-use                  

Although these categories are general, they are clearly defined. However, CBAM was created in 1976 for use in evaluating K-12 teachers' learning to adopt technology. The assumption at that time was that all the teachers were just starting to use technology, so a linear progression from a very basic level of use made sense in that context.

In this study, the participants were experienced college instructors who had been using computers for as many as 18 years in daily life and in teaching. In attempting to place the instructors on the chart at the appropriate levels, it became clear that the categories of CBAM, beginning with such early stages of linear progression of learning, did not accommodate the sophistication the participants experience with technology. Researchers Leithwood and Montgomery (1987) identified the linearity of the CBAM’s level of use tool as a shortcoming, and this criticism applies to this study. For example, there was great variation in the levels of implementation within the category of routine use. Of the five participants at the routine level, Miller, Ed and Ken implemented the videos, the online quizzes, and the discussion board, whereas Neal and Lyle used only online quiz component.

Category Five, collaborating with other instructors to make the innovation more student-centered, did not fit the participants. The nine instructors worked alone, in the sense that no one else on campus was using the online course package. This differs significantly from the K-12 environment in which teachers adopted the innovation as a group by grade, thereby having a discreet, identifiable cohort.

Another difference between the college and K-12 environment was that the school facilitator was usually the school principal, who tells the teachers to adopt the innovation. In this study, the college instructors all voluntarily adopted, with the possible exception of Laura, who was encouraged to adopt by her supervisor. For the rest, the Intellipro staff or the telephone assistant could have served as facilitator, but half did not contact either of them.

The Level 6 instructors, Mark and Carrie, did not move through the categories in a linear way. Carrie was not able to move into Level 4b (Refinement; changing innovation to be more student- centered) or Level 5 (Integration; collaborating with other teachers to benefit students), because the instructional technologist informed her that she had to use Web CT as the course management system, and simply embed the link to Online Day within it. This actually caused the course to become less student centered, because it added extra navigational layers for the students to negotiate. The same situation evolved with Ed when he was preparing to teach with the Online Day resources the fourth time.

It became clear that the linear model of CBAM did not fit with college level instructors who had more autonomy and possessed varying levels of technology experience, which was also questioned in a review of CBAM literature (Anderson, 1997). My conclusion resonates with a study that found CBAM inadequate to fit a more complex environment (Vandenberghe, 1983).

Use of Online Day Components

In order to have a clearer understanding of the participant’s level of technology use, Figure 8 was constructed to show the most frequently used components of the Online Day website. The categories refer to the actions taken by the instructors to implement the various components: customized course website, posted syllabus; created weekly quiz from test bank; assigned online videos; posted weekly discussion board topic; posted comments on the discussion board; received assignments online, and supplemented with other technologies.

The most frequently cited reason the participants gave for adopting the online version of the course materials was to give students access to the case videos. However, the most universally adopted online component was the test bank for creating chapter quizzes. In this section I will discuss the components used and the reasons why the instructors chose to use some components and not others. In addition to the components most frequently used from the Online Day website, a category has been appended to indicate that instructors supplemented the technology offered on the website with other technologies. For example, some instructors brought departmental videos to the class, they assigned the students to listen to online podcasts, and one instructor even assigned students to collaborate in small groups to create case videos that were shown in class.

By indicating which components were used under each instructor’s name, the chart reflects the amount and variety of technology used in their teaching. The data from this chart will be combined with other data on each instructor to create a composite view of how they taught. The collective data adds to our knowledge of which parts of Online Day were able to be integrated with the instructors’ teaching.

The students in these graduate courses came from varied backgrounds, had a wide age span, and each one had their own unique combination of learning skills and intelligences, as described by Gardner (1984). In order to reach a diverse group of students in a class, it is considered good pedagogy to use a variety of teaching methods and techniques.

Tabla 3: Components of Online Day implementation by the instructors.
  Laura Ed Lyle Nancy Neal Miller Carrie Mark Ken
Customized course website x x x   x x x x x
Posted syllabus x x x   x x x x x
Weekly quiz from test bank   x x   x x x   x
Assigned online videos x x     x x x
Weekly discussion board topic   x       x     x
Posted comments on discussion   x             x
Received assignments online             x   x
Instructor's own technologies x   x     x   x  

A notable correlation was that the instructors who used the Online Day materials the least (Nancy, Mark and Laura) claimed that their biggest challenge in teaching the course was to prepare the students for the state licensing exam. Thus, their efforts to teach to cover the material on the test took precedence over using the Online Day resources, even though the Online Day resources were designed to prepare students for the exam as well.

Online quizzes

Six out of nine instructors required students to take the weekly quizzes created from the test bank. Lyle and Neal felt that the online tests helped to ensure that the students read the material before coming to class, which contributed to a high level of participation in the class discussions. Neal believed that the online tests contributed toward the cohesiveness of the class. Test grading was usually a chore for which Neal often procrastinated. He was very pleased that the automatic grading of quizzes gave the students instant feedback. Students were also able to check their quiz grades anytime, which let them know where they stood. The online quizzes were taken outside of class resulting in more time that could be devoted to interpersonal communication with and among the students. The online quiz component was most like traditional pedagogy than any other of the online components. Rather than adding to their work, it saved the instructors the work of preparing questions and grading tests.

Videos

The chapter videos were the second most popular component. Streaming video was used to deliver the five case videos to the students directly over high-speed Internet connection. Several instructors (Neal, Ed, and Miller) mentioned how important the videos were to the students in helping them understand the theories in action. According to Neal, the only way to see therapy in action was to be the client, to be the therapist, or to watch it on video.

However, not all students were able to access the streaming videos from the website. Some of the students did not know how to download the video player software to their computers, some did not have high-speed Internet connections, some did not purchase the book which gave them access to the software, and some did not own a computer.

Neal created a work-around to deliver the course videos to his undergraduate students. He obtained copies of the videos on CD for the students to watch on reserve at the library. Mark and Carrie both dropped the requirement for students to watch the videos on their own, because two or three students in each of their classes could not access the video online. Rather than have students working on an uneven playing field, they chose to drop the assignment.

Laura was ambivalent about whether she should assign the students to watch the videos or simply recommend it, because two students were not able to access them with their dial-up connections. However, she recommended but did not require that they watch them, and they later discussed the videos in class.

Miller assigned the students to watch the videos from the website outside of class. Additionally, she showed some videos in class from the departmental library to help explain a particular theory. Showing videos in class had always been problematic for Miller, because there was never enough time to show them in their entirety. This caused her to skip around in the video, trying to show highlights. She was unhappy that the students never had the opportunity to watch a whole session with a practitioner and client. By having the videos on the web, Miller had hoped the students would be able to take their time to watch them and see it being performed. It is ironic that the most desirable technology feature of Online Day failed to perform as expected for most of the classes.

Discussion Board

Only three of the instructors, Ken, Ed and Miller, used the discussion board feature, the most complex pedagogical tool in Online Day. Discussion boards offer an environment in which each student can have a say and the students can get to know one another through their writings (An & Kim, 2006; Durrington, et al., 2006; Lewis & Abdul-Hamid, 2006; Moore, 1989). Because student contribution to discussion is required, many more participate than in face-to-face class discussions. Because the online messages are saved in the discussion board software, students’ postings remain visible for the entire semester. “The permanency of this electronic text, however brief, and ability to comment on or revisit it are motivating aspects of online learning” (Bonk & Cunningham, 2003).

The instructors in this study faced some challenges in how to engage the students in online discussions. One challenge was to create provocative discussion topics that would stimulate the students’ thinking. Although reflective topics for each chapter were included in the e-textbook, Miller chose to create her own discussion topics. Ed and Ken relied on the reflections and case studies provided for discussions. Another challenge was how to encourage students to respond to one another, instead of addressing the instructor in their postings. The third challenge was deciding what degree the instructor should participate in the discussion, and finally, how to assess student participation.

Ken and Ed reported free-flowing discussions online, where students felt free to challenge and disagree with one another over time. They each hoped the online discussions would result in students learning from each other. The medium provided the opportunity for the students to read all the class essays and see where their work fit into the body of work of their colleagues. Ken felt that through reading each other’s papers, the students seemed to discover new ideas that they had not thought about before. Although the students were using the same resources, seeing what others chose to focus on broadened their understanding of the topic.

Ed reported that the students challenged each other’s opinions within the discussion board use. This exemplifies evaluation, one of the signatures of higher-level thinking on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning (Bloom, 1984).

Miller was much more prescriptive in her instructions to students using the discussion board. She included in her syllabus a detailed rubric spelling out exactly how the students should post an essay and comment to one other student in the class. She recommended that each time they commented on a fellow student’s work, they should choose a different student. Miller wanted to ensure that the discussion board activities enabled the students to learn from each other. It gave them the opportunity “to address arguments of students across the class over the course of the semester,” and promoted the development of close relationships.

Miller never posted her comments to the discussion board, but chose instead to respond to them in writing. “I don’t want it to be public. I often challenge their thinking and their opinions.” Clearly, Miller did not want to embarrass students by challenging the students in front of their peers. But receiving individual responses, the students were not able to reap the benefit from Miller’s collective comments or her responses to other individuals.

In the area of assessment, Ken had developed a very streamlined way of responding to student postings on the discussion board. He had become very familiar with distance learning and online discussions while earning two of his advanced degrees. Ken felt the most helpful aspect of Online Day was the discussion board, where students could post their three-page reflective essays and comment on each other’s work. Ken’s technique for responding to the students’ essays without becoming overwhelmed was to comment on one aspect of each discussion to the whole group, which stimulated further discussion.

All three instructors who used the discussion board reported high levels of student satisfaction with the course. Each reported seeing trust develop between students over the semester. Miller and Ken noticed a definite improvement in the students’ writing skills over the term. Each required the students to post frequently, and to comment on other students’ writings. Ken saw the students develop their individual voices online, and noticed how the students’ writing became less formal and more personal as they opened up and shared their experience. Miller stated that in her hybrid course, the students showed more confidence in class discussions as the term progressed, which she attributed to their experience of defending their positions on the discussion board. Ed was pleased with the students’ confidence and trust growing to the point that they were comfortable challenging each others’ ideas.

Barriers

The instructors faced a variety of barriers to adopting Online Day ranging from the software design, their lack of skills in using technology, and their lack of experience integrating technology into their teaching to student’s lack of technology skills and access to computers and high-speed Internet.

Online Day Software Design

Intellipro, the developer of the Online Day materials, had already applied their web-based course management system to college courses in disciplines such as finance, math and science. The Online Day course in psychology was Intellipro’s first venture into developing course materials in the humanities or social sciences. This is an important consideration for several reasons in thinking about how digital materials are best presented for teaching in the different disciplines. First, the examples given for the instructors to learn how to set up a course were all from science and math courses. Because social science instructors usually have less computer expertise than their counterparts in math and science, cogent examples are important to understanding how the software works. The psychology instructors would have been better served with more instructions and cues within the interface to guide them through the process of setting up their courses.

Instructor Module not Intuitive

Several instructors commented that the course management software was not intuitive. Ken noted that the students did not seem to have any trouble navigating the program. However, he experienced some minor problems using the menu when he was setting up the course. “From the instructor’s perspective, the menu was hard to follow. In fact, I had to consult with tech support quite often to figure out exactly how I could get to what I needed when I was setting up the syllabus.”

In the same vein, Nancy found setting up the course bewildering. “I actually looked at it, and then gave up pretty quickly when it wasn’t extremely intuitive. I’m not a computer person, so if it’s not ‘push this button to do this,’ I’m lost.” Nancy talked about running into difficulty early in the process of setting up the course:

I think I even had trouble figuring out if I had registered for the course. It was telling me I needed to register again. It’s like, I thought I did that. It seemed to me in my ideal world it would have had, kind of like Blackboard does, “This is your course. Click on this. These are the little icons that you can use for the course. This is the discussion board, this is the, you know, the course documents, push here to upload.”

Nancy was already familiar with Blackboard, and expected other course management software to operate in a similar way. When she realized how different it was to set up the Online Day website for her class and how time-consuming it would be to learn, she confided, “There’s that crunch of all the things that you’re doing in addition to your teaching, and so I just didn’t take the time.”

Learning with Words or Numbers?

An underlying difference between social science courses and math or hard science courses is that the subject matter is based on thoughts and ideas expressed in words rather than numbers. An example of the problem of fit for the website with humanities and social science courses was the built-in test bank and automatic grading component.

Assignments in the humanities and social sciences are more often essays than problems with a right or wrong answer. All of the participants in this study used essay questions as assessments. Grading of essays requires a subjective assessment by the instructor. Therefore the grading system built into the program could not work for all assignments. It was built on a test bank of multiple choice questions covering each chapter. While weekly multiple choice quizzes may ensure that the students have read the chapter, they may not show in as comprehensive a way that the students have integrated the new knowledge as an essay question would. When the textbook author explained this to the publisher, Intellipro did create a way for students to submit essays from within the website. Still, there was no accommodation for adding grades from these assignments to the automatic grading component.

Reasons for Technology Avoidance

The tendency for instructors to avoid certain online components in Online Day can be attributed to three major reasons. First, many did not have the time to try out all of the components and discover all the resources offered that they could build into their courses. Second, most of the instructors and their students had experience with a course management system, and felt frustration in learning to use a new one that worked differently. And third, they had to learn how to incorporate the new resources into their course designs. This meant they had to create new assignments and ways of assessing them.

Nancy did not use the online resources with her students. She decided not to adopt the Online Day materials the following semester, but to return to the textbook she had taught with before. She summed up her experience:

It really looked good when I had it demonstrated, but once again, I didn’t have the time to put in to figure it out. Especially when I realized the students weren’t going to have access, I didn’t want to have an unlevel [sic] playing field with the students.

A number of Nancy’s students lived in rural areas where high-speed Internet connection was not available. This meant that they could not watch the streaming videos, which was the most appealing element of Online Day to Nancy. Because of this technical difficulty and because of being pressed for time, Nancy decided not to use Online Day the following semester, but to return to her old familiar textbook she had used before.

The instructors expected Online Day to look and act like course management systems they were already familiar with (i.e.--WebCT or Blackboard). Because there are no industry standards for interfaces, the interface most widely subscribed to becomes the standard by default. The instructors felt it was a waste of their time and their students’ time to have to learn both Blackboard or WebCT and a new application which is different, but basically does the same thing.

Carrie articulated this difficulty when she was struggling about whether or not to keep using Online Day for her summer course, before she worked out a compromise with the technology support expert:

I’ve chosen not to use the website for my summer class. And I know you’re going to ask me why. I think the learning curve for our students, especially in the summer, because they’re so used to using WebCT, they can get on WebCT and work on that in their sleep. My students this semester, and they’ve taken several courses that are Web CT, the learning curve was a little steep. It’s not difficult, but it’s just when you’re, for several semesters, used to one environment in terms of technology and then you move to another environment, I mean it was almost like – they were grateful for the book not costing an arm and a leg, they really liked the PowerPoints and being able to watch the videos, and all of that, but by the time they got through “huntin’ and peckin’ around,” I don’t think I want to do that for the summer.

The majority of the instructors did not understand how to design assignments using the technology. There was no instruction in using the software given in the Online Day Instructor’s Guide. The instructors with little online teaching experience lacked knowledge of using the technology to engage the students in learning. This lack of technological pedagogy caused them to use their old methods rather than to struggle with using something new. A third reason the instructors didn’t use all the technology components offered in Online Day was their lack of efficient online assessment. Carrie said that the inordinate amount of time she had taken in previous courses reading, responding to and re-reading student postings had turned her off using discussion boards altogether.

Students’ Lack of Resources

The students were the source of some of the barriers to technology integration. Due to some of the students’ low economic status which resulted in non-purchase of the textbook and lack of access to a home computer and/or high-speed Internet, the instructors could not depend on their accessing the Online Day materials. Several instructors dropped assignments that required high-speed Internet because there was not universal access to the resources. They were committed to providing an even playing field for all students in the class.

Roughly half of the students were returning to graduate school after years of working full-time. Some of them were at a disadvantage because they had not been exposed to course management systems, e-learning, or the expectations at universities today that students enter the program with a certain level of expertise in using computers.

Social aspect of learning

Several of the instructors believed that online teaching was inadequate to the teaching of theories and practice in counseling psychology. They felt strongly that face-to-face experiential instruction was crucial for the students to integrate the course content into their counseling repertoire. Although they were teaching a theories course, they felt it was essential to student learning to see the theories of counseling put to use, and to be able to practice the skills with other students with the guidance of the instructor in class.

The instructors in this study believed that the social aspect of learning was very important. Miller used icebreaker exercises at the beginning of the semester with her class to help the students to get to know each other. Even though Ed was teaching the theories course online, he felt it was not the best way to teach it. He did not like the fact that he was unable to meet the students in person. He and Lyle felt that totally online classes did not allow for the kind of communication that could happen in a face-to-face discussion. He felt there was value in meeting together as a class and discussing things. However, Lyle believed that the online text, the videos and the research articles included in the Online Day served as important resources as an adjunct to the classroom experience. Lyle’s point is supported by educational research which finds a blended approach to learning that incorporates social constructivism and information-processing psychology enhances student learning (Alonzo, Lopez, Manrique & Vines, 2005).

Career Stage and Age

The most significant determinant of technology integration for the participants in this study was age and stage of life. An unexpected correlation was that the youngest instructors did not embrace technology in their teaching to the degree that some of the oldest did. To give a clear idea of the phases of career the instructors fell into, Donald Super’s career theory was employed.

Super’s Career Ladder

Donald Super is one of the most notable contributors to the field of career development, having spent half a century creating a theory that departed from traditional trait-factor theories, and instead was based on life stages (Anderson & Vandehey, 2006). Super’s Career Ladder is drawn as a series of steps that represent the different stages of psychological development of a careerist (Super, Savickas, & Super, 1996). In this model, each stage is completed before moving on to the next. A career is seen as developing over a lifetime, and may consist of a number of different jobs overtime. Super’s diagram shows the progress of psychological development over a person’s lifetime. Starting with Birth, the categories progress through Growth (ages 4-11), Exploration (ages 18-30), Establishment (ages 30-45), Maintenance (ages 45-65), Decline (ages 65-75), and Death (ages 75 and over). Because this study focuses on the instructors’ working years, the early life stages are not dealt with. Starting with Establishment and ending with Decline, the instructors’ current position on Super’s Ladder will be explored.

Figura 1: Super’s Career Ladder (Super, Savickas, & Super, 1996) with instructors’ names inserted at the appropriate developmental stage of their careers.
There is a stair shaped diagram on the left side of this image. Progressing from the bottom of the step to the top of the steps there are dashed horizontal lines. Each one of the line has a number on the left of the step figure to a vertical line on the left.

Establishment Stage

The instructors at Super’s Establishment stage of their teaching careers were Laura, Lyle, Ken, and Nancy. Laura was the least experienced instructor of the group. Although she was completing her first year as a full-time instructor, she was already fully engaged in professional development activities which would contribute toward her tenure requirements. Her outreach work focused on getting her students involved in professional organizations and supporting them in presenting papers at conferences. At the prompting of her supervisor, she adopted the Online Day course materials. However, she did not become very familiar with the online resources. She had taught the theories course before using a different textbook, and expressed frustration with the burden of learning not just a new textbook, but a whole new way of teaching. She expressed mixed feelings about whether to stick with the Day textbook or to go back to another text with which she was more familiar. Laura represented the Trial-committed phase of the Establishment Stage. She felt compelled to use the Online Day materials, but her workload and tenure-related activities held her back.

Lyle was also a neophyte to teaching, in the same stage as Laura. For this course, he did adopt the online test bank to create weekly quizzes, but did not attempt to incorporate any other features of the Online Day program. He was not very comfortable learning new software, and he enjoyed the more traditional lecture format in teaching. Lyle expressed an interest in learning more about using the Online Day resources through a future workshop at a professional conference. He was interested to hear from others about their experiences in teaching with it. Like Laura, Lyle was also in Establishment, at the trial-committed phase of his career in his second year of teaching.

Before Nancy entered the field of psychology, she had a professional career as a lawyer. She was a few years older than Laura and Lyle. At the end of her sixth year as instructor, Nancy was facing tenure review. She had only been working at a Research One level institution for a year, and there were expectations for her to provide professional leadership at the national level. Most of her energy was directed toward the publication of a book and several articles for journals, serving on the editorial board of a professional journal, and presenting papers at conferences. There was little time left for Nancy to devote to her teaching, much less learning new course software.

Nancy had seen the Online Day course demonstrated at a conference, and it looked quite simple to use. However, when she tried to set up her class in the Online Day website, she had trouble getting started. She was disappointed that the software did not include prompts, like Blackboard provides, to lead her through the process of setting up the course. In addition, she discovered that her off-campus classroom had no Internet connection and that the students did not all have computer access from home. Finally, she found out that some of the students who did have computers at home did not have high-speed Internet connections which were necessary to view the streaming case videos from the website. At that point Nancy abandoned the idea of using the Online Day resources altogether.

Nancy used Blackboard to post announcements and some PowerPoint presentations from an earlier class on theories using a different textbook. She had recently attended a course in hybrid teaching which covered such topics as how to engage students in online discussions and how to assess them. She thought meeting face-to-face only every other week would be helpful both for her and for her off-campus students, because many of them had to drive an hour or more to reach the off-campus classroom. Nancy was completing the Establishment stage-Consolidation phase and was moving into the Advancement phase of Establishment.

Ken, a recently retired counseling practitioner, was in his sixth year as a college instructor. Ken was teaching for enjoyment, the modest income, and the benefit of being involved in a professional community. A friend of his on the faculty of the college had been wooing Ken to come teach with him for a number of years. When Ken finally retired and found full-time retirement unappealing, he decided to try his hand at teaching. His schedule was flexible, relieving him of the tightly-scheduled day he had experienced in private practice for over 30 years.

For Ken, by far the oldest of the three, tenure was a non-issue. He taught the course online, but he had the opportunity to work with each of his students face-to-face during a week and a half intensive residency at the beginning of the semester. This gave him time to develop relationships with each student, and to help them with any technical difficulties they experienced with the course software. The entire college only had 60 students enrolled, so his classes were very small. The previous semester Ken had taught with the Online Day materials for the first time. The class had 13 students. Because of the small teacher/student ratio, he could afford to spend many hours exploring the online resources and communicating with the students online. Ken found himself quite happily busy from sun-up to sun-down without a schedule. Regarding the Online Day course materials, Ken said that he would warn other instructors that it took quite a while for him to discover all the richness of the online program. He felt that the book was very well structured, but the software was not intuitive to learn. Although Ken had cycled through Super’s career stages, he was new to the profession of teaching. In his new job, like Nancy, he was also moving from Establishment/consolidation to Establishment/advancement, but without the marker of tenure status.

For the Establishment stage instructors, whether or not they were engaged in a tenure effort made a difference in their use of new technology. The tenure-seeking instructors were also less flexible in their teaching styles. This could be at least partly attributed to how heavily they were scheduled with work related activities. Because Ken’s workload was significantly lighter, he was able to spend the greatest amount of time learning and using Online Day.

Maintenance Stage

Carrie and Neal were in the Holding phase of the Maintenance stage of Super’s Career Ladder, having taught for 10 to 15 years. Miller was just below them on the ladder in the Transition phase between Establishment and Maintenance. For this course, both Carrie and Miller taught in a hybrid format, using a number of the online components in their teaching. Neal, on the other hand, taught face-to-face employing teaching methods he had developed over the years. The only part of the Online Day he incorporated was the online test bank.

Carrie had used the WebCT course management system for 10 years. Over that time, she had used discussion boards, created online quizzes, and taught classes completely online. Carrie taught a hybrid course which met physically only three weekends, but each of those weekends contained 13 hours of class time. She was able to show them how to set up their online accounts for the Online Day resources in person. The classroom provided each student with a laptop and Internet connections needed to use the course website. Carrie was very invested in her students, and kept close touch with them by email between class meetings. She was persistent in contacting the experts to solve the technical problems the students encountered in using the program, after years of working with the in-house technology expert on campus.

Carrie became unhappy with the frustrations the students encountered in taking the online quizzes and becoming familiar with the online course environment. It took energy she could have put into teaching to try to resolve the technical problems for the students. Most of Carrie’s students had already mastered working in Blackboard, but for the theories course they had to learn a new system. This factor alone caused Carrie to rethink using the online course materials for the following semester. She decided to use WebCT for the course shell, and to include a link to the Online Day materials. She would require the students to watch all the videos and to take the practice tests as well as the online quizzes. Carrie, though somewhat disheartened by this compromise, felt the content of the Day textbook and website was worth adapting for the future, and was willing to expend the effort. She represented the Holding phase of Maintenance.

The second Maintenance stage instructor, Neal, taught the course face-to-face. Neal had reviewed the course package for a journal, so he knew about the content and the various technology components. However, Neal only required the students to take weekly online quizzes and watch the course videos. He did not attempt to use the discussion board, or to have students submit assignments on the website. For the final exam, Neal gave the students an online portion from the test bank which counted as two-thirds of their grade. He, like Carrie, represented the Holding phase of Maintenance.

Miller had never used technology in teaching before. Although her colleagues had all begun to use technology to some degree, Miller had taught face-to-face classes and prepared printed copies of all the supplementary reading which were sold in the bookstore. Because she had been away from the classroom for a number of years serving administrative duties for the department, Miller had missed out on much of the technology training offered. She had recently been introduced to Blackboard in training sessions, but when she tied to implement it on her own, the difficulties outweighed its perceived value. Miller decided to teach a hybrid course in her last semester of teaching in the northeast, before moving to a larger university setting in another state. Miller devoted enough time learning the software and the course content to become proficient in implementing it. She used use of most of the online components with her hybrid class, including the discussion board. Miller had moved beyond Establishment into the Transition phase leading to Maintenance.

Each of these mid-career instructors represented a different aspect of the mini-cycle of the Maintenance phase. While Carrie was scaling back from teaching online to teaching a hybrid adopting a holding position, Miller was advancing her career and taking a bold step forward in her use of instructional technology. Neal, the only instructor who taught at the undergraduate level, seemed content to continue teaching in his usual style, adopting only the piece of technology that most closely resembled his usual teaching methods.

Decline

Ed and Mark had each worked in the field of counseling psychology for thirty years. According to Super’s Career Ladder, they were in a transition period between Maintenance and Decline. Ed had taught for 18 years, interspersed with years of as counseling practitioner. Although Ed had never before used technology in teaching, he decided to teach an online course at the request of his program chair. His university was in competition with three other universities in the region for students who wanted to take courses at a distance, so online courses were in demand. Ed’s online teaching was made possible because of the pre-packaged course materials and the availability of frequent help of the technology expert on campus. Ed could be considered to be in the Updating phase of Decline, as he was finding a niche in teaching with Online Day.

Mark, an older instructor in the Decline phase of career, was an exception to the pattern of the oldest instructors using technology the most. Although he started out the semester with the intention of using most of the Online Day components, by the end of the course he had abandoned them. He had been an early adopter who had experimented widely with technology in his teaching. Mark had taught the theories course for so long, he was not dependent on any one textbook. He tried using many of the Online Day components, but environmental factors in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina forced him to return to traditional teaching methods. Mark was stepping back from innovating and relying more on his traditional ways of teaching. For these reasons, Mark fits into the Deceleration phase of Decline.

In summary, the two instructors who taught online courses and utilized the greatest number of Online Day components were older, and either retired (Ken), or close to retirement (Ed). They were both motivated to seek online teaching materials because they were committed to teaching the theories course online in the near future. Their motivation helped them to persevere in using the courseware even though they met with some obstacles. Being able to use online materials saved them time both in creating their courses, and in administering them. In contrast, three instructors who used the fewest Online Day components were in the Establishment phase of their careers and were seeking tenure (Nancy, Laura, and Lyle). Tenure seeking activities severely restricted the amount of time the new instructors could devote to learning new software. Their motivation to use Online Day was to enhance their teaching rather than to serve as the delivery mechanism for the course. When they met with obstacles, they did not persist in seeking solutions. Their degree of commitment to using the courseware was not high.

Recommendations for Future Research

This study raises important issues for courseware publishers, and for university administrators. In general, the courseware publishers should take great care in the selection of software producers to make sure that the software design is correct for the discipline, that the nomenclature fits the discipline, and that the product will work with existing campus-wide course management systems; otherwise, the courseware will not be widely adopted. University administrators should examine policies around bringing the computer skill levels of both students and instructors to a level where they can make use of widely used learning technologies.

Recommendations for Courseware Publishers

  1. Build software to be used inside campus-wide course management systems.
  2. Create media short segments that can be either used in the classroom or on a computer at home without access to high-speed Internet.
  3. Design software with written and built-in instructions.
  4. Tutorials for instructors should use examples from the appropriate discipline to engage their interest.
  5. If high-speed Internet connection is required to access course materials, provide alternative ways to access them.
  6. Keep in touch with campus technology experts and instructors to find out standards in use and potential design problems for the users.
  7. In designing course software, test interface menu terminology on potential users to achieve wide understanding.
  8. Distribution of courseware needs to work within already established channels of university textbook purchasing.

Recommendations to University Administrators

  1. Review and revise tenure requirements to support faculty trying new forms of teaching.
  2. Test students for computer skills before enrollment in an online course.
  3. If students lack computer skills to use the course management system or to communicate online, require enrollment in a course to teach the skills in their first semester.
  4. Provide instructions within the course management system for students.
  5. If use of course management software is required, instructors should either demonstrate their proficiency, or receive training in how to create a user-friendly course websites using their own course materials.
  6. Instructors should be taught how to prepare quality written communications that convey information and encourage and support students.
  7. Provide instructors with examples of best practices.
  8. Limit the size of online classes to ensure that instructors have time for the one-to-one communication necessary with students online.
  9. Customize professional development to faculty age and stage.

Recommendations for Further Research

Further research is needed in developing models for courseware that instructors find easy to use within their campus technology infrastructure to help supply resources for the growing number of hybrid and online courses in demand.

Due to the increasing demand for online resources, future research should be done to improve the design of courseware that works well in the classroom and for students at home. Special attention should be give to videos for instructors who teach integrated skills, such as counseling theories and practice. Video provides a unique way to demonstrate case studies in counseling.

Conclusion

This was a study primarily about teaching. The stories of the nine participants revealed much about how they taught, with one aspect being how they used technology in their teaching. Technology is often seen as disembodied, an abstraction. In the context of this study, the technology is not disembodied; instead, it is enmeshed in a very complex environment unique to each instructor. This environment consisted of:

  • The instructors’ stage of career (Establishment, Maintenance, or Decline);
  • The university and the departmental environments in which they worked (state vs. private, the use of campus-wide course management systems, training, technology support, and attitudes toward technology);
  • The physical environment, (on campus vs. off-campus vs. distance learning, a city recovering from a hurricane, technology infrastructure in the students’ homes);
  • The kind of students they taught (half in their 20s, and the other half mid-career adults, mixed gender classes vs. all female);
  • The instructor’s teaching philosophy, (traditional teacher-centered vs. constructivist/ student-centered);
  • Their competing motivations (teaching vs. tenure seeking, pleasing a supervisor by integrating new technologies vs. simplifying lesson planning)
  • Politics (competition for students in the region driving policy making).

Each instructor tailored their use of the Online Day software to their own motivations. These motivations ranged from getting tenure, pleasing a supervisor, having ready-made materials to teach an online course, demonstrating one’s level of technological expertise in teaching, simplifying testing and grading, and gaining more class time by offering a way for students to watch the course videos outside of class.

A deeper motivation lay in the instructor’s reason for choosing a teaching career. Some found gratification in performing and interacting with the students in the classroom. Others felt the need for job security, while others found gratification in having a professional persona, playing a leadership role, and being part of an academic community. Each of these reasons influenced the degree to which they incorporated technology in their teaching.

The two instructors who made the most complete use of the Online Day offerings were motivated to find materials with which to teach the theories course online. Neither had taught the course before they discovered Online Day, so they had not already developed their own course curriculum or teaching methods specific to the course. Therefore, they had fewer obstacles to overcome in adopting Online Day than those professors who had taught the theories course many times before.

The one professor who used Online Day the least was most engaged with tenure seeking activities that took her focus away from the classroom. Her motivation to get tenure precluded her spending a large amount of time learning to use a new computer program. In addition, this instructor classified herself as computer-phobic, which indicates that she would need to develop her level of comfort with computers by building computer skills.

Half of the instructors used the online materials as supplementary to their face-to-face teaching; the others split between teaching an online or a hybrid course. Although the course content was widely praised, the computer interface presented problems to the instructors. The interface lacked instructions, and the menu items did not clearly describe the features to which they linked.

The study found that although the courseware presented a number of barriers to the instructors’ use, faculty who had committed to teaching the theories course online managed to overcome most of them. Although the quality of the interface was important, environmental and personal factors also influenced to degree to which the courseware was used. Two significant personal factors were the instructors’ age and stage of career and their motivation for adopting the courseware. The older instructors who could devote more time to teaching and who were committed to teaching the theories course online were the highest level adopters of the courseware. The younger instructors who were trying to obtain tenure actually used the courseware the least. When they faced obstacles to use, the younger instructors did not persevere.

This information is relevant to institutions of higher education because universities are expanding their reach to students through online learning. Enrollment in online courses has been increasing at close to 20% per year for the past ten years (Allen & Seaman, 2007). This study points to the need for universities to help instructors develop their repertoire of teaching skills that will work in the classroom as well as online. 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 university needs to examine its support to faculty to ensure that pedagogy is taught along with technology skills. The study also points to the need to hire and develop instructors who are flexible in the way they approach teaching, who are interested in learning new teaching methods, and who have the communication skills to support online learning.

Content actions

Download module as:

PDF | EPUB (?)

What is an EPUB file?

EPUB is an electronic book format that can be read on a variety of mobile devices.

Downloading to a reading device

For detailed instructions on how to download this content's EPUB to your specific device, click the "(?)" link.

| More downloads ...

Add module to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks