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Are Independent Study/Correspondence Courses Still Viable? A Case Study (ICED 2008)
 

Are Independent Study/Correspondence Courses Still Viable? A Case Study (ICED 2008)

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Trends in distance education are moving toward online learning environments. However, despite some possible drawbacks to less “interactive” models of distance education, such as correspondence or ...

Trends in distance education are moving toward online learning environments. However, despite some possible drawbacks to less “interactive” models of distance education, such as correspondence or independent study, there are advantages that can be leveraged to make these types of classes meaningful and effective learning experiences. We will discuss, from the experiences of several distance education students, the advantages and disadvantages of the independent study model. Additionally, the experiences of these students in a highly rated independent study literature class highlight some principles that can help mitigate disadvantages and leverage the advantages of the correspondence or independent study model of distance education.

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  • “ I felt like one of the greatest challenges was having the self discipline to actually finish. Sometimes I remember having to ask for extensions and that kind of things. I always found that to be one of the challenging parts. As much as I love the books, there was still the work that had to be done” (Pam, Personal Communication, October 2, 2007). “ We are not undertaking the Ring to Mordor, but for some, finishing an independent study course can be as difficult ” (Bob, Personal Communication, May 19, 2008).
  • Independent study courses are typically set up for the student to work independently. This is also a natural consequence of the flexibility of time and location Many students saw this independence as a bit of isolation. Almost all the students in the study said that this was one of the disadvantages of the course format. Joy concisely explained it this way, At times it is hard not having that professor to immediately go to or other classmates that are doing the same things that you are doing. So that of course is the downfall that you don’t have anyone else that you can pick up the phone and call or walk up to the professor after class and say, “I not sure I am quite getting this.” You have to figure it out on your own which is a negative (Personal Communication, October 13, 2007). They missed having real-time access to the instructor to be able to ask questions. Many also would have liked to have contact or access to Dr. Walker. Additionally, nearly all students missed having discussions with other students and hearing their opinions on the literature as they would have in a face-to-face course or in some other types of distance education models. As Helen said, I know that this can't happen because people take this course at different times and for different lengths of time, which is why the courses at BYU work so well, but it would have been nice to have had an internet chat once in awhile with others in the course to get ideas and bounce around some thoughts (Personal Communication, March 22, 2008).
  • Another aspect of the location flexibility is the ability of students to work on the course most anywhere they chose to. Many of the students took advantage of the flexibility of being to able to study in a variety of places. Several of the students, like Joy, Michaela, Helen, and Lucy. Helen said though that she would take the reading wherever she was going and Lucy said, when needed, she would pack up her materials and go to the library. Leia did most of her studying at work.
  • Allowing students to learn when they are ready . Several students saw the flexibility of the course as essential because it allowed them to be able to take the course and still meet other responsibilities. Marian appreciated that she could work on the course and still be able to take care of her family. Michaela, Eve, Joy, Lucy, Helen, Mort and others shared this sentiment. For example, Joy appreciated that if her children had a ballgame or just needed her that she could drop what she was doing and she could wait to the next day work on things. Lucy not only had her children to care for. She also took about four to five months off to provide hospice care for her mother who eventually passed away. A typical semester long course would not have been possible for Lucy under these circumstances. Additionally, Mort, Joy, Marian, Eve and Leia all mentioned that they appreciated that the flexibility of the course accommodated their work schedules.
  • Yet there is more to the flexibility besides just being able to work around the other demands of life. Joy commented, “When I was feeling a little overloaded I might not do anything for a couple of days, in the evening watching movies with my kids or going out in the evening something” (Personal Communication, October 13, 2007). She would then work on the course when she was ready to learn. Helen commented that taking a mental break occasionally, which was made possible by the flexible nature of the course, was helpful to her learning. Sam to appreciated the flexibility because when he wanted to he could work in surges. He could work hard and get a lot done and then take time off to work on other courses or to have some fun. Later he could get back to the course when he was ready to. Whatever the reason, be it feeling overwhelmed or just not in the mood to study, the flexibility of the course allowed the students to work on the course when they wanted to or felt ready to. Of course, there may have been times when the primary motivation to work on the course was only to finish the course, as Mort and Eve expressed was sometimes the case. Nevertheless, the flexibility of independent study allows the student to be in charge and to work on the course when they are more ready to learn rather than just because it may be time to go to class.
  • Permitting a deeper approach to learning . Another important aspect of time flexibility in independent study was that it permitted a deeper approach to learning. Michaela explained that the course flexibility allowed her to take her time and explore some ideas and topics more in-depth. Sam explained, If this had been a normal course, I doubt that I could have finished it (well, I guess I could have, but I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much or been able to think as deeply about the material's personal applications). It was its flexibility that allowed for convenience as well as deeper personal insights (Personal Communication, March 1, 2008). Helen also expressed this feeling when she explained, If you are in a classroom situation and you have an assignment that you have to meet like reading a certain number of pages before class meets again in two days. If things come up and you have tried and tried to get those 30 pages read but you don’t, then you get to class and you don’t know what is going on. In an IS class, if I have two pages and I read them really well and then see what they are saying and it takes me several days just to tear those two pages apart, I have had time to digest it. Learning that way you don’t feel rushed… you have time to understand what is being taught [italics added] (Personal Communication, October 30, 2007). Kate explained that there were times when she wanted to spend more time exploring things more in-depth than in other classes. She said, “For example, if I wanted to spend a couple of weeks on a topic, I could (Personal Communication, July 20, 2007). She also explained that the reverse was true, if there were topics she was not as excited about she could work quicker and move on. Bob found that the independent study format was “a lot better for [him]” (Personal Communication, October 13, 2007). He said, “I was able to have more time to contemplate and think about what is going” (Personal Communication, October 13, 2007) rather than meet a typical class schedule.
  • One of the advantages of location flexibility for Lucy was the opportunity to influence her children. She shared how this was the case, I like the fact that sometimes when I’m studying, my kids get to come up and see me studying. So they see education is important. It is important to me, it is important to my husband.…I think it really reinforces to our children that college is important (Personal Communication, October 3, 2007). Due to the location flexibility many of the participants were around their usual social networks of family, friends, and those they work. Most of the students discussed what they were learning and experiencing with at least some of the people in their social circles. In several cases, these discussions were helpful to the students learning and also helpful in improving their relationships with others, which I will discuss this in more detail in the next chapter.
  • Lucy mentioned another course where they did local service that might not have been possible at school (do I want to include that?). <> I love the fact that, like for instance, when I took English 420 which is Adolescent lit., the independent study class that I had then, you know, you need to do some outside stuff, so she said you know, you need to go the bookstore, and look at the bookstore and see how they set up their adolescent lit area. Do they have magazines? do they have a young adult section? Do they put their young adult books in with the kid books? Do they put their young adult books in with the adult books? And so I had to go outside of my house and actually do some outside work. For my big research project I went and reorganized, my children go to a charter school and they combine with a middle school, so I went and reorganized their whole middle school library and made it more friendly for the young adults. I think the fact that I’m in an independent study class and I am away from the BYU campus and I’m in a community where I can actually work in my own community is really unique and I think that they fact that I am in a long distance learning environment allows me to do something completely different I couldn’t do had I been on campus learning. I think that that affords me a unique opportunity and probably very few students get that opportunity to do. And I like that (Personal Communication, October 3, 2007).
  • Yet, being in this situation of having to stay on top of their studies and stay motivated helped them become more self-disciplined and self-directed. As Hannah explained, “It challenges people to be self-motivated. You have to set your own schedule. If you don’t get things done it falls back on one person. So I think it just encourages that self-initiative for character building” (Personal Communication, August 30, 2007).
  • Despite these drawbacks, this put students into the position where to succeed they had to take responsibility for their own learning. As Dr. Walker explained, Seems to me that the particular strength of independent study is that very student responsibility; because they have to lean less on teachers and classmates, the individual student has a chance to depend more on her own best efforts. A student this past year wrote on a lesson: “Thanks for all the options. Independent Study should be independent” (Personal Communication, November 21, 2007). Dr. Walker also reflected on his own experiences as a student in independent study courses and how working with limited assistance was beneficial to him: I soon found those independent study courses tended not only to expedite but to improve my education.  I don't undervalue the communal aspect of learning, but I feel academic institutions tend to undervalue the individual aspects.  At Harvard, as with Oxford and Cambridge, much of the best education takes place in individual or small group tutorials, where the students are essentially on their own to read and meditate themselves into an education.  That's what BYU independent study classes often did for me--left me more on my own to figure out what most mattered, freer to learn what I felt I needed to learn. If you're convinced as I am that that's a benefit in education, independent study can provide a huge benefit along the lines of "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  You can lead a child to learning, but you can't make him think."  So the good thing for me about independent study was the independence.  That's why I've tried to incorporate as much of that as I could into the IS courses I've taught (Personal Communication, May 29, 2008). Many of the students in the study shared this view of the advantages of working independently. For example, even though Joy saw the negative side of working independently she also recognized the positive elements, “It also can be a positive because it forces you to think more through the process than having anyone feed you their opinion and going from that, it is completely you” (Personal Communication, October 13, 2007). Lucy also commented on this, You don’t have other students to get together and study with, to interact with and so you’re kind of really self reliant in the sense that you have to go out and find things for yourself. I could email the professor and ask questions, but I feel like I would be nagging him if I did it all the time. So I really need to be reliant upon myself to go out and find those answers for myself (Personal Communication October 3, 2007). The students could not lurk as may happen in the classroom and other distance education models. Thus as Dr. Walker said, “[the students] have to lean less on teachers and classmates” (Personal Communication, November 21, 2007).
  • Working independently can help students from being unduly influenced by others opinions or from the discussion or instructional conversation from being dominated and directed by a relatively small number of people. Pam mentioned this idea when she said that in this class she realized that she did not like The Lord of the Rings as much as she thought she would. She felt that if she had been in a class with of Tolkien enthusiasts she might not have come to the same conclusion. Eve commented on how she felt that working independently benefited her compared to classroom discussions: There wasn’t so much of the other classmates pushing [the discussion] in any particular direction….you can learn from other people’s insights, but it’s difficult to have your own insights when everyone else is coming up with one thing that is very interesting. So even if you feel like it’s different, it’s very difficult to be able to voice your own opinion in that kind of environment (Personal Communication, November 6, 2007). The students may miss out on hearing diverse views, which is a disadvantage. However, it comes with the advantage of students being able to think for themselves and have more control in the direction the conversation toward their personal interests and what they find relevant, which can allow for a deeper and more personal learning experience. Although the interaction with the instructor is limited compared to many a face-to-face experiences, the instructor could have still stifle student thought by designing the course so that his opinions and thoughts are put forth as the answer and expecting students to agree on the assessment. As previously discussed, Dr. Walker try to avoid this scenario in the following ways: (a) by preparing students for the readings but not giving away too much of his opinions, (b) by inviting students to share their personal thoughts and opinions through effective questions, (c) and by providing encouraging and respectful feedback.
  • Working independently can help students from being unduly influenced by others opinions or from the discussion or instructional conversation from being dominated and directed by a relatively small number of people. Pam mentioned this idea when she said that in this class she realized that she did not like The Lord of the Rings as much as she thought she would. She felt that if she had been in a class with of Tolkien enthusiasts she might not have come to the same conclusion. Eve commented on how she felt that working independently benefited her compared to classroom discussions: There wasn’t so much of the other classmates pushing [the discussion] in any particular direction….you can learn from other people’s insights, but it’s difficult to have your own insights when everyone else is coming up with one thing that is very interesting. So even if you feel like it’s different, it’s very difficult to be able to voice your own opinion in that kind of environment (Personal Communication, November 6, 2007). The students may miss out on hearing diverse views, which is a disadvantage. However, it comes with the advantage of students being able to think for themselves and have more control in the direction the conversation toward their personal interests and what they find relevant, which can allow for a deeper and more personal learning experience. Although the interaction with the instructor is limited compared to many a face-to-face experiences, the instructor could have still stifle student thought by designing the course so that his opinions and thoughts are put forth as the answer and expecting students to agree on the assessment. As previously discussed, Dr. Walker try to avoid this scenario in the following ways: (a) by preparing students for the readings but not giving away too much of his opinions, (b) by inviting students to share their personal thoughts and opinions through effective questions, (c) and by providing encouraging and respectful feedback.
  • Several students talked about how the independent nature of the course made the experience more personal, more one-on-one experience. The course largely consists of the readings and the conversation with the instructor there are no other participants officially. It is less dynamic and because of the distance, but it is more direct than what many students experience in many classrooms. that idea also belongs here in that because of the venue, yes there is isolation from the instructor, but since Dr. Walker responds he makes it like a personal conversation with each student which is something you don’t get (even though you lose some face-to-face time with the professor to get questions answered ,etc.)
  • 2008 TechTrends, article says that students replies in online conversations are usually pretty shallow
  • As previously discussed, Dr. Walker try to avoid this scenario in the following ways: (a) by preparing students for the readings but not giving away too much of his opinions, (b) by inviting students to share their personal thoughts and opinions through effective questions, (c) and by providing encouraging and respectful feedback. The Instructional Conversation (relationship between student and instructor) The course is essentially an attempt at a class discussion at a distance (conversational). The following are the elements of the course mentioned by the instructor and students as significant: キ  Instructor’s approach to the course: The Professor takes an invitational approach, which is a reflection of the professor’s philosophy of education. He tries to help students to take a deeper approach to their learning, to think for themselves, to share their best thinking, to really take responsibility for their own learning. To do this he tries to establish a more personal relationship with students rather than a hierarchical relationship, he respects the students’ agency, shows respect for their thoughts and opinions, having high expectations, making the course challenging but enjoyable. Also, it was noted that the number of works covered is somewhat less than in several other courses. This allowed for more in-depth study of the works. キ  Preparing Students for the Reading: Professor wrote the course at a personal level and in an engaging style (used compelling quotations from other literature, shared insights from the lives of the authors, shared his enthusiasm for the works, used humor, etc.) to prepare students for the reading and to invite them to join with him in a conversation about the literature. By so doing, he also invites students to take responsibility for their own learning to bring it to a deeper level, apply themselves and personally apply what they are learning. He is able to express to the students that he wants them to share with him their best thinking. キ  Questions: The instructor invites students to take part in the conversation (along with taking a deeper approach to their learning, etc.) through questions. Although a few of the questions in the course are factual, many ask students to dig deep into the literature, apply themselves, apply the literature personally, and to do a considerable amount of writing. キ  Providing Choices: Another element of helping students take responsibility for their own learning and showing respect for students’ agency, the instructor gives them choices…within questions, between questions, between lessons, and at some points in the course even what books they read, and even adapting/personalizing the course to their needs. キ  Feedback: The student responds to the questions and makes choices about what to bring to into their course experience, what content to engage with, etc. The instructor, when he receives the student responses, tries to promptly provide feedback to the students. Students report that his feedback is timely, positive, encouraging, and respectful even when the student’s response may not be correct or as well argued as it could be. キ  Additional aspects of the relationship: There are some aspects of the relationship between the instructor and student that extend beyond the usual interactions in the conversation. Although he cannot reach all students, the instructor attempts to make contact with students outside the context of the course. This occurs through email, phone calls, etc. He has attended wedding receptions and other events. キ  Quality of the relationship/levels of communication: Although all the above mentioned elements of the instructional conversation were important, the instructional conversation was significantly affected by the quality of the relationship with the instructor. There seems to be something here similar to what Brinley (get year) writes about levels of communication. He proposes three levels, superficial, personal, and validation. He says that we mostly communicate at superficial levels, but we need to communicate at personal and validation levels to fulfill human needs and to really connect with others. When we venture to communicate at personal levels we risk ourselves. If we get a negative response then we tend to retreat to the superficial level (or to retaliate). But if we receive positive response then we are more willing to risk ourselves again and stay in personal and validation levels. This appears to be applicable to the relationships in the course between the instructor and students. Dr. Walker tries to trust, respect, and be friends with his students. He emphasized that it has to be real/sincere…because it cannot just be a technique. He writes the course at a personal level (not just cold facts). Through this personal communication and his questions, etc. he invites students to communicate at a more personal level (and thus deepen their learning) and Dr. Walker provided validation in the form of encouraging, respectful and timely feedback and friendly, personal comments on students’ assignments (additionally the contacts external to course provide further personal and validating communications, when they occur: they show concern, caring, express confidence, etc., etc.).
  • As previously discussed, Dr. Walker try to avoid this scenario in the following ways: (a) by preparing students for the readings but not giving away too much of his opinions, (b) by inviting students to share their personal thoughts and opinions through effective questions, (c) and by providing encouraging and respectful feedback. The Instructional Conversation (relationship between student and instructor) The course is essentially an attempt at a class discussion at a distance (conversational). The following are the elements of the course mentioned by the instructor and students as significant: キ  Instructor’s approach to the course: The Professor takes an invitational approach, which is a reflection of the professor’s philosophy of education. He tries to help students to take a deeper approach to their learning, to think for themselves, to share their best thinking, to really take responsibility for their own learning. To do this he tries to establish a more personal relationship with students rather than a hierarchical relationship, he respects the students’ agency, shows respect for their thoughts and opinions, having high expectations, making the course challenging but enjoyable. Also, it was noted that the number of works covered is somewhat less than in several other courses. This allowed for more in-depth study of the works. キ  Preparing Students for the Reading: Professor wrote the course at a personal level and in an engaging style (used compelling quotations from other literature, shared insights from the lives of the authors, shared his enthusiasm for the works, used humor, etc.) to prepare students for the reading and to invite them to join with him in a conversation about the literature. By so doing, he also invites students to take responsibility for their own learning to bring it to a deeper level, apply themselves and personally apply what they are learning. He is able to express to the students that he wants them to share with him their best thinking. キ  Questions: The instructor invites students to take part in the conversation (along with taking a deeper approach to their learning, etc.) through questions. Although a few of the questions in the course are factual, many ask students to dig deep into the literature, apply themselves, apply the literature personally, and to do a considerable amount of writing. キ  Providing Choices: Another element of helping students take responsibility for their own learning and showing respect for students’ agency, the instructor gives them choices…within questions, between questions, between lessons, and at some points in the course even what books they read, and even adapting/personalizing the course to their needs. キ  Feedback: The student responds to the questions and makes choices about what to bring to into their course experience, what content to engage with, etc. The instructor, when he receives the student responses, tries to promptly provide feedback to the students. Students report that his feedback is timely, positive, encouraging, and respectful even when the student’s response may not be correct or as well argued as it could be. キ  Additional aspects of the relationship: There are some aspects of the relationship between the instructor and student that extend beyond the usual interactions in the conversation. Although he cannot reach all students, the instructor attempts to make contact with students outside the context of the course. This occurs through email, phone calls, etc. He has attended wedding receptions and other events. キ  Quality of the relationship/levels of communication: Although all the above mentioned elements of the instructional conversation were important, the instructional conversation was significantly affected by the quality of the relationship with the instructor. There seems to be something here similar to what Brinley (get year) writes about levels of communication. He proposes three levels, superficial, personal, and validation. He says that we mostly communicate at superficial levels, but we need to communicate at personal and validation levels to fulfill human needs and to really connect with others. When we venture to communicate at personal levels we risk ourselves. If we get a negative response then we tend to retreat to the superficial level (or to retaliate). But if we receive positive response then we are more willing to risk ourselves again and stay in personal and validation levels. This appears to be applicable to the relationships in the course between the instructor and students. Dr. Walker tries to trust, respect, and be friends with his students. He emphasized that it has to be real/sincere…because it cannot just be a technique. He writes the course at a personal level (not just cold facts). Through this personal communication and his questions, etc. he invites students to communicate at a more personal level (and thus deepen their learning) and Dr. Walker provided validation in the form of encouraging, respectful and timely feedback and friendly, personal comments on students’ assignments (additionally the contacts external to course provide further personal and validating communications, when they occur: they show concern, caring, express confidence, etc., etc.).
  • As previously discussed, Dr. Walker try to avoid this scenario in the following ways: (a) by preparing students for the readings but not giving away too much of his opinions, (b) by inviting students to share their personal thoughts and opinions through effective questions, (c) and by providing encouraging and respectful feedback. The Instructional Conversation (relationship between student and instructor) The course is essentially an attempt at a class discussion at a distance (conversational). The following are the elements of the course mentioned by the instructor and students as significant: キ  Instructor’s approach to the course: The Professor takes an invitational approach, which is a reflection of the professor’s philosophy of education. He tries to help students to take a deeper approach to their learning, to think for themselves, to share their best thinking, to really take responsibility for their own learning. To do this he tries to establish a more personal relationship with students rather than a hierarchical relationship, he respects the students’ agency, shows respect for their thoughts and opinions, having high expectations, making the course challenging but enjoyable. Also, it was noted that the number of works covered is somewhat less than in several other courses. This allowed for more in-depth study of the works. キ  Preparing Students for the Reading: Professor wrote the course at a personal level and in an engaging style (used compelling quotations from other literature, shared insights from the lives of the authors, shared his enthusiasm for the works, used humor, etc.) to prepare students for the reading and to invite them to join with him in a conversation about the literature. By so doing, he also invites students to take responsibility for their own learning to bring it to a deeper level, apply themselves and personally apply what they are learning. He is able to express to the students that he wants them to share with him their best thinking. キ  Questions: The instructor invites students to take part in the conversation (along with taking a deeper approach to their learning, etc.) through questions. Although a few of the questions in the course are factual, many ask students to dig deep into the literature, apply themselves, apply the literature personally, and to do a considerable amount of writing. キ  Providing Choices: Another element of helping students take responsibility for their own learning and showing respect for students’ agency, the instructor gives them choices…within questions, between questions, between lessons, and at some points in the course even what books they read, and even adapting/personalizing the course to their needs. キ  Feedback: The student responds to the questions and makes choices about what to bring to into their course experience, what content to engage with, etc. The instructor, when he receives the student responses, tries to promptly provide feedback to the students. Students report that his feedback is timely, positive, encouraging, and respectful even when the student’s response may not be correct or as well argued as it could be. キ  Additional aspects of the relationship: There are some aspects of the relationship between the instructor and student that extend beyond the usual interactions in the conversation. Although he cannot reach all students, the instructor attempts to make contact with students outside the context of the course. This occurs through email, phone calls, etc. He has attended wedding receptions and other events. キ  Quality of the relationship/levels of communication: Although all the above mentioned elements of the instructional conversation were important, the instructional conversation was significantly affected by the quality of the relationship with the instructor. There seems to be something here similar to what Brinley (get year) writes about levels of communication. He proposes three levels, superficial, personal, and validation. He says that we mostly communicate at superficial levels, but we need to communicate at personal and validation levels to fulfill human needs and to really connect with others. When we venture to communicate at personal levels we risk ourselves. If we get a negative response then we tend to retreat to the superficial level (or to retaliate). But if we receive positive response then we are more willing to risk ourselves again and stay in personal and validation levels. This appears to be applicable to the relationships in the course between the instructor and students. Dr. Walker tries to trust, respect, and be friends with his students. He emphasized that it has to be real/sincere…because it cannot just be a technique. He writes the course at a personal level (not just cold facts). Through this personal communication and his questions, etc. he invites students to communicate at a more personal level (and thus deepen their learning) and Dr. Walker provided validation in the form of encouraging, respectful and timely feedback and friendly, personal comments on students’ assignments (additionally the contacts external to course provide further personal and validating communications, when they occur: they show concern, caring, express confidence, etc., etc.).

Are Independent Study/Correspondence Courses Still Viable? A Case Study (ICED 2008) Are Independent Study/Correspondence Courses Still Viable? A Case Study (ICED 2008) Presentation Transcript

  • Are Independent Study/Correspondence Courses Still Viable? A Case Study ICED 2008 Michael C. Johnson Brigham Young University
  • Introductions
  • Goals
    • Understand the disadvantages and advantages of the independent study model of distance education
    • Understand ways of mitigating disadvantages and leveraging the advantages
    • Apply lessons learned to personally relevant cases (time permitting)
  • Trends in Distance Education
    • Online
    • Synchronous
    • Communities of learning
    • Scalability
  • Elements of Independent Study
    • Flexibly Time Schedule
    • Flexible Location
    • Student Independence
  • Disadvantages?
  • Disadvantages
    • Students have to be self-disciplined and motivated
    • “ I felt like one of the greatest challenges was having the self discipline to actually finish” (Pam).
    • “ We are not undertaking the Ring to Mordor, but for some, finishing an independent study course can be as difficult” (Bob).
  • Disadvantages
    • No discussion with other students (missed hearing other perspectives, etc.)
    • “ I know that this can't happen because people take this course at different times and for different lengths of time…but it would have been nice to have had an internet chat once in awhile with others in the course to get ideas and bounce around some thoughts” (Helen).
  • Disadvantages
    • Student had minimal access to/direct interaction with instructor
    • “ Its harder to ask questions…A lot of time passes between the question and the answer. It is just not as good as when there are office hours or something” (Kate)
  • Advantages?
  • Advantages
    • Convenience (could study when and where they wanted)
    • It was its flexibility that allowed for convenience… ” (Sam)
  • Advantages
    • Allows students to learn and still take care of other obligations in life
    • “ I had two children at home, two teenagers, and I felt like my time was needed being at home more than being in a class. So having online experience made it possible for me to take classes, which you could say is my hobby, while still being a good mother” (Marian).
  • Advantages
    • Allows students to learn when they are ready
    • “ When I was feeling a little overloaded I might not do anything for a couple of days, in the evening watching movies with my kids or going out in the evening something” (Joy).
  • Advantages
    • Permits a deeper approach to learning
    • “ In an IS class, if I have two pages and I read them really well and then see what they are saying and it takes me several days just to tear those two pages apart, I have had time to digest it. Learning that way you don’t feel rushed… you have time to understand what is being taught ” (Helen).
    • “ If I wanted to spend a couple of weeks on a topic, I could (Kate).
  • Advantages
    • Allows them to be around and influence their usual social networks (family, friends, coworkers, students, etc.)
    • “ I like the fact that sometimes when I’m studying, my kids get to come up and see me studying. So they see education is important. It is important to me, it is important to my husband.…I think it really reinforces to our children that college is important” (Lucy).
  • Advantages
    • Allows them to do activities in their local communities (service learning, working with local professionals, etc.)
    • “ I’m in a community where I can actually work in my own community is really unique and I think that the fact that I am in a long distance learning environment allows me to do something completely different I couldn’t do had I been on campus learning.” (Lucy).
  • Advantages
    • Students have to be self-disciplined and motivated
    • “ It challenges people to be self-motivated. You have to set your own schedule. If you don’t get things done it falls back on one person. So I think it just encourages that self-initiative for character building” (Hannah).
  • Advantages
    • Allows students to take responsibility for their own learning
    • “ It also can be a positive because it forces you to think more through the process than having anyone feed you their opinion and going from that, it is completely you” (Joy).
  • Advantages
    • Helped some students from being pushed in directions they didn’t want to go
    • “ There wasn’t so much of the other classmates pushing [the discussion] in any particular direction….” (Eve).
  • Advantages
    • Helped students to think for themselves
    • “… .you can learn from other people’s insights, but it’s difficult to have your own insights when everyone else is coming up with one thing…it’s very difficult to be able to voice your own opinion in that kind of environment” (Eve).
    • “ I don’t know that in a classroom setting I would have come to some of the conclusions I came to on my own” (Pam).
  • Advantages
    • Gave students more of a one-on-one experience with the instructor (more individualized and personal though less direct and dynamic)
    • “ It feels more personal and makes it more of a one-on-one experience” (Michaela).
  • Advantages
    • Gave students opportunity to write, and write more meaningful responses
    • “ Articulating that and getting more opportunities to [write],” she said helped her to “have it more firmly in [her] mind of what [she was] actually learning” (Victoria).
  • Mitigating and Leveraging (Instructor)
    • Taking an invitational approach (personal relationship with students, respect for the students, making the course enjoyable yet still taking a serious approach, depth of the course)
    • Inviting students to discuss things with family or friends
    • Preparing students for the reading (writes in a personally engaging style; provides sufficient instructional guidance--but not too much).
  • Mitigating and Leveraging (Instructor)
    • Asking good questions: (thought-provoking, apply the literature personally, and to do a considerable amount of writing)
    • Offering choices (enhances student responsibility or autonomy)
    • Providing good feedback (Timely, Encouraging, Respectful)
  • Mitigating and Leveraging (Instructor)
    • Contacts outside of the course context
    • Quality of the relationship/levels of communication (personal and validating, not just superficial)
    • Content was something that students felt was worth discussing (great stories, great characters, great insights, applicable to life)
  • Mitigating and Leveraging (Students)
    • Setting goals, creating a schedule
    • Taking initiative to teach and/or discuss what they were learning with others
    • Utilizing other available resources to expand their learning (Web, Books, Movies, etc. related to the topic)
    • Taking advantage of the opportunities to learn more deeply (spending time thinking, applying things personally, writing, etc.)