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Understanding distance education McLardy, Ailsa 1991

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UNDERSTANDING DISTANCE EDUCATION By AILSA MCLARDY B.A., The University of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1967 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Administrative, Adult and Higher Education) We accept t h i s thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September 1991 © A i l s a McLardy, 1991 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of Administrative, Adult and Higher Education The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date October 2, 1991 DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT "Get a u n i v e r s i t y degree at home i n your spare time!" proclaim the back covers of magazines. Is t h i s distance education? In fact, what i s distance education? There are many d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the l i t e r a t u r e . They represent distance educators' understanding of the f i e l d , and i t i s p a r t l y on the basis of t h i s understanding that professionals develop progams and services. Do learners have the same understanding of distance education? I f learners hold d i f f e r e n t views from educators, the discrepancy may create problems. Therefore, the writer investigated the conceptions of distance education held by learners who had recently begun distance studies at the u n i v e r s i t y l e v e l . She interviewed f i f t e e n learners and analyzed the interviews using phenoraenography. This i s a q u a l i t a t i v e methodology with c e r t a i n l i m i t a t i o n s which are discussed i n the study. Phenomenogaphy attempts to reveal phenomena as they are perceived by i n d i v i d u a l s . Consequently, i t was the most appropriate methodology to discover learners' conceptions of distance education. The investigator found four conceptions of distance education; they can be seen as a seed with a sprout. The kernel i s distance education perceived as structure and learner actions; t h i s conception i s inward-looking. Around the kernel can develop two other conceptions: distance i i education as freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y and distance education as d i f f i c u l t i e s counterbalanced by other factors. The fourth conception has two parts: distance education as a door opener (a) to future goals and (b) i n everyday l i f e . This i s the sprout growing out of the kernel; i t i s an outward-looking conception. An analysis of the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the l i t e r a t u r e revealed nine themes representing educators' understanding of distance education. There i s a close r e l a t i o n s h i p between these themes and two conceptions: "distance education as structure and learner actions" and "distance education as d i f f i c u l t i e s " . On the other hand, important aspects of these and the other conceptions are not represented by the themes. Those missing aspects are a l l learner-centred. Although much i s written about learners being the focus of distance education, the d e f i n i t i o n s i n the l i t e r a t u r e indicate a d r i f t from that i d e a l . I t i s time f o r educators to make distance education t r u l y learner-centred. i i i TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT i i LIST OF TABLES v i i LIST OF FIGURES v i i i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ix I. INTRODUCTION: THE MEANING OF DISTANCE EDUCATION 1 Distance Education and Open Learning 2 Distance Education Themes i n the Li t e r a t u r e 3 The Need for a Qua l i t a t i v e Approach 4 Why Identify Conceptions? 6 I I . REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 9 De f i n i t i o n s of Distance Education i n the Lit e r a t u r e 9 Themes i n Def i n i t i o n s of Distance Education 14 The Importance of Context 16 Learners' Understanding of Distance Education 19 I I I . METHODOLOGY 31 The N a t u r a l i s t i c Paradigm 31 Phenomenography 33 Selection of Subjects 39 Data C o l l e c t i o n 41 Data Analysis 44 Trustworthiness 49 IV. RESULTS 55 The Outcome Space: Conceptions of Distance Education 55 i v Relationships between Conceptions 68 Relationships between Conceptions and D e f i n i t i o n s i n the Lit e r a t u r e 73 Other D e f i n i t i o n s of Distance Education 80 Learners Holding Each Conception 82 V. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS 85 The Philosophical and Epistemological Basis 85 The Investigator as Research Instrument 89 Learners' Conceptions and Theories/Models i n Adult Education and Distance Education 92 Limitations of the Study 99 Learners' Conceptions and Educators' Understandings of Distance Education: Discussion 102 Understanding Distance Education: Narrowing the Gap 105 REFERENCES 108 APPENDICES 116 Appendix A: Description of the study enclosed with Open Learning Agency i n i t i a l l e t t e r .. 116 Appendix B: Consent form given at interview 117 Appendix C: Set interview questions 118 Appendix D: Personal information form 119 Appendix E: Letter sent to respondent with t r a n s c r i p t 120 Appendix F: Results of independent judge r e l i a b i l i t y t e s t s 121 v Appendix G: Interview t r a n s c r i p t s 122 v i L I S T OF TABLES Table I: Summary of conceptions of distance education i n the outcome space 56 Table I I : Aspects of each conception of distance education 69 Table I I I : Relationships between themes and conceptions 75 Table IV: Learners holding each conception 84 v i i L I S T OF FIGURES Figure 1: Relationships between conceptions of distance education 71 v i i i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS There are many people who made t h i s research and thesis not only possible but also a tremendous learning experience for me. Dan Pratt, my adviser, was constantly supportive and ready to answer numerous questions. Tony Bates, Tom Sork, and Roger Boshier a l l contributed t h e i r expertise and helped to broaden my perspective. I would also l i k e to thank the Open Learning Agency and, i n p a r t i c u l a r , Don Black, who (through much paperwork!) i d e n t i f i e d interviewees. Those interviewees made the project possible, and they were, without exception, cooperative and a pleasure to t a l k to. I learnt that I have wonderful friends. During a l l stages of the research and writing Elizabeth Carriere was an u n f a i l i n g source of encouragement, constructive c r i t i c i s m , and coffee. I also had many an enthusiastic discussion with Pamela Welgan. In addition to Pam, I would l i k e to thank Carol Wilson and Georgia Brown, who w i l l i n g l y gave t h e i r time to act as co-judges. ix CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION: THE MEANING OF DISTANCE EDUCATION What i s distance education? Envelopes delivered through the mail, papers to read and questions to answer, perhaps a few t e l e v i s i o n programs? The man i n the street would probably express some such vague idea. On the other hand, professionals, as represented by the l i t e r a t u r e , present very d e f i n i t e views of distance education. Their d e f i n i t i o n s are derived from p r i n c i p l e s of learning and teaching as well as from practice i n the f i e l d . I t i s probable that most distance learners entering courses f o r the f i r s t time have a very unclear idea of what constitutes distance education. They do not know what kind of course materials to expect, what i n t e r a c t i o n they w i l l have with the i n s t i t u t i o n and tutor, what f l e x i b i l i t y there w i l l be i n scheduling, and so on. Consequently, many new learners soon f i n d that they have registered f o r a course which does not meet t h e i r expectations. Some in e v i t a b l y drop out; others carry on, sometimes s t i l l struggling with misconceptions. Yet, i n the l i t e r a t u r e distance education i s quite consistently defined i n terms of a number of basic themes. This indicates that distance educators have a more or less common understanding of what constitutes distance education, 1 even i f they d i f f e r as to which aspects are of greatest importance. Distance Education and Open Learning At t h i s point i t i s necessary to make a d i s t i n c t i o n between distance education and open learning (or open education), p a r t i c u l a r l y since the subjects of t h i s study were learners from the Open Learning Agency (OLA) of B r i t i s h Columbia. Rumble (1989b) pointed out: "That distance education and open learning are not opposing concepts stems from the f a c t that the two concepts deal with d i f f e r e n t things, the former stressing the means by which education i s achieved, the l a t t e r the objectives and character of the educational process" (p.30). Foks (1987) made the same point. Open learning i s a student-oriented approach which ... seeks to provide students with as much control and choice as possible of the content, time, place, pace and method of t h e i r learning. Open learning should not be equated with any one mode of learning, nor should i t s learning resources automatically be based on any one medium or technology, (p.90) Thus, i n s t i t u t i o n s such as the OLA are concerned about providing students with freer access to education plus greater choice of where, when, and how to learn. Of importance are c r i t e r i a r elated to the place and pace of learning, the structure of programs, dialogue, support services, and the means used. The l a s t r e f e r s to both the mode (contiguous or distance) and the media. While a l l of 2 these elements are also mentioned i n d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education, the emphasis i s d i f f e r e n t . In distance education the overriding concern i s with means; there i s less concern with f l e x i b i l i t y and the removal of r e s t r i c t i o n s f o r learners. Therefore, distance education and open education are overlapping concepts, and i n i n s t i t u t i o n s l i k e the OLA the trend i s towards greater openness. However, i n most countries the emphasis i s s t i l l on "the means", not on "the objectives and character of the educational process". This i s not s u r p r i s i n g when one considers developing countries i n p a r t i c u l a r . Since the 1970's one of the major trends i n education has been the establishment of distance teaching u n i v e r s i t i e s (van Enckevort, Harry, Morin, & Schutze, 1986). The large s i z e of these u n i v e r s i t i e s and of other distance teaching programs i n developing countries almost precludes openness; the emphasis i s generally on dissemination. The writer i s e s p e c i a l l y interested i n education at a distance as i t i s practised worldwide. Therefore, she chose to focus on distance education rather than open education, which i s not such a widespread phenomenon. Distance Education Themes i n the L i t e r a t u r e There are c e r t a i n themes that recur i n d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the l i t e r a t u r e . The writer analyzed t h i r t y - f i v e d e f i n i t i o n s and found nine themes. 3 The most frequently mentioned i s the physical, and sometimes temporal, separation of the learner from the teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n . Other s i g n i f i c a n t themes are the i n d i v i d u a l i z e d nature of study and the use of media/ technology. These three themes, along with s i x others, represent the professional's understanding of distance education. On the other hand, studies of what the learner understands by distance education are v i r t u a l l y nonexistent. The Need fo r a Q u a l i t a t i v e Approach As Calvert (1989) pointed out, understanding the learner i s one of the major themes i n distance education research. Many studies have focused on demographic c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of learners; many surveys have attempted to uncover learners' perceptions of d i f f e r e n t aspects of distance education. "However, though t h i s type of work i s recognized as e s s e n t i a l for i n s t i t u t i o n a l management, there i s growing c r i t i c i s m of i t s usefulness for a r e a l understanding of students" (p.41). Gibson (1990), too, stated: "Previous research and t h e o r e t i c a l frameworks provide a beginning to our thinking and model-building. Inductive studies conducted with distance learners w i l l provide add i t i o n a l breadth to our search for meaningful variables and r e l a t i o n s h i p s " (p.132). In recent years some researchers have begun to use intensive interviews to reveal learners' perceptions. This 4 has represented a s h i f t from i n s t i t u t i o n - c e n t r e d to learner-centred analysis and i s a l o g i c a l step i f we are to understand why distance education learners act as they do. In Rockhill's words: "Learning i s a fundamental s o c i a l process, and i t i s a c u l t u r a l process, as well as a psychological and cognitive process. P a r t i c i p a t i o n i n adult education i s an act that i s i n t e g r a l to the l i f e - w o r l d of the i n d i v i d u a l ; i t s meaning waits to be explored" (1982, p.17). Hence, research into learners' understanding of the meaning of distance education may reveal conceptions of c e n t r a l importance, conceptions that r e l a t e to learning and, perhaps, to persistence or dropout. An i n d i v i d u a l ' s conceptions of a phenomenon a f f e c t the way he/she acts i n r e l a t i o n to that phenomenon. Therefore, i t follows that a learner's conceptions of distance education may contribute to persistence or dropout; since a s i g n i f i c a n t proportion of a l l dropouts occur early i n a program, the conceptions of new distance learners are of p a r t i c u l a r i n t e r e s t (Roberts, 1984) . While there has been q u a l i t a t i v e research of distance learners' perceptions of learning, of t h e i r approaches to study, and of t h e i r goals and motives, there have been no studies of students understanding of distance education as such. Therefore, the questions posed i n t h i s study were: 5 1. What are the conceptions of distance education held by adults who have recently begun p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n u n i v e r s i t y -l e v e l distance education courses? 2. How do these conceptions compare or contrast with the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the l i t e r a t u r e ? To investigate distance learners' conceptions of distance education, the writer used the method of phenomenography. I t i s a method by which the researcher attempts to i d e n t i f y people's understandings, or conceptions, of a phenomenon, i n t h i s case distance education. Standardized open-ended interviews were c a r r i e d out, and the t r a n s c r i p t s were rigorously analyzed, r e s u l t i n g i n a range of conceptions. Why Identify Conceptions? But what i s the use of i d e n t i f y i n g conceptions of distance education? The learners' conceptions are t h e i r understanding of what distance education i s , and these conceptions are "where they're at". People act on the basis of t h e i r conceptions, as has been shown through phenomenographic studies of learning. These studies found that the way learners tackled t h e i r studies was c l o s e l y r e l a t e d to t h e i r conceptions of learning (Marton & Saljo, 1984; Marton & Svensson, 1982; Saljo, 1979). Bagnall (1989), too, has written: "While, potentially, a l l educational distance i s undesirable whenever i t occurs, 6 the extent to which i t i s so depends upon the p a r t i c i p a n t ' s creative perception of i t " (p.24). Thus, distance learners carry out t h e i r studies on the basis of the conceptions that they hold. At the same time, distance educators develop programs and support services i n accordance with t h e i r understanding of distance education. That understanding i s , at le a s t i n part, based on models and theories of distance education; these models and theories are, i n turn, developed from d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education (Rumble, 1986). If learners' conceptions and educators' understanding of distance education match, i t i s l i k e l y that learners w i l l meet few unexpected problems i n t h e i r studies. This would also indicate that distance educators can, with some confidence, continue to develop practice on the basis of present d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education. On the other hand, i f learners' conceptions and educators' understanding of distance education are d i f f e r e n t , the learners w i l l probably f i n d discrepancies between t h e i r expectations and the r e a l i t y of distance education. This may lead to d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n , f r u s t r a t i o n , and dropout. Therefore, i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of distance learners' conceptions of distance education can be of value i n i t s e l f . I t reveals learners' understanding of the phenomenon, understanding from which expectations and actions a r i s e . I d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the themes that educators f i n d s i g n i f i c a n t i n distance education reveals t h e i r understanding of the 7 phenomenon as well. Their understanding i s translated into distance education programs and support services. Are learners and educators involved i n a mutually understood enterprise, or are they sometimes working at cross purposes? A comparison of educators' understanding of distance education as expressed i n the l i t e r a t u r e with learners' conceptions can help to answer t h i s question. Where discrepancies e x i s t , the findings could suggest a s t a r t i n g point for narrowing the gap. 8 CHAPTER I I REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE The term distance education has been i n common use since the 1970's. However, education at a distance i s sometimes given d i f f e r e n t names, some of them being independent study, distance study, distance teaching, and external studies. D e f i n i t i o n s i n the professional l i t e r a t u r e r e f l e c t the d i f f e r e n t emphases suggested by these names; the d e f i n i t i o n s sometimes r e f l e c t distance education's o r i g i n i n correspondence study as well. A l l of them focus on features that d i f f e r e n t i a t e distance education from conventional education. D e f i n i t i o n s of Distance Education i n the L i t e r a t u r e Two early d e f i n i t i o n s i l l u s t r a t e how d i f f e r e n t l y educators can view distance education. Wedemeyer's 1971 d e f i n i t i o n i s : Independent Study consists of various forms of teaching-learning arrangements i n which teachers and learners carry out t h e i r e s s e n t i a l tasks and r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s apart from one another, communicating i n a v a r i e t y of ways, for the purposes of freeing i n t e r n a l learners from inappropriate class pacings or patterns, of providing external learners with opportunities to continue learning i n t h e i r own environments, and developing i n a l l learners the capacity to carry on s e l f -directed learning, the ultimate maturity required of the educated person. Independent Study programs o f f e r learners varying degrees 9 of freedom i n the self-determination of goals and a c t i v i t i e s , and i n s t a r t i n g , stopping and pacing i n d i v i d u a l i z e d learning programs which are c a r r i e d on to the greatest extent possible at the convenience of the learners. (In Wedemeyer, 1981, p.51) To Wedemeyer the s a l i e n t feature of distance education i s the autonomy of the learner. On the other hand, Peters' 1973 d e f i n i t i o n i s : Distance teaching/education (Fernunterricht) i s a method of imparting knowledge, s k i l l s and attitudes which i s r a t i o n a l i s e d by the appl i c a t i o n of d i v i s i o n of labour and organisational p r i n c i p l e s as well as by the extensive use of technical media, e s p e c i a l l y for the purpose of reproducing high q u a l i t y teaching material which makes i t possible to in s t r u c t great numbers of students at the same time wherever they l i v e . I t i s an i n d u s t r i a l i s e d form of teaching and learning. (In Keegan, 1986, p.41) To Peters the central feature of distance education i s i t s i n d u s t r i a l i z e d form, which makes i t possible to carry on mass education. In 1977 Moore published a six-part "Theory of Independent Study". The f i r s t part was: D e f i n i t i o n 1: Independent study i s any educational programme i n which the learning programme occurs separate i n time and place from the teaching programme, and i n which the learner has an influence at lea s t equal to the teacher i n determining goals, resources and evaluation decisions, (p.11) That "...the learning programme occurs separate i n time and place from the teaching programme..." apparently excludes the use of real-time communication such as teleconferencing; t h i s may be seen as a holdover from correspondence study. The f i f t h part of the theory was: 10 D e f i n i t i o n 5: Distance, or Telemathic Teaching i s a teaching programme i n which, because of the physical separateness of learners and teachers, the interactions between them are conducted through p r i n t , mechanical or e l e c t r o n i c devices, (p.12) According to Moore, distance depends on two varia b l e s : (1) the extent of dialogue i n the teacher-learner r e l a t i o n s h i p and (2) the extent of structure i n the teaching program with more r i g i d structure creating greater distance. Therefore, two-way communication and the structuredness of the teaching program are important variables. The r e l a t i o n s h i p between them, i . e . between dialogue and structure, i s the basis of the concept of "transactional distance" l a t e r put forward by Moore (1983) . Holmberg presented a d e f i n i t i o n i n the same year as Moore. The term 'distance education' covers the various forms of study at a l l l e v e l s which are not under the continuous, immediate supervision of tutors present with t h e i r students i n lecture rooms or on the same premises, but which, nevertheless, benefit from the planning, guidance and t u i t i o n of a t u t o r i a l organisation. (In Keegan, 1986, pp.41-42) An important element here i s "a t u t o r i a l organisation"; that i s , distance education i s i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d . Holmberg has also developed a theory of "guided d i d a c t i c conversation". For the distance learner there i s : ...inte r a c t i o n with tutors and a supporting organization. The i n d i r e c t presentation of study matter and the d i r e c t written or telephone i n t e r a c t i o n between the student and the tutor provide the instruments of conversation. The conversation i s thus both r e a l and simulated. (Holmberg, 1979, p.20) 11 "Simulated conversation" means, i n part, i n t e r n a l i z e d conversation. Therefore, two-way conversation i s again seen as an important aspect of distance education. In 1986 Keegan proposed a comprehensive d e f i n i t i o n of distance education. Distance education i s a form of education characterised by the quasi-permanent separation of teacher and learner throughout the length of the learning process; t h i s distinguishes i t from conventional face-to-face education, the influence of an educational organisation both i n the planning and preparation of learning materials and i n the provision of student support services; t h i s distinguishes i t from private study and teach-yourself programmes, the use of technical media; p r i n t , audio, video or computer, to unite teacher and learner and carry the content of the course. - the provision of two-way communication so that the student may benefit from or even i n i t i a t e dialogue; t h i s distinguishes i t from other uses of technology i n education. - the quasi-permanent absence of the learning group throughout the length of the learning process so that people are usually taught as indiv i d u a l s and not i n groups, with the p o s s i b i l i t y of occasional meetings f o r both d i d a c t i c and s o c i a l i s a t i o n purposes. Distance education i s to be regarded as being constituted of these f i v e interdependent elements, which remain constant e s s e n t i a l components even i f t h e i r content i s d i f f e r e n t i n separate i n s t i t u t i o n a l s i t u a t i o n s . In addition there are two s o c i o - c u l t u r a l determinants which are both necessary pre-conditions and necessary consequences of distance education. These are: the presence of more i n d u s t r i a l i s e d features than i n conventional o r a l education. - the p r i v a t i s a t i o n of i n s t i t u t i o n a l learning, (pp.49-50) 12 This d e f i n i t i o n synthesizes the work of others, but i t does not include autonomy of the learner as an element of distance education. Garrison and Shale (1987) found that Keegan's d e f i n i t i o n was too r e s t r i c t i v e and offered instead "three c r i t e r i a e s s e n t i a l f o r characterising the distance education process...." They are: 1. Distance education implies that the majority of educational communication between (among) teacher and student(s) occurs noncontiguously. 2. Distance education must involve two-way communication between (among) teacher and student(s) for the purpose of f a c i l i t a t i n g and supporting the educational process. 3. Distance education uses technology to mediate the necessary two-way communication, (p.11) Their emphasis i s on the non-contiguity of the process and on the importance of two-way communication which uses technology. One of the most recent attempts to define distance education has been by Rumble (1989a). Also drawing on others' contributions, he has proposed a very comprehensive, i f cumbersome, d e f i n i t i o n . 1. In any distance education process there must be: a teacher; one or more students; a course or curriculum that the teacher i s capable of teaching and the student i s t r y i n g to learn; and a contract, i m p l i c i t or e x p l i c i t , between the student and the teacher or the i n s t i t u t i o n employing the teacher, which acknowledges t h e i r respective teaching-learning r o l e s . 2. Distance education i s a method of education i n which the learner i s p h y s i c a l l y separate from the teacher. I t may be used on i t s own, 13 or i n conjunction with other forms of education, including face-to-face. 3. [optional] In distance education learners are p h y s i c a l l y separated from the i n s t i t u t i o n that sponsors the i n s t r u c t i o n . 4. The teaching/learning contract requires that the student be taught, assessed, given guidance and, where appropriate, prepared f o r examinations that may or may not be conducted by the i n s t i t u t i o n . This must be accomplished by two-way communication. Learning may be undertaken either i n d i v i d u a l l y or i n groups; i n either case i t i s accomplished i n the physical absence of the teacher. 5. Where distance teaching materials are provided to learners, they are often structured i n ways that f a c i l i t a t e learning at a distance, (pp.18-19) Although the d e f i n i t i o n seems to cover nearly a l l possible v a r i a t i o n s of distance education, Carl has pointed out that i t i s , i n fa c t , not a l l - i n c l u s i v e . This i s because i t concentrates on education as a function of an i n s t i t u t i o n and i s based on t r a d i t i o n a l forms of education (Carl, 1989). While Carl may disagree with defining distance education as i n s t i t u t i o n a l l y based, most of the d e f i n i t i o n s i n the l i t e r a t u r e do, i n fact, state or imply that an organization i s central to distance education. This i s just one of the themes that runs through the d e f i n i t i o n s . Themes i n D e f i n i t i o n s of Distance Education In order to i d e n t i f y themes i n the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education that are found i n the l i t e r a t u r e , the writer analyzed t h i r t y - f i v e statements by twenty-six distance educators. These statements were mostly 14 d e f i n i t i o n s ; a few of them were supporting descriptions. The method was as described below. When Keegan (1986) surveyed the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education, he analyzed each one by l i s t i n g i t s elements. The writer followed the same procedure. When a singl e author had published a d e f i n i t i o n more than one time, a l l the elements of the e a r l i e s t were l i s t e d then only ad d i t i o n a l elements i n the l a t e r d e f i n i t i o n s . A t o t a l of twenty-three d i f f e r e n t elements was found, and the writer noted how many times each occurred. I f an element occurred f i v e or more times, i t was considered a theme. Nine themes emerged; they are l i s t e d below i n descending order of frequency. 1. There i s physical, and sometimes temporal, separation of the learner and the teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n . 2. Study i s usually i n d i v i d u a l i z e d or p r i v a t i z e d . 3. Media/technology are used. 4. An i n s t i t u t i o n organizes the education. 5. Face-to-face contact and group learning are possible. 6. The learning materials are prepared/structured by an i n s t i t u t i o n . 7. There i s two-way communication, sometimes referre d to as in t e r a c t i o n , between the learner and the teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n . 8. There i s an i n s t r u c t i o n a l process with a d i v e r s i t y of i n s t r u c t i o n a l methods. 15 9. The teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n dispenses or imparts i n s t r u c t i o n . There are several elements that did not emerge as themes although they might have been expected to. The i n d u s t r i a l i z e d form of distance education and i t s p o t e n t i a l f o r mass education were mentioned by only three authors. S i m i l a r l y , only three writers c i t e d autonomy as a desirable goal or a t t r i b u t e of learners. Another theme that might have been expected, namely the purpose of distance education, was mentioned only by Garrison and Shale (1987). To them "...the d i s t i n g u i s h i n g feature of distance education i s that i t i s a means of extending access to education to those who might otherwise be excluded from an educational experience" (pp.10-11). Unfortunately, they contradicted t h i s statement i n the same a r t i c l e when they stated, "...distance education i s distinguished by the process that i t employs and should not be excl u s i v e l y associated with p a r t i c u l a r aims, content, or i n s t i t u t i o n s " (p.12). Thus, nine separate themes were i d e n t i f i e d i n the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education found i n the l i t e r a t u r e . They were l a t e r compared to the conceptions of distance education held by distance learners. The Importance of Context D e f i n i t i o n s form a basis for theories and models, which i n turn influence the development of distance education 16 programs. However, the converse i s true as well; an educator's d e f i n i t i o n grows out of his/her own experience of distance education. The above themes were derived from t h i r t y - f i v e d e f i n i t i o n s or supporting descriptions, and they do, indeed, show that d i f f e r e n t distance educators have d i f f e r e n t understandings as to what constitute the e s s e n t i a l s of distance education. This i s no doubt due to the d i v e r s i t y of distance education i t s e l f . Mugridge (1989) pointed out that "... as they [distance and open learning systems] have been and are being set up i n d i f f e r e n t parts of the world, they have taken account of the widely d i f f e r i n g geographical, demographic, h i s t o r i c a l , s o c i e t a l s i t u a t i o n s i n which they are placed" (p.84). Thus, distance educators i n diverse regions are working i n diverse systems. Seabourne and Zuckernick (198 6), wr i t i n g of course design and development i n Canada alone, stated: Throughout Canada, the practice of distance education i s e c l e c t i c . The tendency of almost every i n s t i t u t i o n involved i n a programme of distance education i s to adapt and r e f i n e components of selected models i n order to i n s t a l l a system appropriate to the needs of i t s p a r t i c u l a r c l i e n t e l e , (p.37) Therefore, i t can be assumed that the Open Learning Agency has developed a p a r t i c u l a r view of distance education from the B r i t i s h Columbia context. In f a c t , the OLA has produced two booklets defining both distance education and open learning. The e a r l i e r (Open Learning Agency of B r i t i s h 17 Columbia, 1989) focused on distance education much more than i t focused on open learning. The d e f i n i t i o n and description of open learning i s one paragraph; that of distance learning takes up f i v e times as much space. The f i r s t paragraph about distance learning reads: Open learning encompasses the spectrum of learning opportunities — from e n t i r e l y s e l f -directed to the t r a d i t i o n a l classroom. "Distance education" r e f e r s to those approaches i n the open learning spectrum that involve the development of s p e c i a l l y designed i n s t r u c t i o n a l materials and t h e i r structured delivery to in d i v i d u a l s separated from the i n s t i t u t i o n by space and/or time. Communication between the two, learner and i n s t i t u t i o n , need not be contiguous i n a distance learning s i t u a t i o n , (p.2) The remainder i s almost e n t i r e l y about the media or technologies used. The second booklet (Open Learning Agency, 1991a) focused very l a r g e l y on open learning and much less on distance education. This time the d e f i n i t i o n of open learning i s lengthy and distance education i s mentioned i n only one paragraph: While these terms [open learning and distance education] are often used to mean the same thing, they describe d i f f e r e n t concepts. Put simply, open learning ref e r s to an educational p o l i c y while distance education describes a means by which i n s t r u c t i o n i s offered. The two are linked, however, i n the sense that open learning frequently makes use of distance education i n d e l i v e r i n g i n s t r u c t i o n . On the other hand, distance education does not necessarily occur i n the context of open learning, (p.5) To answer the second question posed by t h i s t h e s i s (How do learners' conceptions compare or contrast with the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the li t e r a t u r e ? ) i t was 18 necessary to consider not only the l i t e r a t u r e as a whole but also that of the OLA i n p a r t i c u l a r . Learners' Understanding of Distance Education Do learners see distance education i n the same l i g h t as distance educators? I t seems doubtful. There has been very l i t t l e i n v e s t i g a t i o n of learners' understanding of phenomena i n adult education i n general or distance education i n p a r t i c u l a r . Some research has looked at learners' attitudes and perceptions; even less research has focused on actual understandings. In both adult education and distance education some of the p r i n c i p a l concerns of researchers are p a r t i c i p a t i o n , non-participation, and dropout. A large proportion of a l l research i s directed towards understanding these phenomena, and the ultimate reason for many other studies i s also to improve p a r t i c i p a t i o n . Both model builders and researchers have concerned themselves with learner attitudes, perceptions, and understanding but usually to a very li m i t e d extent. There are a number of examples of such models. One i s M i l l e r ' s f o r c e - f i e l d analysis of p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n adult education. M i l l e r (1967) hypothesized that p o s i t i v e and negative forces, including attitudes, create a balance which leads to p a r t i c i p a t i o n or non-participation. Another example i s Boshier's congruence model for p a r t i c i p a t i o n and dropout. An indi v i d u a l ' s self-concept, i . e . perception of 19 him/herself, i s an important factor i n p a r t i c i p a t i o n or dropout (Boshier, 1973). A t h i r d example i s Rubenson's expectancy-valence model. Expectancy i s c l o s e l y r e l a t e d to perceptions, and valence "expresses an a f f e c t i v e attitude to the r e s u l t of an action", while a further component of the model i s "perception and inter p r e t a t i o n of the environment" (Rubenson, 1977, pp.8 & 35). Cross (1981) developed the Chain-of-Response Model on the basis of these others. I t includes " s e l f - e v a l u a t i o n " and "attitudes about education" (p.124). As Hayes and Darkenwald (1990) have pointed out, attitudes are viewed as unidimensional i n the Cross model. Two other models emphasize s o c i a l variables i n p a r t i c i p a t i o n but bring i n attitudes as well. Darkenwald and Merriam (1982) presented the Psychosocial Interaction Model. "The model emphasizes social-environmental forces, p a r t i c u l a r l y socioeconomic status, not because i n d i v i d u a l t r a i t s or attitudes are unimportant but because less i s known about t h e i r influence on p a r t i c i p a t i o n " (p.142). One component of t h i s l i n e a r model i s "perceived value and u t i l i t y of education", that i s , attitudes and perceptions of adult education. Cookson (1986), too, stressed the s o c i a l aspects of p a r t i c i p a t i o n when he adapted the "interdisciplinary, sequential-specificity, time-allocation, life-span (ISSTAL) model" (p.131) of p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n s o c i a l and p o l i t i c a l a c t i v i t i e s . " A t t i t u d i n a l d i s p o s i t i o n s " , which encompasses values, attitudes, expectations, and intentions, i s one of the variables. 20 A l l of these models i l l u s t r a t e that attitudes and perceptions are generally recognized as a factor i n p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n adult education. However, other factors are given greater emphasis. An early study of the re l a t i o n s h i p of p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n and attitudes toward continuing education was c a r r i e d out by Seaman and Schroeder (1970). They administered a pre-e x i s t i n g instrument to measure " p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n educative behavior" (p.103) and developed another instrument to measure attitudes. Relationships among variables were found by using s t a t i s t i c a l analyses. One fin d i n g was that "Attitudes toward continuing education are not always r e f l e c t e d i n extent of educative behavior" (p.104). Another was that factors other than those considered i n the study a f f e c t the extent to which attitudes influence p a r t i c i p a t i o n . The l a t t e r i s no surprise since t h e i r two instruments i n e v i t a b l y r e s t r i c t e d the scope of t h e i r r e s u l t s . One of the main focuses of p a r t i c i p a t i o n research i n the l a s t three decades has been learner motivation or orientat i o n . Motivation includes "...attitudes to learning and oneself, p r i o r i t i e s for the use of time, b e l i e f s about the importance of schooling, and the l i k e " (Cropley, 1989, p.145). I t was Houle's 1961 study of adults' orientations to learning that formed the basis for further research. Among the others who followed up on Houle's work were Boshier (1971), Morstain and Smart (1974), Beder and Valentine (1990), and Lowe (1991). Each of them found a number of factors, or motivations, f o r p a r t i c i p a t i o n . To a r r i v e at these factors the researchers gave questionnaires to learners; i n responding to the statements i n those questionnaires, the learners expressed t h e i r attitudes and perceptions. I t should also be noted here that research into motivation has been very l a r g e l y i n the p o s i t i v i s t paradigm. Factor analysis of information obtained through questionnaires has been prevalent. Hayes and Darkenwald (1990) also used factor analysis. "Recognizing the complexity of attitudes", they gathered data using an attitude scale based on a two-attitude model. They found three factors i n the structure of attitudes toward adult education: "enjoyment of learning a c t i v i t i e s " , "importance of adult education", and " i n t r i n s i c value of adult education" (pp.159 & 162). A three-dimensional view of attitudes i s an improvement over a unidimensional view; however, i t can hardly be c a l l e d complex. On the other hand, Stalker (1989) countered the p o s i t i v i s t trend i n her phenomenographic study. She investigated people i n groups generally i d e n t i f i e d as non-p a r t i c i p a n t s i n adult education, rigorously analyzing interviews with twenty indivi d u a l s i n order to a r r i v e at "...the conceptions of the uses of p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n organized adult education a c t i v i t i e s held by those i n the workplace..." ( p . i i ) . Taking a h o l i s t i c view of i n d i v i d u a l s , Stalker interviewed them i n the workplace; she 22 also d i d purposive sampling i n order to emphasize d i s s i m i l a r i t i e s rather than s i m i l a r i t i e s among the interviewees. One of the main findings was that the conceptions of p a r t i c i p a n t s and non-participants i n adult education did not d i f f e r . This was p a r t l y because in d i v i d u a l s understood " p a r t i c i p a t i o n " and "non-p a r t i c i p a t i o n " d i f f e r e n t l y . Studies of non-participation, l i k e those of p a r t i c i p a t i o n and dropout, have usually looked at attitudes and perceptions using a quantitative perspective. Attempting to explain non-participation, Rubenson (1983) c l a s s i f i e d b a r r i e r s to p a r t i c i p a t i o n into three categories, one of them being d i s p o s i t i o n a l b a r r i e r s . As Cross pointed out, "Dispositional barriers are those r e l a t e d to attitudes and self-perceptions about oneself as a learner" (Cross, 1981, p.98). Scanlan and Darkenwald (1984) i d e n t i f i e d s i x factors that are deterrents to p a r t i c i p a t i o n . The f i r s t i s "disengagement"; most of the statements loaded onto t h i s factor r e f l e c t attitudes and perceptions. One study of non-participation stands out from the others, however. This i s Quigley's analysis of why f u n c t i o n a l l y i l l i t e r a t e adults r e s i s t p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n adult basic education. With a t h e o r e t i c a l basis i n resistance theory and using phenomenological methodology, Quigley analyzed ten l i t e r a r y works of f i c t i o n about r e s i s t e r s who challenged the American school system. His main fi n d i n g was that non-participants r e s i s t the values inherent i n the school system, values d i f f e r e n t from t h e i r own. Cl e a r l y attitudes and perceptions are of tantamount importance (Quigley, 1987, 1990). Thus, adult education model building and research of p a r t i c i p a t i o n , non-participation, and dropout have included some investi g a t i o n of learners' attitudes, perceptions, and understandings. However, these have seldom been the main focus of studies. Even when researchers have used interviews, analysis has generally been by quantitative methods. In distance education research of p a r t i c i p a t i o n , non-p a r t i c i p a t i o n , and dropout, there has been only a l i t t l e model building; there have been attempts to adapt models from outside the f i e l d . Kennedy and Powell (1976) developed a d e s c r i p t i v e model of r i s k of dropout, and learners' s e l f -concept i s a factor involved. Kember (1989) proposed "a linear-process model of drop-out from distance education"; attitudes and perceptions do not play an e x p l i c i t part i n the model. Sweet (1986) tested Tinto's model of dropout i n higher education and found that i t was also an appropriate framework f o r investigation of dropout i n distance education. One of the variables i n the model i s "attitude o r i e n t a t i o n " . Brindley (1988) adapted Bean and Metzner's model of a t t r i t i o n among adult part-time students. One category of variables i n the modified model i s "psychological outcomes". The factors comprising t h i s category r e f l e c t attitudes and perceptions. In t h e i r 1983 study of student dropout at the UK Open University, Woodley and P a r l e t t made i n d i r e c t reference to attitudes and perceptions under "motivational f a c t o r s " and "other f a c t o r s " (p.7). Other distance education studies of p a r t i c i p a t i o n , non-participation, and dropout have not e x p l i c i t l y attended to attitudes, perceptions, or understandings. Another UK Open University study by Mason and Morgan (1986) asked for students' opinions about c e r t a i n aspects of t h e i r experience as Open University students. Open-ended questions attached to a questionnaire e l i c i t e d these opinions. To analyze the answers, "The author ... read and re-read students' responses so as to 'immerse' her s e l f i n the data and to draw out what appear[ed] to be the ' s i g n i f i c a n t phenomena' i n students' experiences of OU study" ( p . l ) . She found seven main areas of concern; for each area she summarized the main opinions and gave sample quotes. Her p r i n c i p a l conclusion was: "Students can be seen to 'connect' with p a r t i c u l a r parts of the system which meet t h e i r preferred patterns of study" (p.14). The research was undertaken for p r a c t i c a l purposes, and therefore, i t s scope was limited. Nevertheless, the study i s of s p e c i a l i n t e r e s t for two reasons: I t asked students about t h e i r experience of OU studies. Also, the author used 25 an inductive process to discover what was s i g n i f i c a n t to the students. There have been a good number of studies i n v e s t i g a t i n g attitudes and perceptions of p a r t i c u l a r aspects of distance education. Attitudes towards the use of various media have been explored most often (Hosie, 1985; Eckles & M i l l e r , 1987; Catchpole, 1988; Davie, 1988; Smith, 1988). Other researchers have focused on components of teaching programs, e s p e c i a l l y teaching materials (Willen, 1981; K e l l y & Swift, 1983; McCormick, 1985). S t i l l others have investigated learners' expectations of problems rel a t e d to distance studying (Cutress, Morrison, & Palmer, 1983). A l l of these studies r e l i e d on questionnaires for gathering data, which were generally analyzed by s t a t i s t i c a l means. Thompson (1990) f i r s t used questionnaires to i d e n t i f y students who were negatively disposed to correspondence education. He then interviewed forty-eight of them i n order to f i n d t h e i r attitudes to the teaching method. The most important f i n d i n g was that learners wanted more i n t e r a c t i o n with the in s t r u c t o r ; a minority wanted more i n t e r a c t i o n with other students. These r e s u l t s were obtained by s t a t i s t i c a l analysis of structured questions and content analysis of open-ended questions. The studies by Mason and Morgan and by Thompson, which used interviews for data c o l l e c t i o n , p a r t i a l l y r e f l e c t e d a s h i f t towards the q u a l i t a t i v e perspective. Another example of t h i s s h i f t was Parer's 1988 study i n which he examined 26 learners' s e l f - r e p o r t d i a r i e s to f i n d , among other things, how learners perceived t h e i r experience of distance education study. Hodgson (1986) interviewed learners i n an attempt to f i n d a r e l a t i o n s h i p between, on the one hand, learning materials and the support system and, on the other hand, the learners' approaches to learning and " t h e i r experience of doing a distance learning course" (p.57). Attitudes and perceptions were c e n t r a l . Melton and Zimmer (1987) interviewed faculty, students, and tutors i n order to f i n d t h e i r various perspectives on problems faced at the B r i t i s h Open University. After analysis of the interviews discussions based on the findings took place. The l a s t three studies gave no cle a r d e s c r i p t i o n of the actual process used to analyze the d i a r i e s or the interviews. Taylor and Morgan (1986), on the other hand, used a rigorous methodology, phenomenography, to analyze t h e i r interviews with B r i t i s h Open University students. From interviews c a r r i e d out over s i x years they found learners' conceptions of learning, that i s , learners' understanding of the meaning of learning. They also found that " . . . s k i l l i n learning involves students i n developing confidence i n learning and also competence i n learning.... The importance of these issues i s that they appear to constrain students i n how they tackle a t a s k — i . e . t h e i r approach to study" (p.15). Therefore, not only d i d Taylor and Morgan bring to l i g h t valuable knowledge about learners' understanding of learning, but they also demonstrated why i t i s useful to know what learners' conceptions are. Herrman (1988) developed a conceptual framework for understanding changing attitudes, b e l i e f s , and behaviours of students when they become involved i n external studies. In hi s interviews he used questions 11... to stimulate the interviewees to r e f l e c t upon t h e i r s i t u a t i o n s and to elaborate on t h e i r perceptions of what was happening to them during the process of study" (p.6). Analysis of the interviews was based on a conceptual framework developed from a v a r i e t y of sources i n psychology and sociology. Needless to say, any conceptual framework i s rooted i n ce r t a i n assumptions, but with recognition of t h i s l i m i t a t i o n , Herrman's study i s a useful model for further research into learners' understandings of distance education. I n g l i s (1988) investigated the development of independent learning i n u n i v e r s i t y - l e v e l distance education students. He used a hermeneutic process to analyze interviews with f o r t y people—students, tutors, and o f f i c e r s i n charge of centres. Thus, the analysis was an int e r p r e t a t i o n of the words not only of those developing learning autonomy but also of others who observed the learners going through that process. I n g l i s immersed himself i n the language of the interviews, but he also made use of "key informants", people representative of those i n distance education i n that area. They helped the researcher 28 to r e f l e c t on the interviews and to i d e n t i f y issues from the perspectives of the interviewees. The r e s u l t s of the study are disappointing. I n g l i s presented a l i s t of 33 statements and phrases which were "the language of independent learning from key informants" (p.252). He also presented a l i s t of 26 statements and phrases which were "the metalanguage of the p a r t i c i p a n t s " (p.253). The l i s t s were used i n the development of a distance education survey. While a l i s t of 59 statements and phrases may be useful for designing a survey, i t i s of l i t t l e use to the educator who wishes to know what in d i v i d u a l s understand independent learning to be. To a r r i v e at such understandings, or conceptions, the researcher would have to return to the interviews and discover common elements i n the statements. This survey of the l i t e r a t u r e shows that there has been some research of learners' attitudes, perceptions, and understanding of various aspects of adult education and distance education. Most of the studies have used the p o s i t i v i s t paradigm, which usually ignores the learner's context and, i n fact, t e l l s us l i t t l e about the learner as an i n d i v i d u a l . The learner emerges as a generalization. On the other hand, a s h i f t towards the n a t u r a l i s t i c paradigm i s now occurring, as i l l u s t r a t e d by researchers l i k e Stalker, Quigley, Mason and Morgan, Taylor and Morgan, Herrman, and I n g l i s . While a l l s i x of these studies offered 29 insights into learners, only Stalker's research along with Taylor and Morgan's used a t r u l y rigorous method of analysis. That method, phenomenography, was chosen for t h i s study. 30 CHAPTER I I I METHODOLOGY The N a t u r a l i s t i c Paradigm Phenomenography i s a q u a l i t a t i v e method of analyzing data; i t i s used within the n a t u r a l i s t i c paradigm. A b r i e f o utline of the basic assumptions of naturalism makes i t cl e a r that the paradigm provides the perspective necessary fo r revealing understandings held by distance education learners. The following draws on a summary by Lincoln and Guba (1985). In the n a t u r a l i s t i c paradigm, "There are multiple constructed r e a l i t i e s that can be studied only h o l i s t i c a l l y " (p.37). That i s , r e a l i t y i s not an e n t i t y "out there" which can be fragmented into discrete variables and processes. Each distance learner experiences a d i f f e r e n t world, and his/her r e a l i t i e s are derived from that personal world. A learner's understanding of distance education i s not separate from his/her experience. The n a t u r a l i s t i c paradigm holds that the inquirer cannot be independent of the subject of inquiry (the person); i n t e r a c t i o n between the inquirer and the subject i s in e v i t a b l e . In an interview everything the interviewee says i s influenced by the presence and questions of the interviewer; the interview i s constructed by the i n t e r a c t i o n 31 of the two players. I t i s impossible f o r them to be completely unaffected by each other. The n a t u r a l i s t i c paradigm aims at describing i n d i v i d u a l cases, which are time and context bound; t h i s builds up into "...an idiographic body of knowledge i n the form of 'working hypotheses'" (p.38). Distance learners can form an understanding of distance education only from t h e i r own point i n time and i n r e l a t i o n to t h e i r own p o s i t i o n i n the world. I f researchers denude these understandings of the context which was instrumental i n creating them and i f they amalgamate the now incomplete understandings i n order to generalize, the r e s u l t can only be meaningless statements. The n a t u r a l i s t i c paradigm maintains that i t i s not possible to d i s t i n g u i s h causes from e f f e c t s ; there i s "mutual simultaneous shaping" of a l l e n t i t i e s (p.38). Does the learner develop an understanding of distance education i n a l i n e a r cause-and-effect manner, or i s his/her understanding the r e s u l t of a more complex and integrated process? The l a t t e r seems l i k e l y . F i n a l l y , i n the n a t u r a l i s t i c paradigm inquiry i s seen as value-bound. Every researcher has values and, consciously or unconsciously, makes assumptions; every decision about what to investigate and how to do i t i s influenced by those values and assumptions. This outline makes i t clear that the n a t u r a l i s t i c paradigm provides an appropriate framework for an attempt to 32 delve into learners' experiences and conceptions of distance education. Phenomenography ...phenomenography i s a research method for mapping the q u a l i t a t i v e l y d i f f e r e n t ways i n which people experience, conceptualize, perceive, and understand various aspects of, and phenomena i n , the world around them. (Marton, 1986, p.31) Phenomenography i s a r e l a t i v e l y new method of research. In order to characterize phenomenogaphy, the writer w i l l f i r s t compare i t to phenomenology and then explain the concepts involved i n a phenomenographic study. Marton devised phenomenography, and he has compared i t to phenomenology (Marton, 1981, 1986, 1988). Phenomenography and phenomenology share c e r t a i n basic features: both are r e l a t i o n a l , e x p e r i e n t i a l , contextual, and q u a l i t a t i v e . On the other hand, there are several s i g n i f i c a n t differences. F i r s t l y , phenomenology has a f i r s t - o r d e r perspective; that i s , i t aims at revealing "the world as i t i s " (Saljo, 1979, p.2). I t "...concentrates on observable behaviours or items" (Stalker, 1989, p.37). Phenomenography has a second-order perspective; that i s , i t aims at revealing "the-worId-as-perceived" (Saljo, 1979, p.2). I t "...attempts to reveal how things look from the point of view of the respondent..." (Stalker, 1989, p.37). 33 Secondly, phenomenology looks for the essence of an aspect of r e a l i t y or experience. I t looks f o r "...that which i s common to d i f f e r e n t forms of experience" (Marton, 1986, p.41). Phenomenography looks for the var i a t i o n s of experience. Phenomenographers believe that "...phenomena, aspects of r e a l i t y , are experienced (or conceptualized) i n a r e l a t i v e l y l i m i t e d number of q u a l i t a t i v e l y d i f f e r e n t ways" (Marton, 1981, p.181). Thirdly, phenomenology i s concerned with p r e - r e f l e c t i v e thought about aspects of r e a l i t y or experience. That i s , the phenomenologist makes a " d i s t i n c t i o n between immediate experience and conceptual thought. In a phenomenological investigation, we should 'bracket' the l a t t e r and search for the former" (Marton, 1986, p.41). Phenomenography does not make t h i s separation. "We t r y to describe r e l a t i o n s between the i n d i v i d u a l and various aspects of the world around them, regardless of whether those relationships are manifested i n the forms of immediate experience, conceptual thought, or physical behavior" (Marton, 1986, pp.41-42). F i n a l l y , phenomenography alone i s involved with the idea of conceptions and produces categories of desc r i p t i o n as r e s u l t s . The categories are not simply discovered and l i s t e d ; r e l a t i o n s h i p s between them are also found. These terms, conceptions and categories of description, are more f u l l y explained below. Another way to describe phenomenography i s to outline the concepts involved i n a phenomenographic study. The 34 phenomenographer believes that "...there i s j u s t no way i n which we can look into ourselves. What we can do instead i s to say how the world appears to us..." (Marton & Saljo, 1984, p.38). Therefore, phenomenographers usually interview subjects and ask questions about t h e i r experience of a phenomenon. The questions are not introspective ones. The phenomenographer then i d e n t i f i e s i n those interviews comments that are relevant to the phenomenon under inves t i g a t i o n . These quotes are c a l l e d units of meaning and depend on the context for t h e i r meaning. As Marton and Saljo (1984) stated, "The meaning of a comment could occasionally l i e i n the words themselves but, i n general, the int e r p r e t a t i o n [has] to be made i n r e l a t i o n to the context within which that comment [has] been made" (p.38). From the "units of meaning" emerge conceptions of the phenomenon. A conception ref e r s to actual experience; i t "...constitutes a p a r t i c u l a r way of viewing and thinking about an aspect of the surrounding world" (Dahlgren, 1984, p.30). A conception i s contextual because i t i s derived from a p a r t i c u l a r context; i t i s not an inherent q u a l i t y of the i n d i v i d u a l or the phenomenon (Saljo, 1988, p.42). I t i s also r e l a t i o n a l ; that i s , "We deal with the r e l a t i o n between the i n d i v i d u a l and some s p e c i f i e d aspect of the world..." (Marton, 1986, p.33). In t h i s case the " s p e c i f i e d aspect" i s distance education; i t i s of central importance. 35 From conceptions emerge categories of description. While conceptions r e f e r to actual experiences, categories of des c r i p t i o n are abstractions, the researcher's way of discussing conceptions. "In t a l k i n g about categories of description, then, we 'bracket' the dynamic-activity perspective and we consider the categories almost as i f they were 'frozen' forms of thought" (Marton, 1981, p.196). The phenomenographer usually i d e n t i f i e s three to f i v e categories of description; taken together they are referred to as an outcome space. The range of categories ... can be described as an outcome space .... I t i s therefore an empirical concept which i s not the product of l o g i c a l or deductive analysis, but instead r e s u l t s from intensive examination of empirical data. Equally important, as used here, the outcome space i s c o n t e n t - s p e c i f i c . . . " (Dahlgren, 1984, p.26) Unfortunately, there i s confusion i n the l i t e r a t u r e around the terms "conception" and "category of description". Several phenomenographers (Marton, 1981; Renstrom, Andersson, & Marton, date unknown; Saljo, 1988) use the terms interchangeably when r e f e r r i n g to the researcher-created descriptions which make up the outcome space. The d i s t i n c t i o n between the learners' conceptions and the researcher's categories of description i s a c r i t i c a l one, yet discussion using these two terms can become confusing. Therefore, i n t h i s study the term "category of d e s c r i p t i o n " i s not used. Instead, the learners' personal understandings of distance education are referred to as "the learners' conceptions"; the researcher's descriptions of those conceptions are referred to as "the conceptions found by the researcher" or as "the conceptions i n the outcome space". An outcome space i s the f i n a l r e s u l t of a phenomenographic study; i t i s the set of conceptions discovered by the researcher, a description of the range of conceptions of a phenomenon that have been found. In t h i s study the outcome space i s a description of the range of conceptions of distance education held by some adults new to distance education. The researcher also finds r e l a t i o n s h i p s within and between the conceptions i n the outcome space. To discover those r e l a t i o n s h i p s a number of a n a l y t i c a l concepts can be used. Beaty, Dall'Alba, and Marton (1990) stated that "... a conception i s a way of del i m i t i n g a phenomenon from i t s context (and r e l a t i n g the phenomenon to i t s context as well) and discerning component parts of the phenomenon and the rel a t i o n s h i p s between them" (p.35). This statement contains two important concepts. F i r s t , a conception e x i s t s within a context. Individuals discern that context d i f f e r e n t l y and see the r e l a t i o n s h i p between the phenomenon and that context i n d i f f e r e n t ways. Second, a conception has component parts. One of the component parts i s the "what" aspect of the phenomenon. (In t h i s study, what i s distance education?) I t i s the o v e r a l l meaning of the phenomenon as seen by the i n d i v i d u a l and i s sometimes expressed i n metaphors (Beaty et 37 a l . , 1990, p.15). The other major component part i s the "how" aspect of the phenomenon. (In t h i s study, how does distance education take place?) I t can also be referr e d to as the process. Different i n d i v i d u a l s focus on d i f f e r e n t component parts. Focus i s another important concept i n the analysis of conceptions. Renstrom et a l . (date unknown) concentrated on f i n d i n g the focus of conceptions. They hypothesized that shared and/or s h i f t i n g focus i n d i f f e r e n t conceptions might be a "candidate f o r an i n t e r n a l explanatory mechanism of t r a n s i t i o n s between conceptions. ... A c e r t a i n focus may recur within d i f f e r e n t conceptions and hence provide a bridge between them. ... On the other hand a c e r t a i n focus can develop into a conception or a subconception...." (pp.51-52). In r e a l i t y conceptions are integrated wholes, but phenomenographers break them down for purposes of analysis. In t h i s study the concepts of context, meaning, process, and focus are used to analyze the re l a t i o n s h i p s within and between the conceptions i n the outcome space. What i s the use of an outcome space, a de s c r i p t i o n of the range of conceptions held by people? Simply knowing these d i f f e r e n t understandings can be useful i n i t s e l f ; i t expands our knowledge. In addition, "A c a r e f u l account of the d i f f e r e n t ways people think about phenomena may help uncover conditions that f a c i l i t a t e the t r a n s i t i o n from one way of thinking to a q u a l i t a t i v e l y 'better' perception of 38 r e a l i t y " (Marton, 1986, p.33). I t i s to be hoped that a better understanding of learners' conceptions of distance education w i l l lead to greater congruence between learners' and educators' perspectives on distance education and ultimately to better prac t i c e . Selection of Subjects The subjects of t h i s study were adults who had recently begun distance studies through the Open Learning Agency (OLA), a distance education i n s t i t u t i o n based i n Richmond, B r i t i s h Columbia. They were students enrolled i n one of four Arts programs which can lead to a bachelor's degree from the Open University of the OLA. The four programs were: Bachelor of Arts, Major Program; Bachelor of Arts, General Program; Bachelor of General Studies; Bachelor of Arts i n Administrative Studies. There were several reasons for s e l e c t i n g these students. As has already been mentioned, the writer i s interested i n distance education because of i t s p o t e n t i a l throughout the world. Internationally, distance education i n s t i t u t i o n s focus on u n i v e r s i t y - l e v e l studies more often than on te c h n i c a l , vocational, or other studies. Because of t h i s i t was appropriate to choose learners i n u n i v e r s i t y programs. Arts students do not have a laboratory component i n t h e i r courses; therefore, they do not come face to face with other students or with teachers. Hence, Arts students 39 appear to experience a r e l a t i v e l y "pure" form of distance education. In addition, due to the great v a r i e t y of courses i n Arts studies, i t seemed probable that the learners, too, would be varied and might hold a wide range of conceptions of distance education. The students selected were new to distance education; except f o r two, they had never done distance courses before. The two respondents who had taken previous distance courses saw those courses as t o t a l l y d i f f e r e n t from t h e i r present ones. One respondent had done most of her schooling by correspondence while she was growing up overseas. The other had taken several accounting courses by correspondence. The two students saw themselves as new to distance education, and the researcher f e l t that t h e i r own assessment was v a l i d . An add i t i o n a l consideration i n s e l e c t i n g respondents was t h e i r l o c a t i o n . Only students l i v i n g i n Greater Vancouver were asked to p a r t i c i p a t e . This was f o r p r a c t i c a l purposes as the researcher l i v e s i n Vancouver. In l a t e November and December the OLA sent l e t t e r s to a l l Open University Arts students who had begun t h e i r f i r s t OLA course on November 1, 1990. These l e t t e r s outlined the purpose of the study and b r i e f l y explained the i n d i v i d u a l ' s r o l e i f he/she par t i c i p a t e d . The number of students who agreed to be interviewed was low. The OLA again sent out l e t t e r s i n early January, t h i s time to a l l students who had begun t h e i r f i r s t course on January 1, 1991, and yet again i n early March to a l l 40 students who had begun on March 1, 1991. Because of the low p o s i t i v e response to the November and December l e t t e r s , these l a t e r ones were sent not only to students i n the four Arts programs described above but also to students enrolled i n the Bachelor of Arts, General Science program. However, none of the l a t t e r agreed to an interview. The writer had intended to use purposive sampling i n order to maximize the p o s s i b i l i t y of fi n d i n g a wide v a r i e t y of conceptions of distance education. Unfortunately, t h i s proved to be impossible, and the researcher was l i m i t e d to using learners w i l l i n g to be interviewed. The nature of the inquiry made i t possible to interview only some twenty people. They could i n no way be considered representative of a l l distance education learners. However, the purpose of the study was not to generalize but to i d e n t i f y the conceptions held by some distance education learners. The f i n a l number of subjects was eighteen, three for p i l o t interviews and f i f t e e n for the main interviews. A l l were enrolled i n an Arts program; a l l were new to distance education; a l l l i v e d i n the Greater Vancouver area. Data C o l l e c t i o n When the OLA received p o s i t i v e responses to l e t t e r s , they passed on the names to the writer, who then telephoned the students. In each case a convenient time f o r the interview was arranged, usually at the learner's home. 41 The s e t t i n g of the interviews was considered to be important. Most of the subjects did t h e i r distance studies at home; f o r these learners home was the usual s e t t i n g for distance education, which was the focus of discussion. In fac t , carrying out the interviews i n the home had two advantages. I t provided the most appropriate s e t t i n g for discussion of distance education; i n addition, the interviewees were on home t e r r i t o r y and could f e e l more relaxed than elsewhere. In f a c t , twelve of the eighteen interviews were i n the respondent's home while one was at the writer's home. Four were at the respondent's place of work, which, i n one case, was also where that i n d i v i d u a l d i d h i s distance studies. One was i n a cafe. A l l interviews except one took place while the respondent was s t i l l doing his/her f i r s t OLA course. The exception was a student who had fin i s h e d her f i r s t course approximately one week before the interview. She had completed i t i n just over hal f the usual time and had immediately gone on to a second course. Three p i l o t interviews were ca r r i e d out. Careful reading of these interviews and discussions with colleagues led to modification of the questions. They were modified so that they were more l i k e l y to e l i c i t responses containing conceptions of distance education and so that the interview flowed more smoothly. 42 The f i f t e e n main interviews were a l l semi-structured with open-ended questions. The interview schedule was designed to allow the interviewee to t a l k about a l l aspects of distance education. The interviewer also asked further, probing questions on the basis of what the respondent said, thus following leads given by the respondent. In addition, when i t was appropriate, the investigator: (1) asked the learner to c l a r i f y statements, (2) paraphrased statements i n order to v e r i f y her understanding of what the learner had said, (3) requested elaboration, and (4) v e r i f i e d the completeness of what the learner had said (Taylor, 1986). Thus, during each interview the researcher constantly made decisions about what questions to ask. Her decisions were based on statements already made i n the interview underway as well as on knowledge gained from previous interviews. That i s to say, analysis took place during the interviews. The interviewer formed hypotheses then asked further questions i n an attempt to e l i c i t evidence to support or refute them. This was i n keeping with the po s i t i o n of Hammersley and Atkinson (1983). They contended that every researcher i s inev i t a b l y influenced by the s o c i a l world, the world of commonsense knowledge i n which people continually make hypotheses i n t h e i r everyday l i v e s . Therefore, i t i s proper for n a t u r a l i s t i c researchers to make hypotheses too. The content of each interview was determined p a r t l y by the investigator and p a r t l y by the respondent. Interviews lasted on the average about f o r t y minutes, and at the end of each interview demographic information was obtained using a standard form. In addition, the investigator asked for more in-depth information about the ind i v i d u a l ' s background, namely his/her family, work, past education, and future plans. A l l interviews were tape-recorded, and the tapes were transcribed i n f u l l . During the weeks of data c o l l e c t i o n the writer also kept a journal i n which she recorded steps taken, discussions with others, decisions r e l a t e d to methodology and the reasons for those decisions, plus relevant thoughts or insights that emerged. I t was anticipated that t h i s record would help i n further analysis of the data and i n establishing the trustworthiness of the study. Data Analysis The c o l l e c t i o n and analysis of data were not separate. While t a l k i n g to learners, the interviewer constantly made decisions about appropriate questions to ask. Each decision depended on on-the-spot analysis of the interview underway; knowledge gained i n previous interviews also influenced these decisions. That i s , analysis of the data began while interviews were i n progress. A l l interviews were transcribed word-for-word by a professional t y p i s t . However, on receiving the t r a n s c r i p t s , the researcher l i s t e n e d to each taped interview, made 44 corrections i n the t r a n s c r i p t s , and confirmed that they included indications of he s i t a t i o n , laughter, interruptions, and so on. In addition, during the interviews the researcher had made notes on perceived f e e l i n g s , tones of voice, gestures, and the l i k e ; these, too, were noted on the t r a n s c r i p t s . Consequently, the researcher became very f a m i l i a r with each conversation. The investigator read each t r a n s c r i p t a number of times and i d e n t i f i e d quotes relevant to distance education. During the f i r s t two readings she picked out the quotes, or "units of meaning", representing the respondent's most cen t r a l conceptions and highlighted them i n one colour. Using those most s a l i e n t "units of meaning", she also wrote a b r i e f summary of the essence of distance education as seen by that respondent. During further readings the writer picked out other quotes that were less c entral to the learner's conception of distance education and highlighted them i n another colour. The next stage was to b r i e f l y restate each "unit of meaning" i n one margin of the t r a n s c r i p t . At t h i s stage the investigator constantly referred back to the context, that i n d i v i d u a l interview, i n order to in t e r p r e t each "unit of meaning" as accurately as possible; the process was i t e r a t i v e . Since the "units of meaning" represented conceptions of distance education, the conceptions were being constructed i n part by the learner through his/her words and i n part by the researcher through her i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . In the other margin the researcher noted which aspect of distance education the "unit of meaning" was about, e.g. f l e x i b i l i t y or study procedures. The researcher then sent a copy of the highlighted t r a n s c r i p t with i t s marginal notes to the respondent. In a telephone c a l l about one week l a t e r the investigator asked the respondent i f he/she agreed that the parts highlighted were, i n fa c t , statements about or relevant to distance education. She also asked about the accuracy of the marginal notes. In general, the respondents confirmed the accuracy of both the hi g h l i g h t i n g and the notes; on a few occasions they suggested one or two minor changes. At t h i s point the researcher also read to the respondent the summary of his/her most s a l i e n t "units of meaning". Again, only occasionally did a respondent make a s l i g h t modification. Once the respondent had confirmed the accuracy of the hi g h l i g h t i n g and marginal notes, the writer cut out those highlighted "units of meaning" with t h e i r notes from a photocopy of the t r a n s c r i p t . These cut out quotes were pooled. From t h i s point on attention focused on the meaning embedded i n the quotes themselves. I t did not focus on t h e i r meaning i n the context of i n d i v i d u a l interviews although on occasions i t was necessary to r e f e r to the o r i g i n a l t r a n s c r i p t s for c l a r i f i c a t i o n . The researcher did not immediately pool the "units of meaning" of a l l f i f t e e n t r a n s c r i p t s . In fa c t , not a l l 46 interviews had been transcribed when the next step commenced. The "units of meaning" from four interviews were sorted into eleven p i l e s , each p i l e representing an aspect of distance education. This was done by reading each quote and by r e f e r r i n g to the marginal note about aspect. At t h i s point i t was necessary to make decisions on questions such as: Do quotes using d i f f e r e n t words i n f a c t r e f e r to the same aspect? Can s i m i l a r quotes be integrated into a core meaning or are those s i m i l a r i t i e s , i n f a c t , not close enough for integration? (Stalker, 1989) Therefore, t h i s was an i t e r a t i v e process i n which the researcher referr e d back to the pool of "units of meaning" when in t e r p r e t i n g meanings. She then reread a l l the quotes i n each p i l e , grouped together those that seemed to express the same idea, and wrote down those ideas. Following t h i s , the investigator read a l l of these ideas i n order to f i n d themes. Thus, very tentative conceptions f o r an outcome space were noted. There was no expectation that these conceptions would stand up with further analysis, but the exercise proved u s e f u l . The researcher f e l t that she had found a s a t i s f a c t o r y way to deal with the very large number of "units of meaning". In fact, t h i s procedure was used to analyze the "units of meaning" of the next f i v e interviews, then another three, and f i n a l l y the l a s t three. The conceptions evolved as more and more ideas were added to the l i s t s and as the 47 investigator gained experience. Once the "units of meaning" of a l l f i f t e e n interviews had been thus analyzed, the researcher had a tentative set of conceptions, an outcome space. In order to f i n a l i z e these conceptions the researcher t r i e d to f i t a l l "units of meaning" into one or the other of them. She reread the quotes and modified the conceptions a number of times u n t i l s a t i s f i e d that the group of "units of meaning" i n each conception displayed s i m i l a r i t i e s and was c l e a r l y delimited from the other groups. At t h i s point, then, the set of conceptions as well as c r i t e r i a for defining those conceptions were established. The researcher described each conception i n a way that i d e n t i f i e d i t s core meaning. Thus, the r e s u l t of the analysis was a set of conceptions; these conceptions were i n t e r r e l a t e d and formed an outcome space. I t represented "the q u a l i t a t i v e l y d i f f e r e n t ways i n which people experience, conceptualize, perceive, and understand" distance education (Marton, 1986, p.31). Marton (1986) has pointed out that: The o r i g i n a l f inding of the categories of description [conceptions i n the outcome space] i s a form of discovery, and discoveries do not have to be r e p l i c a b l e . On the other hand, once the categories have been found, i t must be possible to reach a high degree of intersubjective agreement concerning t h e i r presence or absence i f other researchers are to be able to use them. (p.35) Therefore, at t h i s stage three fellow students c a r r i e d out r e l i a b i l i t y checks on the conceptions. 48 The following procedure was used. The investigator wrote down her description of each conception and the c r i t e r i a for placing quotes i n each one. Twenty quotes were randomly drawn from the p i l e for each conception and a l l were shuffled. Each of the three judges then attempted to place those eighty quotes into the four conceptions on the basis of the investigator's descriptions. The extent of agreement between the investigator and the judges was a measure of the r e l i a b i l i t y or, to use the n a t u r a l i s t i c term, the dependability, of the conceptions. In f a c t , agreement for each conception ranged from 90 to 100 percent; dependability was established. Trustworthiness From the beginning i t was considered important to e s t a b l i s h the trustworthiness of the data, that i s , t h e i r c r e d i b i l i t y , t r a n s f e r a b i l i t y , dependability, and c o n f i r m a b i l i t y . These q u a l i t i e s are equivalent to i n t e r n a l v a l i d i t y , external v a l i d i t y , r e l i a b i l i t y , and o b j e c t i v i t y i n the r a t i o n a l i s t i c perspective (Guba, 1981; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The procedures of data c o l l e c t i o n and analysis already described contributed to trustworthiness. What follows i s a f u l l e r explanation. C r e d i b i l i t y r e f e r s to the truth value of the data. To quote Lincoln and Guba (1985), "In order to demonstrate 'truth value,' the n a t u r a l i s t must show that he or she has represented those multiple constructions adequately, that i s , that the reconstructions ... that have been arri v e d at v i a the inquiry are credible to the constructors of the original multiple realities" (pp.295-296). Therefore, several procedures were followed to ensure c r e d i b i l i t y . Before t h e i r interviews the subjects had time to think about t h e i r perceptions and experience of distance education. This was because there was a time lapse between t h e i r r e ceiving the i n i t i a l l e t t e r , being telephoned, and a c t u a l l y being interviewed. This period of time was one safeguard against spur-of-the-moment "conceptions" of distance education. There was a framework of set, open-ended questions f o r the interviews; however, during interviews the researcher continually probed for the students' perceptions and experience of distance education. At the same time she constantly c a r r i e d out member checks; that i s , the "data and interpretations [were] continuously tested as they [were] derived..." (Guba, 1981, p.85). To be precise, at the time of the interviews the researcher gave the subjects a chance to confirm whether they a c t u a l l y intended to make t h e i r statements. Subjects also had the opportunity to correct errors of f a c t , challenge the researcher's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of t h e i r statements, and add more information. In f a c t , the f i n a l set question i n each interview was, "Is there anything else you'd l i k e to add?" Overall, the subjects were given the chance to assess the adequacy of the interview and to confirm p a r t i c u l a r points. Each interview was long enough to ensure that the subject had f u l l y expressed him/herself about distance education. Throughout the c o l l e c t i o n and analysis of data, there were debriefings with the researcher's adviser and fellow students. These ongoing discussions helped the researcher to become aware of her biases and her bases for i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . The discussions provided an opportunity to explore meaning and an opportunity for the development of further steps i n the methodological process. The researcher recorded these debriefings i n her journal. Some weeks af t e r each interview the researcher again spoke to the learner, who had been given a copy of his/her transcribed interview. On t h i s t r a n s c r i p t the researcher had highlighted the quotes she thought relevant to the student's understanding of distance education. She had also made marginal notes of her own i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the student's words and of the aspect of distance education being talked about. The researcher asked the student to confirm or deny that the highlighted quotes picked out his/her main points and that the interpretations were correct. I f the student disagreed, he/she was asked to make corrections. At the same time the respondent had the opportunity to confirm or modify a summary of the essence of his/her view of distance education, a summary which had been written by the researcher. 51 T r a n s f e r a b i l i t y r e f e r s to the a p p l i c a b i l i t y of the findings to other contexts. Since n a t u r a l i s t i c investigators disagree with the p o s i t i v i s t s ' expectation of g e n e r a l i z a b i l i t y , ... the n a t u r a l i s t can only set out working hypotheses together with a description of the time and context i n which they were formed to hold. Whether they hold i n some other context, or even i n the same context at some other time, i s an empirical issue, the resolution of which depends upon the degree of s i m i l a r i t y between sending and receiving (or e a r l i e r and later) contexts. (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p.316) In other words, the researcher should provide as much background information as possible so that other investigators w i l l be able to decide whether there i s enough s i m i l a r i t y between the o r i g i n a l context and another context fo r t r a n s f e r of the findings. I t had been hoped that two procedures could be followed to e s t a b l i s h t r a n s f e r a b i l i t y : purposive sampling and c o l l e c t i o n of s u f f i c i e n t d e s c r i p t i v e data. In the event, purposive sampling proved to be impossible; however, descriptive data were c o l l e c t e d . At the end of each interview the respondent f i l l e d i n a standard form to provide demographic information. Following that, the interviewer asked further questions about family, work, education, and future plans. A l l respondents were forthcoming and provided a considerable amount of information. Dependability ref e r s to the consistency of the data. As Guba pointed out, because of the n a t u r a l i s t ' s b e l i e f i n 52 multiple r e a l i t i e s and the use of human instruments, invariance i s impossible but trackable variance i s possible. That i s , "... variance can be ascribed to sources: so much for error, so much for r e a l i t y s h i f t s , so much f o r increased instrumental p r o f i c i e n c y (better i n s i g h t s ) , and so on" (Guba, 1981, p.81). Therefore, "... the n a t u r a l i s t seeks means for taking into account both factors of i n s t a b i l i t y and factors of phenomenal or design induced change" (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p.299). In order to ensure dependability the researcher did the following. Three p i l o t interviews were c a r r i e d out and were very useful i n the development of questions that e l i c i t e d conceptions of distance education. The interview schedule thus developed contained a number of set questions, but they were open-ended, and each answer given by a respondent provided a springboard for further probing questions. These probes grew out of previous statements, so the respondent and interviewer together constructed the interview. The researcher t r i e d to be equally rigorous and thorough i n her questioning of a l l interviewees. Throughout the interview period the researcher had frequent conversations with her adviser or fellow students; these debriefings were important. In addition, the researcher kept a journal i n which she recorded thoughts, insights, etc. relevant to the interviews. A second procedure demonstrated the dependability of the conceptions discovered. As described above, independent 53 r e l i a b i l i t y checks of the conceptions were c a r r i e d out by three judges. The judges t r i e d to f i t randomly drawn quotes into the established conceptions, and agreement with the investigator was high. Thirdly, the researcher established an "audit t r a i l " , which consisted of the tape recorded interviews, the t r a n s c r i p t s , and the researcher's journal. These make i t possible f o r others to examine the process of the inquiry, that i s , how the data were c o l l e c t e d and analyzed as well as how interpretations were made. The same audit t r a i l can be used to e s t a b l i s h c o n f i r m a b i l i t y of the data since, to quote Guba again, there i s a "... s h i f t by n a t u r a l i s t s away from the concept of investigator o b j e c t i v i t y toward the concept of data (and interpretational) c o n f i r m a b i l i t y " (1981, p.87). In addition, the use of open-ended questions i n the interviews, the debriefings, and the reading of t r a n s c r i p t s by peers contributed to the c o n f i r m a b i l i t y of the data. By using a l l of the procedures outlined above, the investigator attempted to e s t a b l i s h the c r e d i b i l i t y , t r a n s f e r a b i l i t y , dependability, and c o n f i r m a b i l i t y of the data. 54 CHAPTER IV RESULTS The r e s u l t s of t h i s study attempt to answer the two research questions stated i n Chapter I. 1. What are the conceptions of distance education held by adults who have recently begun p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n u n i v e r s i t y -l e v e l distance education courses? 2. How do these conceptions compare or contrast with the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the l i t e r a t u r e ? The Outcome Space: Conceptions of Distance Education The conceptions of distance education held by the learners are expressed i n an outcome space, which i s the set of conceptions as described by the researcher. Although these conceptions are constructed by the researcher, they are grounded i n the learners' conceptions, which r e f e r to "... actual experiences, understandings, and conceptualizations that people have of various phenomena.... [People's] conceptions have ex p e r i e n t i a l r e a l i t y " (Beaty et a l . , 1990, pp.8-9). Each conception i n the outcome space i s f u l l y stated and i l l u s t r a t e d below. In addition, each conception of distance education i s described by breaking i t down into four aspects: meaning, focus, process, and context. 55 This breakdown i s purely for reasons of analysis, i n order to discover re l a t i o n s h i p s within and between conceptions. In r e a l i t y conceptions are integrated wholes. Table I provides a summary overview of the conceptions found by the researcher. The complete description of each conception follows i t . TABLE I Summary of conceptions of distance education i n the outcome space 1. Distance education i s a) to future goals. b) i n everyday l i f e . a door opener 2. Distance education i s - from r e s t r i c t i o n s . - to make choices. freedom 3. Distance education i s d i f f i c u l t i e s . 4. Distance education i s structure and learner actions. 1. Conception 1 - Distance education i s (potentially) a door opener. This conception i s divided into two parts: l a Distance education i s (potentially) a door opener to goals i n the future. For some learners distance education opens doors to further courses, to university, to degrees, or to future work. Distance education i s also described as a stepping-56 stone, a t o o l , and a means to an end. Some i l l u s t r a t i v e quotes are: A: .... Did you have any p a r t i c u l a r hopes before you started? R: Well, I hoped that I would complete i t , do well, (pause ) that i t would open a ... i t would just open the doors ... the doors up ... i s t h i s ... Psychology and Bachelor of Arts, 'cause that's the way I want to go. And that question s t i l l hasn't been f u l l y answered because I am only a month into the course. When the course i s fi n i s h e d and l e t ' s say I get my B.A. whatever, that's ... that's r e a l l y going to encourage me to what way, you know, I'm gonna pursue. A: When you say you hoped that i t would open the door, you mean to further studies, to ultimately a B.A. R: Yeah, yeah. And ac t u a l l y I'm enjoying Psychology, and I'm also looking forward .... Like, I keep looking i n the ... the calendar, a Bachelor of Arts and what you can do, and I'm also thinking, well, at least at t h i s point, i f I take a l l my base courses, then i f I don't want to major i n psychology, I can switch the major and s t i l l have ... l i k e 'cause philosophy i n t e r e s t s me and sociology, and I thought, "Well, I can always switch that way too." So t h i s i s very handy too. It opens doors, yeah, that's what I mean, yes. (pp.429-430) P: ... l i k e I've learned that [distance education] i s a good t o o l , that you can ... you can ... you can t r y to ... (pause...) to use i t for your own as the best of your ... with the best of your a b i l i t i e s , to l i k e — not to promote, that's not the r i g h t word — go ahead? I don't .... A: Get ahead? P: Get ahead, yeah. A: So you're saying i t ' s a t o o l which you, the student, can use to get ahead. 57 P: Yeah. Like, and you don't .... Like I won't be completely .... I don't f e e l I w i l l be completely (pause...) l i k e (pause...) bare when I w i l l go back to UBC? (laughingly) I t ' s l i k e not knowing anything about .... I f e e l I have a good t o o l i n my hand to ... to learn the language, and i t would be easier f o r me to get an entry at the uni v e r s i t y , (p.376-377) For these learners the meaning of distance education i s that i t i s a door opener. They focus on an outcome, that to which the door opens (e.g. a un i v e r s i t y degree). The process i s by acting; the learner does not simply react. The context of distance education to these learners i s p r a c t i c a l ; that i s , the focus (an outcome) i s seen within a p r a c t i c a l context of education or work i n the future. l b Distance education i s (potentially) a door opener i n the learner's everyday l i f e . To these learners distance education may be a door opener i n very p r a c t i c a l ways. For example, he/she can study while continuing to work or take care of the family. Distance education may also open doors by providing an educational opportunity when no other e x i s t s for that i n d i v i d u a l . An i l l u s t r a t i o n of t h i s i s : A: How did you come to that decision? [to enrol i n a distance education course] I: Primarily for convenience. I didn't ... I wasn't able to go back to school f u l l - t i m e r i g h t now, u n t i l [my son] i s i n school f u l l - t i m e himself, which w i l l be September. So I thought what I would do i s take a couple of night courses and then take a couple of correspondence courses as well ... as well. So i t meets a need f o r me. 58 I'm able to do the work at home, and not have to deal with daycare and s t i l l get to spend some time with [my son], (p.187) Distance education can also be a door opener i n abstract ways. I t can open doors to more knowledge, which the learner may r e l a t e to the r e a l world. In addition, distance education may also open the door to greater awareness and new perspectives. The learner can learn to do new things, learn about him/herself, and develop p o s i t i v e attitudes and f e e l i n g s . Some examples are: M: ... I guess you take i t for granted a l o t of ... a l o t of your knowledge, but taking the courses was r e a l l y enlightening. Like, even i f I didn't pass them, I would s t i l l think that i t was money well spent, because of the knowledge that you ... that you learn from i t . A: So, what are you learning about Law, about Sociology? M: About Law, a l o t of s p e c i f i c s that I wasn't aware of. With Sociology I've found quite i n t e r e s t i n g , just d i f f e r e n t ways of looking at ... at people and what they do and why they do i t , which i s ... I guess i t j u s t teaches you to look at things i n a d i f f e r e n t perspective than what you normally are used to doing. A: You say i n the Sociology you f e e l you're learning d i f f e r e n t perspectives. Is that true i n the Law course as well? M: No. Having a f a i r l y good understanding of the l e g a l system of B.C., i t ... i t opened my eyes up to more areas. I guess i t did teach me to think from ... or look at things from d i f f e r e n t perspectives, because I .... Yeah, i t did. (pp. 293-294) R: ... I'm studying again, and I'm ... I f i n d I can go r i g h t back into the flow of studying again? 59 That i t ' s so rewarding, l i k e , i t ... i t r e a l l y boosts the self-esteem. And i t ' s l i k e being .... Accomplishment ... i t ' s a challenge, but i t ' s a p o s i t i v e challenge? You know, i t ' s l i k e ... someone l i k e me that...that's been out of school for so long, i t ' s l i k e an awake ... almost an awakening. Like, wow. I'm using my, you know, brain; I'm not j u s t doing manual work and t h i s and that. I f e e l l i k e eventually I'm gonna make a difference. Like I want to do ... I want to f i n d a purpose. and I t h i n ... t h i s ... t h i s gives me the esteem to think: Yeah, I'm gonna make a difference one day. (pp.434-435) The meaning, focus, and process of Conception l b are the same as those of l a . The context, however, i s somewhat d i f f e r e n t ; i t may be p r a c t i c a l or abstract. When p r a c t i c a l , the context i s work, family l i f e , or education. When abstract, the context i s learning. The i n t e r n a l r e l a t i o n s h i p s of Conception 1 can be summarized as follows: Distance education i s a door opener (meaning). The learner acts (process) i n a p r a c t i c a l or abstract context to gain an outcome (focus). He/she uses the structure and process of distance education to a t t a i n that outcome. 2. Conception 2 - Distance education means freedom, f l e x i b i l i t y , and learning on one's own, a l l i n p r a c t i c a l ways. Learners who hold t h i s conception may see distance education as freedom from or freedom to. Some learners see distance education as freedom from r e s t r i c t i o n s , from 60 i n t e r a c t i o n with other people, who are viewed negatively, or from t r a v e l l i n g . The following quote i l l u s t r a t e s t h i s : L: I t was Business Management, same course, but done i n a classroom, and I only went for about four or ... f i v e nights I would say. And I was bored out of my mind. ... by about the f i f t h night, I was just so inc r e d i b l y f r u s t r a t e d at the speed at which we were going. I wanted things to happen quicker, and they weren't. ... And they ... they couldn't because of discussion times and .... You know, Business Management, there are formulas and processes that you can pick up very quickly, or I found that I could, and I found that people were not grasping those ... those things, and I found myself sort of r o l l i n g my eyes and thinking: Oh, my God! You know, I'm going to have to l i s t e n to t h i s again. ... So that was the ... that was r e a l l y f r u s t r a t i n g , (pp.263-264) Conversely, distance education i s seen as freedom to choose one's own course of action, p a r t i c u l a r l y where, when, and how f a s t to learn. This i s sometimes spoken of as the f l e x i b i l i t y of distance education. I t i s e s p e c i a l l y being able to choose one's own schedule, pace, and deadlines plus being able to learn when one i s ready to oneself. I l l u s t r a t i o n s are: S: ... Actually what I f i n d , i t ' s ... with the distance education as opposed to going to a classroom, i t ' s much more convenient. I t ' s so much more convenient because I can now s i t through, and I can go through at my own pace, which I am, which i s s l i g h t l y faster r i g h t now, and i f I ... i f I need to slow down, I can slow down, whereas i f you're i n a classroom you have to do t h i s and t h i s and t h i s by such and such a time, no matter what, i f you expect to keep up with the cl a s s . And sometimes that can be r e a l l y ... grueling and one of the things I f i n d i s I don't f e e l as under pressure for my ... f o r deadlines even though I'm making my own personal 61 deadlines that are maybe fas t e r than the course I'm i n . So i t works better for me (laughs), and ... than i f I were i n a classroom s i t u a t i o n , (pp. 460-461) T: And as f a r as night sessions, those are the sorts I were going ... I was going to, and even ... even then I had to be r e a l l y c a r e f u l that they were on the nights that I didn't work, and i t was kind of hard to pick that way because they don't plan on just for me. So I j u s t found, you know, rather than going through that hassle, to ... to f i n d a course where I can set my own schedule up rather than having to meet somebody else's schedule, (p.504) Another part of t h i s conception i s learning on one's own, which i s seen as having control of learning. Learning on one's own i s viewed i n a p r a c t i c a l way, not a developmental way. The following quote shows t h i s : Q: The s i m i l a r i t i e s [between conventional and distance education] are learning the subject matter, but the differences are: I'm doing i t on my own; I'm learning i t i n a more concentrated, I think, i n a more concentrated way; I f e e l I have control .... There's another thing too because, I think, because I have taught and I've nursed f o r so many years, I t r u s t my own i n t e l l i g e n c e more than I do a l o t of other people's i n t e l l i g e n c e ? I'm learning t h i s . Mind you, I'm not too impressed with t h i s textbook either. But, at l e a s t what's i n there I figure out for myself; I don't have someone else t e l l i n g me t h e i r impression of what they think the author means? (p.396) Learners who hold t h i s conception see freedom and choice as the meaning of distance education. Their focus i s the structure and process of distance education. The process f o r these learners i s by acting, by using the 62 structure and process of distance education to control and make choices; they do not simply react. The context i s p r a c t i c a l ; i t i s the r e a l l i f e - w o r l d or studies, and even learning i s viewed i n a p r a c t i c a l way. 3. Conception 3 - Distance education means d i f f i c u l t i e s counterbalanced by other factors. The d i f f i c u l t i e s (problems and uncertainties) expressed by holders of Conception 3 are of s i x types. They are: time consumption; lack of s e l f - d i s c i p l i n e ; c o n f l i c t with other aspects of one's l i f e ; learning problems caused by lack of i n t e r a c t i o n , boredom, lack of confidence, or such; the learner-tutor r e l a t i o n s h i p ; and worry about outside recognition of a distance education degree. There are other factors that counterbalance these d i f f i c u l t i e s . They include convenience, a sense of accomplishment, more learning, r e l a t i n g the learning to one's personal l i f e , goals, and having paid the fees. Sometimes learners spoke of these counterbalancing factors i n conjunction with t h e i r d i f f i c u l t i e s , even mentioning that there was a trade-off. More often learners spoke of the other factors separately. Quotes i l l u s t r a t i n g that distance education means d i f f i c u l t i e s follow. E: ... you are r e a l l y i s o l a t e d . You have nobody to, uh, to t a l k to about what the readings were, and so you do get these d i f f e r e n t viewpoints but, you know, you're just reading them yourself, and i f you were i n a class s i t u a t i o n , then you're going to have other .... Maybe I might not say 63 anything, but I'd be having other people l i s t e n i n g , you know, to l i s t e n to besides the professor i n the c l a s s , and I j u s t .... Myself, I think I'm, j u s t ... I need the stimulation of other people i n the class to keep me ... keep my i n t e r e s t up, I guess, and r e a l l y , you know, I think I would get more out of i t . . . . i t would seem more a l i v e or something. I f i n d that, you know, i t gets kind of boring t h i s reading a l l the time. ... I think you're s t i l l i n a void when you're doing things by distance education. You j u s t .... I t ' s ... i t ' s sort of l i k e i n a void; you j u s t don't know. It ' s d i f f i c u l t that way. (pp.138-139) I: I haven't talked to my second tutor, so I ' l l be r e a l l y curious to see what my impression formed i s of my second tutor, but I didn't l i k e the f i r s t tutor I had? A: Why was that? I: I found that she was not a r e a l - l i f e human body, and I had no sense of warmth or compassion from her or no i n t e r e s t i n me as a person. And no i n t e r e s t for me to know her as a person ei t h e r . ... Like I'm sure a l o t of i t was j u s t s t y l e because what she ... whenever I asked her something, how she reacted to me i s that she would give me back a question. And I understand that for some people that might be a way that they would help somebody to learn, but i t didn't work i n what I was t r y i n g to figure out, and I didn't see what her problem was and why can't you t e l l me the answer. ... I don't think that i t was a l l because of her. Part of i t would have been something that t r i g g e r s i n me i n that i t r e a l l y set up for me l i k e a parent-child r e l a t i o n s h i p ... where every time I talked to her, I l e f t the conversation f e e l i n g l i k e a stumbling, mumbling c h i l d , and i t was a r e a l l y uncomfortable f e e l i n g . So I didn't enjoy my r e l a t i o n s h i p at a l l with her. (pp.195-197) L: Oh, i t ' s absolutely impossible. I cannot f I cannot do i t at the l e v e l , at the speed that I'm going at. I t ' s my .... I should say that when I started i t , my job was going smoothly. I think I indicated that e a r l i e r . Everything was nice and smooth, and January 1 everything wasn't so smooth. 64 We embarked on a new venture i n my business, which I was to head up, so my ... my day, my hours away from home extended by probably at l e a s t an hour, possibly two, at each end. And so my time ... free time was dramatically reduced. I have a three month-old daughter as I indicated, and that .... (pause...) Now how s h a l l I put t h i s ? The ... the amount of time that I was spending studying was reducing the amount of time that I could spend with my family. And I r e a l l y didn't l i k e that. Afte r about the f i r s t three or four weeks I r e a l i z e d that I would not see them r e a l l y grow up. I would be studying, and I would have a degree, but I don't think they would know me. And I can remember s i t t i n g down i n the basement and hearing the words of "The Cat's i n the Cradle" i n my head and thinking: I'm not sure that t h i s i s the r i g h t time to be doing t h i s . (pp.271-272) For learners who hold Conception 3 the c e n t r a l meaning of distance education i s d i f f i c u l t i e s . They focus on the structure and process of distance education. The process for these learners i s sometimes to act and sometimes to react, either by trading o f f the d i f f i c u l t i e s against other factors or by giving up t h e i r studies. The context i s these other factors, which may or may not s u f f i c i e n t l y counter the d i f f i c u l t i e s . These other factors are sometimes p r a c t i c a l (of the r e a l - l i f e world or studies) and sometimes abstract (learning or a sense of accomplishment). 4. Conception 4 - Distance education i s a structure (including procedures, content, and standards), which requires or allows c e r t a i n actions from the learner. Learners who expressed t h i s conception talked about distance education's structure and t h e i r actions i n a d e s c r i p t i v e manner. They did not express value judgments 65 l i k e those i n Conceptions 1, 2, and 3. In addition, the structure and actions were frequently intertwined i n the descriptions. For these learners t h e i r own actions reveal the structure of distance education, and that structure also requires or allows those actions to take place. The structure of distance education (in the narrow sense) includes scheduling, i n t e r a c t i o n (or lack of i t ) with others, media, services, etc. Procedures include deliv e r y of materials and contact with the tutor. Content i s information to be learnt. Standards include entry without grade 12 and the q u a l i t y of courses. The following quotes are i l l u s t r a t i o n s : L: I t ' s quite nice the way i t ' s structured. I t ' s something that's important about the correspondence i s the way that you're kind of nibb l i n g away at l i t t l e b i t s at a time. That's very good. You do a chapter and then you do an assignment and that leads to a c e r t i f i c a t e and then the c e r t i f i c a t e leads to the ... the ultimate c e r t i f i c a t e , and then diploma and degree, so i t ' s l i k e i t ' s got bench marks along the way. (p.284) K: I suppose I didn't r e a l i z e how organized and how availa b l e i t [distance education] was. I didn't r e a l i z e how many courses were av a i l a b l e by distance education. I didn't r e a l i z e you could ... could achieve a degree, for example. I thought that the college courses were the only ones available but, you know, you would have to sort of f i n i s h o f f i n a college s e t t i n g or a un i v e r s i t y s e t t i n g . I t surprised me that there was so many services available through the Open Learning Agency, you know, the tutors and the counsellors and ... and a l l of those things that b a s i c a l l y I had envisioned only being a v a i l a b l e through a more t r a d i t i o n a l , you know, u n i v e r s i t y or college s e t t i n g . So, you know, ju s t ... j u s t r e a l i z i n g how large an industry i t was, and that 66 excited me l i k e , you know, I didn't want to go into something that was a baby, you know. I wanted to make sure that i t was sound and, you know, and that the c r e d i t s that I received were going to be recognized and, you know, a l l of those important things, (pp.246-247) Learner actions are: study procedures, ways of learning, working towards a goal within distance education, use of resources, r e l a t i o n s h i p with the tutor, and working on one's own. I l l u s t r a t i o n s are: S: You have to reinforce your learning as you go along 'cause you're b a s i c a l l y doing b u i l d i n g -blocks on what you're learning, and i f you j u s t read and then s t a r t to t r y and b u i l d your pyramid, i t might be more d i f f i c u l t than as i f you go along and do i t . And that's the way the course does i t . But i f you don't r e a l l y apply i t r i g h t away, are you gonna remember i t when you f i n i s h the chapter and have to go back and b a s i c a l l y would have to read i t again and ... and then do the assignment then? So r e a l l y you're doing ... you read, you do a b i t , you read, you do a b i t , you read, you do a b i t , and keep going l i k e that .... (pp.458-460) L: I'm following the structure [structured procedure suggested by the manual] with the exception of r e a l l y probably going to the end of the manual and reading the questions before I read the chapter, because I think what they want us to do i s read the chapter and then answer the questions, whereas I don't want to have to go back through the chapter and f i n d out i f I've missed something. I want to make sure that I'm doing i t as I'm doing i t . I think I'm, cutting down on one reading. Whether that's good or not, I don't know. That's what I do. (p.269) A: How have you evolved as a learner? L: (Pause....) Well, I think the process of learning d e f i n i t e l y improved that t h i s ... the hi g h l i g h t i n g technique that I ... I sort of came across on my own. ... So from that ... from that 67 point of view, yeah, I f e e l that the actual technique of learning I have improved. I would say probably that was the only ... the only thing, (p.285) For learners who hold t h i s conception, the meaning of distance education i s i t s structure and learner actions. The focus i s v i r t u a l l y the same, namely the structure and process of distance education. The process f o r these learners i s by reacting; one does not act but reacts to the structure and process of distance education. The context i s p r a c t i c a l , usually studies and occasionally the r e a l l i f e -world. Table II shows the meaning, focus, process, and context of each conception i n the outcome space. I t summarizes the above analysis. Relationships between Conceptions Relationships within the conceptions i n the outcome space were analyzed by fragmenting each conception into four components: the meaning, the focus, the process, and the context of distance education. The same h e u r i s t i c device helps i n the discovery of rel a t i o n s h i p s between the conceptions. Conception 4 (distance education = structure and learner actions) i s c l e a r l y d i f f e r e n t from the other conceptions i n one important respect. I t s meaning (structure and learner actions) and i t s focus (structure and process of distance education) are nearly i d e n t i c a l . 68 TABLE II Aspects of each conception of distance education MEANING FOCUS PROCESS CONTEXT CONCEPTIONS J 1 distance education i s a door opener an outcome learner acts (uses structure & process of distance education to a t t a i n something) (a) p r a c t i c a l (b) p r a c t i c a l & abstract CONCEPTIONS J 2 distance education i s freedom & choice structure & process of distance education learner acts (chooses, controls) p r a c t i c a l CONCEPTIONS J 3 distance education i s d i f f i c u l t i e s structure & process of distance education learner acts or reacts (by t r a d i n g o f f or by g i v i n g up) p r a c t i c a l & abstract CONCEPTIONS J 4 distance education i s structure & learner actions structure & process of distance education learner reacts (to the structure) p r a c t i c a l Learner actions are, a f t e r a l l , part of the process of distance education. Therefore, Conception 4 i s inward looking and of a d i f f e r e n t order than Conceptions 2 and 3. "Structure and process of distance education" i s both the o v e r a l l meaning and the focus of Conception 4. In Conceptions 2 and 3 i t i s only the focus; the o v e r a l l meaning of #2 and #3 i s something broader. In fact, Conception 4 can be seen as the core or kernel around which Conceptions 2 and 3 have developed. (Figure 1) "Freedom and choice" i s a p o s i t i v e response to the kernel, the p o s i t i v e side of the seed of distance education. " D i f f i c u l t i e s " i s the negative response, the negative side of the seed. Conceptions 2 and 3 are less inward looking than Conception 4. Conception 4 also d i f f e r s s i g n i f i c a n t l y from Conceptions 1 and 2 i n terms of process. In Conceptions 1 and 2 the learner acts whereas i n Conception 4 he/she reacts. Reacting i s another dimension of #4's inward-looking nature. Conception 3 has an intermediate p o s i t i o n since i t s learners both act and react. A change i n learner behaviour from reacting to acting might also lead to a change i n conceptions. Conception 3 (distance education = d i f f i c u l t i e s ) i s also linked to Conceptions 1 and 2 i n another way. The "other fa c t o r s " which counterbalance the d i f f i c u l t i e s of #3 are parts of #1 and #2. "Convenience" i s part of #lb and #2; "a sense of accomplishment", "more learning", and 70 FIGURE 1 Relationships between conceptions of distance education 71 " r e l a t i n g learning to r e a l l i f e " are parts of #lb; "goals" i s part of #la. Only "having paid the fees" i s not part of another conception. This c l e a r l y indicates that d i f f e r e n t learners perceive the si g n i f i c a n c e of the "other f a c t o r s " d i f f e r e n t l y . I t could also indicate a route f o r changing from one conception to another. In a l l four conceptions there i s a p r a c t i c a l context; a l l learners see distance education as part of t h e i r r e a l l i f e - w o r l d . This creates a d e f i n i t e l i n k between the conceptions. Only Conceptions l b and 3 also have an abstract context, that i s , a context of learning i n a developmental sense. In #3 (distance education = d i f f i c u l t i e s ) learning i s sometimes a d i f f i c u l t y and sometimes a counterbalancing fa c t o r ; i n #lb (distance education = a door opener i n everyday l i f e ) learning i s viewed p o s i t i v e l y . I f an in d i v i d u a l ' s view of learning s h i f t e d from negative to p o s i t i v e to more p o s i t i v e , t h i s could represent a s h i f t from Conception 3 to l b . Conception 1 (distance education = a door opener) stands out as d i f f e r e n t from a l l the others. This i s f o r two reasons. F i r s t , while Conceptions 2, 3, and 4 have the same focus (structure and process of distance education), the focus of Conception 1 i s "an outcome" — something which may even be beyond distance education i t s e l f . Second, while learners holding Conceptions 2, 3, and 4 act or react on the basis of "the structure and process of distance education" 72 (the focus), learners holding Conception 1 do not focus on that structure and process. Instead they use i t to a t t a i n an outcome. Conception 1 i s more outward looking than the other conceptions. Therefore, j u s t as Conceptions 2 and 3 are of a d i f f e r e n t order than Conception 4, Conception 1 i s of a d i f f e r e n t order than a l l three of the others. In fa c t , Conception 1 (distance education = a door opener) can be seen as a sprout growing out of the kernel of Conception 4 (distance education = structure and learner actions). I t sometimes grows through Conception 2 (distance education = freedom and choice). Relationships between Conceptions and D e f i n i t i o n s i n the Li t e r a t u r e In Chapter II nine themes were extracted from d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the l i t e r a t u r e . Although twenty-three d i f f e r e n t elements were mentioned i n the d e f i n i t i o n s , these nine recurred most frequently. To r e i t e r a t e , the themes are: 1. There i s physical, and sometimes temporal, separation of the learner and the teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n . 2. Study i s usually i n d i v i d u a l i z e d or p r i v a t i z e d . 3. Media/technology are used. 4. An i n s t i t u t i o n organizes the education. 5. Face-to-face contact and group learning are possible. 73 6. The learning materials are prepared/structured by an i n s t i t u t i o n . 7. There i s two-way communication, sometimes referre d to as i n t e r a c t i o n , between the learner and the teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n . 8. There i s an i n s t r u c t i o n a l process with a d i v e r s i t y of i n s t r u c t i o n a l methods. 9. The teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n dispenses or imparts i n s t r u c t i o n . The following i s an analysis of the r e l a t i o n s h i p s between these nine themes and the four conceptions of distance education found by the researcher. Table III summarizes the r e l a t i o n s h i p s . Conception 1 - Distance education i s (potentially) a door opener (a) to goals i n the future. (b) i n the learner's everyday l i f e . None of the themes r e l a t e to Conception l a . This i s because the themes do not state or imply that the learner uses the structure and process of distance education to a t t a i n an outcome i n the future. The themes are not outward looking. Nor i s the p r a c t i c a l context of Conception l a , namely education or work i n the future, addressed i n the themes. I t i s possible to i n f e r a r e l a t i o n s h i p between Conception l b and four themes. For some learners distance education i s a door opener because they can stay at home; 74 TABLE III Relationships between themes and conceptions Conceptions Themes la a door opener to future goals lb a door opener in everyday l i f e 2 freedom & choice 3 d i f f i c u l t i e s 4 structure & learner actions 1 X X X X 2 X x X X 3 x X X 4 X x X X 5 x X X 6 x X X 7 X X X 8 X X X 9 X X X X t h i s implies "physical, and sometimes temporal, separation of the learner and the teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n . 1 1 I t also implies that "Study i s usually i n d i v i d u a l i z e d or p r i v a t i z e d . " Other learners see distance education as a door opener because they can do courses unavailable at other i n s t i t u t i o n s or even get an education when no other opportunity e x i s t s . This implies that "An i n s t i t u t i o n organizes the education" and that "The teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n dispenses or imparts i n s t r u c t i o n . " Although these four themes are rela t e d by inference to ce r t a i n outcomes (the focus) of Conception l b , the learning outcomes are not addressed at a l l . They include the learning of content, the learning of new perspectives, and learning about oneself. I t follows that the abstract (learning) context of Conception l b i s not addressed by the themes either. On the other hand, the p r a c t i c a l context of the r e a l l i f e - w o r l d and studies l i e s i m p l i c i t l y behind a l l themes. Conception 2 - Distance education means freedom, f l e x i b i l i t y , and learning on one's own, a l l i n p r a c t i c a l ways. Several themes r e l a t e d i r e c t l y to the essence of Conception 2. "Learning on one's own" i s c l e a r l y r e l a t e d to "There i s physical, and sometimes temporal, separation of the learner and the teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n " as well as "Study i s usually i n d i v i d u a l i z e d or p r i v a t i z e d . " From the 76 same two themes i t can be infer r e d that the learner has freedom from some i n s t i t u t i o n a l r e s t r i c t i o n s and from other people as well as freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y to make at lea s t some of his/her own decisions. The focus of Conception 2 i s the "structure and process of distance education". Therefore, the conception can be relat e d by inference to a l l of the other themes since each of them r e f e r s to the structure and process of distance education. In fact, each theme i s implied by statements made by the holders of Conception 2. Conception 3 - Distance education means d i f f i c u l t i e s counterbalanced by other factors. A l l of the themes r e l a t e to Conception 3. Again, t h i s i s due to the fac t that the focus i s the "structure and process of distance education." This time the l i n k between conception and themes i s strong. The themes make statements about c e r t a i n elements of distance education. In the eyes of the learner, i t i s these very elements that cause the d i f f i c u l t i e s or, i n some cases, ameliorate them. For example, "There i s two-way communication, sometimes referre d to as int e r a c t i o n , between the learner and the teacher or i n s t i t u t i o n . " To some learners t h i s causes a d i f f i c u l t y — a poor r e l a t i o n s h i p with the tutor; to other learners i t ameliorates a d i f f i c u l t y — i t personalizes distance education. 77 The context of Conception 3 i s sometimes abstract, including "other fa c t o r s " such as a sense of accomplishment, more learning, and goals. No themes r e f e r to these abstractions although they are important to the learner. While Conception 3 and the nine themes are c l o s e l y related, there i s a basic difference i n points of view. The learners see a value, either p o s i t i v e or negative, i n each of these elements of distance education. The writers of the d e f i n i t i o n s have attached no overt value judgments to those same elements. Conception 4 - Distance education i s a structure (including procedures, content, and standards), which requires or allows c e r t a i n actions from the learner. As may be expected, a l l the themes r e l a t e very c l o s e l y to Conception 4. Again, the themes r e f e r to the structure and process of distance education, which i s the focus of Conception 4. However, fo r the learner his/her own actions are also central and form a very s i g n i f i c a n t part of the conception. The d e f i n i t i o n writers, on the other hand, seldom make overt reference to learner actions; those actions are simply implied. Nevertheless, holders of Conception 4 and d e f i n i t i o n writers share the same point of view i n another respect. They do not make overt value judgments about the various elements of distance education. 78 When t h i s writer analyzed the four conceptions i n the outcome space, she found that learners saw themselves as acting or reacting, depending on the conception held. This i s an important part of each conception (the process). Although i n t e r a c t i o n and control are extensively discussed i n the l i t e r a t u r e (e.g., Holmberg, 1977 & 1979; Garrison, 1989), the d e f i n i t i o n writers do not address t h i s aspect of distance education. The reader of d e f i n i t i o n s can i n f e r e i t h e r that the learner acts or that he/she reacts. Where does the Open Learning Agency d e f i n i t i o n of distance education stand i n r e l a t i o n to these four conceptions? The OLA 1989 d e f i n i t i o n of distance education (Open Learning Agency of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1989) and the b r i e f 1991 mention of i t (Open Learning Agency, 1991a) were outlined i n Chapter I I . Five of the nine themes derived from the l i t e r a t u r e are e x p l i c i t elements i n the OLA d e f i n i t i o n ; the four other themes can be i n f e r r e d . There i s a very heavy emphasis on one theme: "Media/technology are used." One element of the OLA d e f i n i t i o n i s not found i n the themes. This element i s the structured d e l i v e r y to i n d i v i d u a l s of i n s t r u c t i o n a l materials. However, t h i s element can be seen as an extension of other themes. Therefore, the r e l a t i o n s h i p of the four conceptions to the OLA d e f i n i t i o n i s the same as t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p to other d e f i n i t i o n s i n the l i t e r a t u r e . A caveat must be added here. The learners interviewed were taking courses by distance education; however, those courses were offered by the OLA i n a broader context of open learning. Some of the learners' comments were, i n f a c t , about open learning. For example, they talked about the recognition and transfer of c r e d i t s from other i n s t i t u t i o n s . Such comments were not "units of meaning" about distance education, and they were not used i n the discovery of the conceptions. To sum up, there are many rel a t i o n s h i p s between the conceptions of distance education i n the outcome space and the themes derived from d e f i n i t i o n s i n the l i t e r a t u r e . At the same time, a number of important aspects of the conceptions are not represented i n the themes. Other D e f i n i t i o n s of Distance Education At t h i s point i t must be recognized that there are other d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education than those i n the academic l i t e r a t u r e . These other d e f i n i t i o n s are more p r a c t i c a l ones and are often implied rather than openly stated. There are the unpublished but very i n f l u e n t i a l "philosophies" of senior decision-makers of i n s t i t u t i o n s o f f e r i n g distance education. There are also p o l i c y / administrative " d e f i n i t i o n s " embedded i n charters, mandates, mission statements, etc. The writer examined such documents 80 from the Open Learning Agency and the UK Open University and found that Conceptions l a and l b are implied i n them. The charter of the UK Open University (Government of United Kingdom, Privy Council, 1969) s p e c i f i e s that the un i v e r s i t y has the power to collaborate with other i n s t i t u t i o n s of learning and should attempt "... to promote the educational well-being of the community generally" (sec. 3). Both of these imply that future goals, educational and other (Conception l a ) , are considerations. Another objective i s "... the advancement and dissemination of learning and knowledge ... by a d i v e r s i t y of means..." (sec. 3). Thus, Conception l b i s represented; the " d e f i n i t i o n " promotes new knowledge and learning as well as diverse means of teaching, which allow learners to f i t education into t h e i r everyday l i v e s . S i m i l a r l y , a major theme of the Open Learning Agency Act of 1987, the OLA mission statement, and the OLA mandate i s c o l l a b o r a t i o n with other educational i n s t i t u t i o n s ; t h i s helps learners to achieve educational goals. In addition, the OLA's mission i s "... to provide leadership i n developing and maintaining a province-wide open learning system i n order to make l i f e l o n g t r a i n i n g and educational opportunities a v a i l a b l e to a l l the people of B r i t i s h Columbia" (Open Learning Agency, 1991b, p . l ) . This indicates concern not only with goals i n the future (Conception la) but also with opening doors to education and work i n people's everyday l i v e s (Conception l b ) . 81 Both the UK Open University and the OLA " d e f i n i t i o n s " r e f e r to open learning, and c e r t a i n l y , not a l l distance learners have the benefit of collaboration with other i n s t i t u t i o n s . However, the other elements apply to distance education as well as to open learning. These two examples show that there i s some discrepancy between policy/administrative " d e f i n i t i o n s " of distance education and d e f i n i t i o n s i n the l i t e r a t u r e . The former show concern for ce r t a i n aspects of distance education that are c e n t r a l to the conceptions of some learners; the l a t t e r tend to overlook those same aspects. Learners Holding Each Conception The conceptions i n the outcome space are constructs of the phenomenographer. They are abstractions that emerge from a pool of "units of meaning", and they describe the range of conceptions held by in d i v i d u a l s . Learners' conceptions, on the other hand, r e f e r to actual experience. Since each conception i n the outcome space i s constructed from the pool of "units of meaning" ( i . e . , quotes from a v a r i e t y of respondents), i t i s possible that no i n d i v i d u a l respondent a c t u a l l y holds a conception that corresponds p r e c i s e l y to the one i n the outcome space. "Units of meaning" do not necessarily represent understandings of central importance. That i s , when a learner t a l k s about distance education, not a l l of the statements are of equal importance to his/her understanding 82 of the phenomenon. On the other hand, a learner's conception of distance education is c e n t r a l to his/her understanding. Therefore, the writer returned to the interview t r a n s c r i p t s and the summaries of the essence of each interview. She i d e n t i f i e d learner conceptions corresponding to the conceptions i n the outcome space. The r e s u l t s are shown i n Table IV. Individual learners held from one to three conceptions, and there were at least four learners who held conceptions corresponding to each conception i n the outcome space. The writer makes no claim that any one conception i n the outcome space was more or less frequently held by learners i n general. Generalization was impossible from f i f t e e n learners, nor was i t the purpose of t h i s study. 83 TABLE IV Learners holding each conception Conceptions Learner l a a door opener to future goals lb a door opener in everyday l i f e 2 freedom & choice 3 d i f f i c u l t i e s 4 structure & learner actions E X X F X X H X X I X X X J X K X X X L X X X M X X N X 0 X X P X X X Q X X X R X X X S X X X T X X T o t a l : 4 8 10 9 4 CHAPTER V DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS The Philosophical and Epistemoloqical Basis There are philosophical and epistemological b e l i e f s that underlie t h i s study of understandings of distance education. They underlie the choice of top i c and methodology. . A philosophy i s basic to both p r a c t i t i o n e r s and researchers i n education because i t d i r e c t s t h e i r actions. Apps (in Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982, p.37) pointed out that, among other things, a philosophy provides a foundation f o r looking at educational problems and the r e l a t i o n s h i p of adult education a c t i v i t i e s to society. A philosophy also determines one's view of adulthood and of e t h i c a l questions as they r e l a t e to education. By extension, the adult education researcher's philosophy influences his/her choices. This researcher's philosophy of adult education i s a mixture of what Darkenwald and Merriam (1982) c a l l the philosophies of s e l f - a c t u a l i z a t i o n , of personal and s o c i a l improvement, and of s o c i a l transformation. That i s , she believes that a main purpose of adult education i s personal development of the learner, who assumes more and more r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for learning and becomes more s e l f - d i r e c t e d . At the same time, the learner l i v e s i n a s o c i a l context. I t 85 i s desirable to develop a greater understanding of society and to be an active p a r t i c i p a n t i n that society through l i f e l o n g learning. C r i t i c a l thinking, which can lead to s o c i a l action, i s also important. Therefore, the learner should be the focus of adult education. In addition, t h i s writer views adulthood as a process, a ser i e s of developmental stages. Perry (1988) has i d e n t i f i e d d i f f e r e n t l e v e l s of cognitive development, Loevinger (in Cross, 1981, pp.178-179) of ego development, and Kohlberg (in Cross, 1981, pp.182-184) of moral development. The writer shares t h e i r view that adults go through a v e r t i c a l progression of stages of development which are not dependent on age. Adult education o f f e r s adult learners a way to learn f o r both personal and s o c i e t a l ends. Distance education i s p o t e n t i a l l y of great s i g n i f i c a n c e because of the r e a l i t i e s of adult l i f e . Many adults have r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s that deter them from p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n classroom learning, and distance education can o f f e r freedom from some of i t s r e s t r i c t i o n s . On a broader, global scale the education of adults i s c r i t i c a l for the development of poorer countries and for i n t e r n a t i o n a l understanding. Poorer countries frequently lack the f a c i l i t i e s and personnel for adult education by conventional means. Distance education i s , again, p o t e n t i a l l y of great s i g n i f i c a n c e to such countries. For these reasons the writer chose to study distance education. Because she sees the learner as the focus of 86 adult education, she chose to e l i c i t that learner's understanding of distance education. The understanding of any phenomenon i s a personal construction; t h i s i s the view taken here. A learner's understanding of distance education i s based on his/her own perceptions, values, assumptions, e x i s t i n g conceptual frameworks, purposes, and a c t i v i t i e s . These do not e x i s t independently but are r e l a t e d to the "content" i t s e l f , i . e . , distance education, and the context i n which the learner pursues distance education. In other words, the learner's understanding of distance education i s a personal construction derived from his/her experience of distance education within a personal and s o c i a l context. How can the researcher reveal such personal constructions? F i r s t l y , i t i s necessary to investigate the learner's actual experience of distance education, to have an empirical basis. Secondly, i t i s appropriate to use a second-order perspective, that i s to attempt "...to reveal how things look from the point of view of the respondent..." (Stalker, 1989, p.37). Thirdly, i t follows that the researcher should seek to reveal the v a r i e t y of personal constructions, the range of conceptions, of the same phenomenon. Phenomenography i s a methodology that s a t i s f i e s these needs. This exercise of revealing and describing conceptions i s not normative; there are no preferred or "correct" 87 conceptions. In addition, the researcher does not begin with an assumption of an external r e a l i t y . He/she does not s t a r t with hypotheses about what i s correct or what e x i s t s and then t r y to v e r i f y them by deduction. Instead, the researcher attempts to discover conceptions by induction. Glaser and Strauss (1967) proposed the "constant comparative method" for the discovery of grounded theory. The four stages of the method are: "(1) comparing incidents applicable to each category, (2) integrating categories and t h e i r properties, (3) de l i m i t i n g the theory, and (4) writing the theory" (p.105). This study followed these four stages. (1) The researcher constantly compared "units of meaning" (incidents) with each other u n t i l conceptions emerged. (2) As the properties of the conceptions developed, there was a s h i f t . The comparison was no longer of "units of meaning" with each other. Instead the "units of meaning" were compared with the properties of the conceptions so that " . . . d i f f e r e n t categories and t h e i r properties tend[ed] to become integrated through constant comparisons that force[d] the analyst to make some related t h e o r e t i c a l sense of each comparison" (p.109). (3) Major modifications became fewer; the conceptions were c l a r i f i e d and integrated. The analyst reduced the number of conceptions as she discovered underlying uniformities. (4) The researcher wrote up her procedures and findings. 88 To summarize, the researcher chose to study distance education and, i n p a r t i c u l a r , to focus on the learner's understanding of distance education because of her philosophical stance. She also chose a s p e c i f i c methodology, phenomenography, which f i t s within the constant comparative method. This was on the basis of her epistemological b e l i e f s . The Investigator as Research Instrument The epistemological p o s i t i o n outlined above holds that r e a l i t y i s not something e x i s t i n g "out there"; rather, i t i s a personal construction i n the mind of the i n d i v i d u a l . Therefore, subjective understanding i s involved, and "Human research i s inherently d i a l e c t i c a l " (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p.104). Because research i s d i a l e c t i c a l , the investigator i n e v i t a b l y has an e f f e c t on the respondent and v i c e versa. In n a t u r a l i s t i c investigations t h i s e f f e c t i s recognized, and the researcher attempts to e x p l o i t the s i t u a t i o n by regarding him/herself as the research instrument. "To i d e a l i s t s [ n a t u r a l i s t s ] , instruments do not have a standing independent of what they are designed to measure. They are extensions of the knowers and operate as an element i n t h e i r attempts to construct or constitute r e a l i t y " (Smith, 1983, p.9) . Hammersley and Atkinson (1983) noted that one aims to minimize the influence of the researcher but, at the same time, to understand how his/her presence shaped the data. 89 For example: Non-directive questions can stimulate the interviewee to t a l k about a p a r t i c u l a r broad area. The i d e n t i t i e s of interviewer and interviewee can influence the data c o l l e c t e d . I f an interviewee i s on his/her home t e r r i t o r y , he/she i s often more relaxed. In Chapter III the writer outlined procedures undertaken to e s t a b l i s h trustworthiness i n t h i s study. A number of the procedures were designed s p e c i f i c a l l y to address the possible shortcomings of the investigator as research instrument. One of the most contentious issues i n n a t u r a l i s t i c research i s the investigator's use of i n t u i t i o n . According to Firestone and Dawson (1988), "Individual i n t u i t i o n i s the r i c h e s t and primary source of subjective understanding i n q u a l i t a t i v e research. However, how i n t u i t i o n i s used i s d i f f i c u l t to describe and understand. ... Through immersion and contemplation, findings emerge" (p.210). They suggested that "... i n d i v i d u a l i n t u i t i o n should almost always be combined with other, more e x p l i c i t l y and d e l i b e r a t e l y confirmatory, approaches" (p.210). The approaches they l i s t e d were: (1) constant awareness of threats to v a l i d i t y ( c r e d i b i l i t y and t r a n s f e r a b i l i t y ) so as to avoid or minimize them; (2) generation of predictions or hypotheses during data c o l l e c t i o n and checking of them; (3) recording of how one generates and r e j e c t s explanations (pp.210-212). This researcher attempted to do a l l three. The f i r s t was i n accordance with her outline of procedures f o r trustworthiness; the second was during the interviews themselves; the t h i r d was i n a journal. Therefore, the researcher attempted to minimize her influence; on the other hand, she i s human. I t i s probable that her own biases and assumptions did, i n some ways, a f f e c t the c o l l e c t i o n and analysis of the data. What follows i s an attempt to i d e n t i f y those biases and assumptions. The writer's personal background has given r i s e to her philosophy of adult education, which was described above. Since she believes that personal development and s o c i a l improvement are key aims of education, i t i s possible that she placed greater emphasis on aspects of learner understanding r e l a t e d to these goals. In addition, the writer believes that distance education i s a p o s i t i v e phenomenon. I t i s probable that the interviewees assumed t h i s to be her attitude, and t h i s , i n turn, may have biased t h e i r responses. Again, i t i s also possible that the writer unconsciously gave extra weight to p o s i t i v e learner statements about distance education. The writer assumes that most adults are honest, cooperative in d i v i d u a l s , p a r t i c u l a r l y when they volunteer to undertake a task, i n t h i s case the task of being interviewees. She also assumes that to these learners distance education was s u f f i c i e n t l y important for them to 91 think about i t i n some depth and respond i n a thoughtful manner. As the "research instrument" the investigator has a d i r e c t e f f e c t on the research. Therefore, i t i s possible that the above biases and assumptions influenced the c o l l e c t i o n and analysis of data. Learners' Conceptions and Theories/Models i n Adult Education  and Distance Education D e f i n i t i o n s of distance education draw from and contribute to theories and models of distance education and adult education. Are learners' conceptions of distance education also a r e f l e c t i o n of those theories and models? Most models of p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n adult education focus on variables that are l i k e l y to a f f e c t an adult's decision whether to p a r t i c i p a t e i n adult education a c t i v i t i e s . The learners interviewed had already made that decision. I t i s possible that learners holding Conception l a (distance education = a door opener to future goals) decided to p a r t i c i p a t e because of t h e i r goal, a goal being one of the variables often c i t e d i n p a r t i c i p a t i o n models. Likewise, one can only speculate that holders of other conceptions anticipated that distance education would open doors i n t h e i r everyday l i v e s , allow freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y , etc. On the other hand, Boshier's (1973) congruence model deals with dropout and persistence as well as the i n i t i a l 92 decision to p a r t i c i p a t e . The four conceptions of distance education found can f i t into t h i s model; for example, #la's goals are "motivation", #2's freedom from others i s avoidance of "incongruence", and #4's structure and actions are "mediating variables". However, Boshier's model has a psychological basis; i t i s too narrow to f u l l y portray learners' conceptions of distance education. The corresponding distance education models are of dropout, not of p a r t i c i p a t i o n — a cle a r i n d i c a t i o n of the overriding concern with learner a t t r i t i o n . A l l of the distance education dropout models r e l a t e c l o s e l y to Conception 3 (distance education = d i f f i c u l t i e s counterbalanced by other f a c t o r s ) . Almost a l l of the variables i n these models r e l a t e to either " d i f f i c u l t i e s " or "other fa c t o r s " . This i s not sur p r i s i n g since learners with d i f f i c u l t i e s are the most l i k e l y to drop out. In contrast, Conceptions 1, 2, and 4 are represented i n most of the models as only part of one or two variables. In other words, these conceptions have only a minor r o l e i n distance education models of dropout. Model builders should be aware of t h i s imbalance. Other distance education models and theories do not focus on dropout. Munro's (1991) model of the learner-educator r e l a t i o n s h i p i n distance education i s the most comprehensive; a l l four conceptions are represented by parts of i t . The " d i f f i c u l t i e s " conception touches on a l l parts 93 of the model but also extends beyond i t to the learner's r e a l l i f e - w o r l d . The other conceptions are represented by d i f f e r e n t spokes and/or quadrants although, again, the extended r e a l l i f e - w o r l d context i s missing. Conception 2 (distance education = freedom, f l e x i b i l i t y , and learning on one's own) f i t s into Garrison's model of independence and control i n distance education (1989; personal communication, Aug. 1990). D i f f e r e n t holders of Conception 2 place varying emphasis on the three elements of control (independence, proficiency, and support); independence, as defined by Garrison, i s a very weak component of the conception. The model of independence and control appears to be b u i l t on a foundation of Conception 4 (distance education = structure and learner actions). Holmberg's (1977) theory of guided d i d a c t i c conversation and Moore's (1983) theory of transactional distance form a part of a l l the conceptions except for #la (distance education = a door opener to future goals). Peters' (1971) theory of i n d u s t r i a l i z a t i o n forms part of no conception. This i s because the theory focuses e n t i r e l y on the i n s t i t u t i o n and i t s operation; learners r e l a t e to the i n s t i t u t i o n only i n personal ways. The motivation or orientation of learners has been an important focus of adult education research over the l a s t three decades. Like the builders of models of p a r t i c i p a t i o n 94 i n adult education, these researchers have sought motivations or orientations which lead to the i n i t i a l d ecision for p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n adult education. Nevertheless, i t i s i n s t r u c t i v e to r e l a t e orientations to the conceptions of distance education i n the outcome space. Conception l a (distance education = a door opener to future goals) i s c l e a r l y represented i n studies of motivations. To give just two examples: One of Houle's (1961) three types of learner i s "goal-oriented". Several of Boshier's (1971) fourteen factors also r e l a t e to goals, e.g., "Other-directed professional advancement", "Inner-directed professional advancement", and "Educational preparedness" (p.10). Conception l b (distance education = a door opener i n everyday l i f e ) i s also c l e a r l y represented. Learners holding t h i s conception are two of Houle's types, namely, "goal-oriented" and "learning-oriented". To Boshier they would represent " I n t e l l e c t u a l recreation", "Cognitive i n t e r e s t " , or "Educational supplementation" (p.10). A l l studies of learner motivation include factors which r e l a t e to Conception l b . The same i s true of Conception 3 (distance education = d i f f i c u l t i e s counterbalanced by other f a c t o r s ) . In t h i s case, i t i s the "other factors", not the " d i f f i c u l t i e s " , that are represented i n motivation studies. Again, there are several factors i n each study that r e l a t e to Conception 3. 95 In contrast, Conception 2 (distance education = freedom, f l e x i b i l i t y , and learning on one's own) i s represented i n only one of the s i x motivation studies surveyed. Burgess (1971) included among h i s reasons f o r p a r t i c i p a t i n g "the desire to escape from some other a c t i v i t y or s i t u a t i o n " and "the desire to study alone or ju s t be alone" (p.11). None of the other studies l i s t e d motivations that r e l a t e to freedom, f l e x i b i l i t y and learning on one's own. This appears to be a shortcoming of motivation studies. Conception 4 (distance education = structure and learner actions) i s not represented i n the studies of motivation. This i s l o g i c a l since holders of Conception 4 do not look beyond the structure and process of distance education i t s e l f . They simply react; they do not act. There are a number of theories of learning and teaching i n adult education. Several of the conceptions ( l a , 2, and 4) are not about learning as such or give i t a very minor r o l e . However, i n Conceptions l b and 3 learning i s of importance. Conception l b (distance education = a door opener i n everyday l i f e ) r e l a t e s to several theories. Some distance education learners see t h e i r learning as gaining more knowledge; others r e l a t e t h e i r new knowledge to the r e a l world. Such d i f f e r e n t views of learning correspond to Saljo's (1984) f i v e conceptions of learning as well as the concepts of deep/surface and h o l i s t i c / a t o m i s t i c approaches (Marton & Saljo, 1984). Conception l b also r e l a t e s to theories of adult development. The outcome for some learners i s being able to stay home with the family; t h i s r e l a t e s to a phase i n adult l i f e . For other learners the outcome i s more awareness or new perspectives; t h i s r e l a t e s to stages i n adult development. The learners also have "educational orientations", which may be "academic" or "personal" (Gibbs, Morgan, & Taylor, 1984, p.170). In addition, they have "orientations to studying", the "meaning or i e n t a t i o n " being represented (Ramsden, 1984, p.159). Part of Conception 3 (distance education = d i f f i c u l t i e s counterbalanced by other factors) r e f e r s to learning, and i t also r e l a t e s to theories of learning and teaching. Sometimes the r e l a t i o n s h i p i s through a " d i f f i c u l t y " ; for example, distance education y i e l d s l i t t l e new knowledge. This indicates a conception of learning as "increase i n knowledge" (Marton & Saljo, 1984, p.53). More often the r e l a t i o n s h i p i s through "other fa c t o r s " ; for example, the learner r e l a t e s learning to the r e a l l i f e - w o r l d . This can also indicate a conception of learning, or i t can r e l a t e to adult development theories. Two theories ( i f they may be c a l l e d such) have not been mentioned. They are "perspective transformation" (Mezirow, 1978) and "andragogy" (Knowles, 1980). 97 No conception contains the idea of perspective transformation; the new perspectives of Conception l b are not broad changes i n the learner's view of l i f e . Perhaps learners cannot be expected to have a perspective transformation during t h e i r f i r s t weeks of distance education! According to Knowles (1980), andragogy i s a set of assumptions about adult learners and a set of "process elements" (p.59). One of the assumptions appears i n each conception: the learner i s increasingly s e l f - d i r e c t e d . In Conceptions 1 and 2 t h i s i s seen as p o s i t i v e ; i n #3 i t i s a d i f f i c u l t y ; i n #4 i t i s taken for granted. The only "process element" mentioned i s a c o l l a b o r a t i v e , supportive climate, or rather the lack of i t ; t h i s i s a d i f f i c u l t y i n Conception 3. Distance education does not appear to be andragogical i n Knowles's terms. Thus, where learning i s part of a conception of distance education, i t i s sometimes possible to r e l a t e that conception to theories of learning and teaching. I t could be f r u i t f u l to pursue such re l a t i o n s h i p s further; distance education may be able to b u i l d on the findings. In conclusion, by r e l a t i n g conceptions of distance education to models and theories of adult education and distance education, one reveals both congruence and gaps. Likewise, d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education are r e l a t e d to 98 these models and theories. The d e f i n i t i o n s have both drawn upon and contributed to them. Limitations of the Study The p o s i t i o n of the investigator as "research instrument" may have r e s t r i c t e d the findings of the study. The methodology, too, may have created l i m i t a t i o n s . The nine themes found were derived from academic d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education. I f policy/administrative " d e f i n i t i o n s " from distance education i n s t i t u t i o n s had been included, other themes may have emerged. As a consequence, other r e l a t i o n s h i p s between conceptions and themes would also have emerged. The researcher found the themes i n d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education before framing the interview questions and analyzing the data gathered i n those interviews. I t i s possible that the investigator's f a m i l i a r i t y with the themes affected both the development of the questions and the analysis of responses. However, there was a lapse of some three months between the discovery of themes and the development of the questions alone. The investigator did not reread the themes during those months. The subjects were volunteers. Volunteers tend to have d i f f e r e n t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s from non-volunteers, and t h i s may have d i s t o r t e d the data c o l l e c t e d (Borg & G a l l , 1989). However, using volunteers was unavoidable since an i n d i v i d u a l cannot be interviewed without his/her consent. 99 The interviewees were not geographically representative of a l l Open Learning Agency students. A l l of the respondents l i v e d i n the Greater Vancouver area; none were i n remote lo c a l e s . This may have r e s t r i c t e d the number of conceptions found since remoteness or lack of i t may influence a learner's conception of distance education. However, the purpose of the inquiry was not to generalize about distance education learners; rather i t was to i d e n t i f y conceptions held by some learners. Interviews were the method of data c o l l e c t i o n . Again, i t must be recognized that the questions asked determined what data were gathered. Also, were the interviewees t r u t h f u l and thoughtful i n t h e i r responses? I t i s impossible to be sure, but there were safeguards. Because of a l e t t e r and a phone c a l l some time before the interview, each interviewee had time to r e f l e c t on the topic of conversation. There was no reason for respondents to be dishonest since they knew that the researcher had no connection with the OLA beyond her research. In fact, they knew that the researcher was a student, l i k e them. Only one respondent stated that he had f e l t intimidated i n the interview i t s e l f , mainly due to the tape-recorder. In general respondents seemed relaxed and open. Each interview was constructed by the interviewer and the interviewee. Nevertheless, to a large extent the set questions determined learners' responses, i . e . , what data were co l l e c t e d , even though the questions were open-ended. 100 The investigator's biases and her f a m i l i a r i t y with the themes i n d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education may have influenced the framing of those set interview questions. The analysis of the data thus gathered also involved construction of meaning by the analyst. During the early stages the respondents checked the analysis. They confirmed that the researcher had i d e n t i f i e d both t h e i r "units of meaning" and the essence of t h e i r statements. Later stages of analysis moved beyond i n d i v i d u a l interviewees and could not be confirmed by them. Once "units of meaning" were pooled, the researcher immersed herself i n the data. The conceptions that she discovered were very s o l i d l y rooted i n the data, but, again, her own biases and assumptions must have influenced the construction of them. Therefore, do the four conceptions discovered cover a l l the conceptions of the learners interviewed? Is i t possible that a d i f f e r e n t researcher would have found d i f f e r e n t conceptions? Saljo (1988) spoke to t h i s issue. This type of work takes place i n what Reichenbach (1938) r e f e r s to as the context of discovery, where the c r i t i c a l issue i s one of providing concepts i n terms of which the phenomena observed can be accounted f o r . I t i s thus not possible to prove that the categories [conceptions i n the outcome space] are the best possible ones. The categories are the constructions of the researcher and there i s always a p o s s i b i l i t y that another researcher would have arrived at a d i f f e r e n t categorization, (p.45) In f a c t , during r e l i a b i l i t y checks two of the judges f e l t that c e r t a i n quotes did not f i t into any of the four conceptions i n the outcome space. The investigator l a t e r 101 reread a l l quotes and found that her o r i g i n a l categorization of a few quotes was questionable. This indicates that while the four conceptions discovered appear to be v a l i d , other conceptions might e x i s t as well. In conclusion, i t can be said that there are a number of l i m i t a t i o n s to the study. Recognition of those l i m i t a t i o n s puts the study i n perspective. Learners' Conceptions and Educators' Understandings of  Distance Education; Discussion In Chapter IV the writer found r e l a t i o n s h i p s between the conceptions i n the outcome space and d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the l i t e r a t u r e . The conceptions represent some learners' understandings of distance education; the d e f i n i t i o n s show some academics' understandings of i t . The following i s a discussion of the re l a t i o n s h i p s . There i s a close correspondence between the conceptions and d e f i n i t i o n s i n ce r t a i n respects. In Conceptions 2, 3, and 4 the learner focuses on the "structure and process of distance education", and i n Conception l b the learner attains his/her outcome by using that same structure and process. The d e f i n i t i o n s also focus on the structure and process of distance education. Therefore, most conceptions are represented by d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education. In addition, a l l conceptions found by the researcher have a " p r a c t i c a l " context; that i s , the learners' r e a l 102 l i f e - w o r l d l i e s behind his/her conception of distance education. Likewise, the r e a l l i f e - w o r l d i s i m p l i c i t l y behind educators' understandings of distance education as represented by the d e f i n i t i o n s . On the other hand, there are important aspects of the conceptions that are not found i n the themes drawn from academic d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education. These are: learner goals, the opportunity to get an education, learning, freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y , and learner actions. A l l of them are learner-centred aspects of distance education. For learners holding Conception l a , goals i n the future are of c e n t r a l importance; they are often the motive for undertaking distance education. Adult education research into motivation and a number of models of distance education include goals as a component. I t would seem appropriate for d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education to include goals as well. One of the "outcomes" of Conception l b i s getting an education when no other opportunity e x i s t s . Distance educators often tote t h i s purpose as one of the most commanding arguments for distance education. Munro's (1991) model of distance education incorporates the concept, and motivation studies r e l a t e to i t . However, only one d e f i n i t i o n , that of Garrison and Shale (1987), includes the purpose of distance education as an element. Providing the opportunity for education i s generally considered an important purpose of distance education; including i t i n d e f i n i t i o n s would be l o g i c a l . Learners holding Conceptions l b and 3 are concerned with learning. In fa c t , learning i s a component of most distance education models and adult education motivation studies; i t i s the central feature of theories of learning and teaching. One assumes that i t i s also c e n t r a l to distance education, yet learning i s hardly ever mentioned i n d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education. Only Garrison (1989) emphasizes that distance education's "... primary concern i s with learning i n an educational s i t u a t i o n . . . " (p.221). There i s a need to incorporate learning into the d e f i n i t i o n s . Freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y are the essence of Conception 2. D e f i n i t i o n s of distance education imply that the learner has freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y due to the structure and process defined. However, only Wedemeyer (1981) s p e c i f i c a l l y mentions freedom — t h i s i n connection with learner autonomy. Most distance education models, on the other hand, bring i n freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y , recognizing t h e i r importance. Because of t h i s importance, i t would be appropriate for d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education to e x p l i c i t l y include freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y . Learner actions are a very s i g n i f i c a n t part of Conception 4. They are also i m p l i c i t i n the other conceptions, where the learner "acts" or "reacts". In d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education learner actions are taken for granted because the structure and process defined imply them. The same i s true of dropout models; learner actions 104 are not given as a component. Other distance education models do include learner actions, and one learning theory, andragogy, does as well. In fact, distance education learners sometimes "act" and sometimes "react", each having i t s appropriate moment. Acting, as opposed to reacting, i s linked to freedom to choose. In d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education, statements about learner actions would be an appropriate accompaniment to statements about freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y . Thus, f i v e important aspects of the conceptions of distance education which were found are not represented by the themes i n educators' d e f i n i t i o n s i n the l i t e r a t u r e . A l l f i v e aspects are learner-centred, which i s to be expected when learners speak about t h e i r own experiences, while the ex i s t i n g d e f i n i t i o n s i n the l i t e r a t u r e are generally i n s t i t u t i o n - c e n t r e d . Understanding Distance Education: Narrowing the Gap At the beginning of t h i s study two questions were posed, and they were l a t e r answered. The questions were: (1) What are the conceptions of distance education held by adults who have recently begun p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n u n i v e r s i t y - l e v e l distance education courses? (2) How do these conceptions compare or contrast with the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education i n the l i t e r a t u r e ? 105 In t h i s chapter there has been a discussion of the learner conceptions found as well as the s i m i l a r i t i e s and differences between those conceptions and the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education. What are the implications of the findings? Educators' understandings of distance education are represented by the d e f i n i t i o n s i n the l i t e r a t u r e . These d e f i n i t i o n s correspond i n large part to two of the conceptions i n the outcome space: #3, i n which distance education means d i f f i c u l t i e s counterbalanced by other factors, and #4, i n which distance education i s structure and learner actions. Conception 4 i s of a lower order than the other conceptions; i t i s inward looking, and learners simply react to distance education's structure and process. Conception 4 can be seen as a kernel around or from which other conceptions may grow. In fact, no learner held Conception 4 alone; i t was held i n combination with other conceptions. In Conception 3 d i f f i c u l t i e s are ce n t r a l , and the learner s t i l l focuses on the structure and process of distance education. These are the conceptions that r e l a t e most c l o s e l y to the d e f i n i t i o n s of distance education because those d e f i n i t i o n s also focus on structure and process. In Conceptions 1 and 2 the learner acts, which means he/she becomes more s e l f - d i r e c t e d . In Conception l b learning as a developmental process i s important as well. In order to encourage learners to develop these conceptions, 106 distance educators need to design programs that w i l l do two things. They w i l l encourage learners to act instead of simply reacting. They w i l l help learners to develop t h e i r learning. D e f i n i t i o n s of distance education that incorporate these notions, that the learner acts and that learning i s important, could help to stimulate development of such programs. The same can be said for incorporating the notions of goals, freedom and f l e x i b i l i t y , and the purpose of distance education into d e f i n i t i o n s . Present d e f i n i t i o n s form a good base on which to b u i l d . The d e f i n i t i o n s and, to some extent, the p r a c t i c e which those d e f i n i t i o n s r e f l e c t and help to create appear to have d r i f t e d from the ideals of distance education. Much i s written about the learner being the focus of distance education, but d e f i n i t i o n s are generally i n s t i t u t i o n -centred, focusing on structure and process. What i s needed i s a renewed perspective, a learner-centred one. 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What do you ac t u a l l y do? 4. What were your hopes and fears about doing ( ) by distance education before you started? Now that you're into i t , how are you fin d i n g i t ? 5. What are you learning about ( )? What are you learning about yourself? What are you learning about distance education? 6. What are the most important things about distance education for you? 7. I've written down what seem to me the key words you've used. Is there any r e l a t i o n s h i p between them? 8. I f you were t a l k i n g to another person l i k e yourself about doing distance education, what would you say? 9. How are you evolving as a learner by doing ( ) by distance education? 10. Do you have anything to add? 118 APPENDIX D Personal information form PERSONAL INFORMATION Name: Sex: Age: Occupation: Address: Phone number(s): Highest l e v e l of education completed (please check): Less than grade 12: Grade 12: 1 or more un i v e r s i t y courses: Bachelor's degree: Other (please s p e c i f y ) : Present OLA course(s): I plan to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree: yes no 119 APPENDIX F Results of independent judge r e l i a b i l i t y t e s t s Judge Agreement a f t e r f i r s t reading Agreement a f t e r discussion Conception l a #1 #2 #3 80% 100% 70% 100% 100% 90% Conception l b #1 #2 #3 80% 90% 50% 100% 100% 90% Conception 2 #1 #2 #3 90% 90% 90% 95% 100% 95% Conception 3 #1 #2 #3 100% 100% 90% 100% 100% 100% Conception 4 #1 #2 #3 80% 80% 75% 97.5% 85% 95% 121 APPENDIX G Interview t r a n s c r i p t s INTERVIEW #4 Interviewer: A Respondent: E Pos i t i o n on tape: (000) (001 - 014) Introduction and interruption. A: (014) Yeah, the f i r s t thing was, I said, uh, l e t ' s begin with your decision about why you decided to enrol. You know, how d i d you come to the decision to enrol i n distance education? E: (017) The reason I decided i s just that we had moved a number of times, and I've taken courses, and every time I've moved, the new i n s t i t u t i o n has never accepted every c r e d i t I've ever taken. So I seem to go 2 steps ahead and one step behind, so I .... Somebody had mentioned to me about the Open University and that they would probably accept most of your c r e d i t s or a l l of your c r e d i t s and that hopefully that you could ... when we move back to New Brunswick, I could take courses either s t i l l from correspondence or at the University of New Brunswick, have them a l l credited to the Open University and get my degree from there. Because i t just seemed, l i k e , shorter (025) i n the long run to do i t that way than s t a r t a l l over again. You know, not a l l over again but, you know, to s t a r t with ... //A: Lose those c r e d i t s . / / ... lose 122 those few c r e d i t s . So that's what I decided to do, and I sent for my t r a n s c r i p t s , and they accepted everything that I've ever taken. So .... A: You mentioned that someone had mentioned i t to you. Who was that? E: (030) Well, [Susan Smith], who's doing her doctoral t h e s i s i n distance education too. So, uh, she's i n So c i a l Education Studies, and she just mentioned to me .... Well, i t ' s the f i r s t I had r e a l l y heard about i t . I know i n Nova Scotia they do have some kind of course, not correspondence courses, but they're t e l e v i s i o n courses that you can take from .... We l i v e d i n a smaller town away from Halifax, and people were doing that. I myself wasn't doing i t , but i t r e a l l y wasn't widespread as i t .... Here i t seems to be quite .... Everybody seems to know about i t , and with the Knowledge Network everybody knows about i t , and i t ' s accessible to a l o t of people. A: (037) Yeah. You mentioned that you would l i k e perhaps to have these courses accredited by the University i n New Brunswick. Do you know i f they w i l l c r e d i t them? E: Well, I don't know. I ... either ... whether I would have .... When I spoke to the person at the Open University, she said I could take courses at the University of New Brunswick and have them accredited here  instead of doing i t the other way. Because I didn't think that the University of New Brunswick would accept 123 t h i s . I don't know. I mean, to me i t didn't seem l i k e ... i f they would r e a l i z e i t was a r e a l u n i v e r s i t y , but now that I know more about what i t i s , I think they probably would,and i t ' s probably .... I t ' s j u s t that my perception of what i t was .... I didn't know whether i t was ... i n the re s t of Canada they'd know what i t was. But I think .... A: (047) So you say when you go back to New Brunswick, you may continue to take courses from B.C. E: From here. Well, because what the woman t o l d me at Open University i s I can take courses at U.N.B., ju s t t e l l the people here, and then have your c r e d i t transferred here. I f I wanted to do i t i n person or i f I wanted to do i t through, you know, through correspondence then they can s t i l l do i t through the mail or whatever, the same way I'm doing i t now. So I would have that option. A: So ... so your ultimate, not your ultimate purpose, your purpose at the present i s to get a degree a f t e r a time. E: Yeah, I'd l i k e to f i n i s h i t . Hopefully! A: What subject are you doing r i g h t now? E: (056) I'm doing a History course. I t ' s a Pre-confederation History course. A: Is that what your major i s ? E: Uh, o r i g i n a l l y I started out i n A t l a n t i c Canada studies, and i t .... I was going to St. Mary's University i n Halifax, and a l o t of my courses are: Women i n Canadian Studies, Blacks and Other M i n o r i t i e s , a l o t of Canadian 124 courses and that, so I just thought I would take i t . I haven't taken a course for a number of years, so I thought I'd get back i n t h i s way. (laughter) I t ' s not as easy as I thought. I t ' s d i f f e r e n t studying t h i s way than i t i s going to a course. A: Well, before you a c t u a l l y started, how d i d you expect i t to be studying distance ... studying h i s t o r y by distance education? E: (064) Urn, I didn't think there'd be as .... There's an awful .... I t ' s a his t o r y course; that's .... Everybody's t o l d me i t ' s not, maybe not everything i s l i k e t h i s , but friends who do teach at the un i v e r s i t y , who teach History. I mean they just give you a phenomenal amount of reading, and I just was surprised at how much reading, and there's quite a few, um, papers that are due too, which i s n ' t .... I mean, I have to get back into writing papers, which i s a l i t t l e d i f f i c u l t too. But I f i n d that there's an awful l o t of reading. I suppose i t ' s taking up the time that you're not i n clas s , but, um, I don't know, I think that's something that has to be looked at. (laughingly) A: (073) So are you saying i t ' s more time-consuming than you thought i t would be? E: I t ' s more time ... much more time-consuming, and es p e c i a l l y at the very beginning I was very, very conscientious, and they said, you know, 8 to 10 hours and I was spending 30 hours doing i t , and I ju s t 125 thought,"This i s crazy!" I f I was taking more than one course, there's no way I could do i t . A: You say they said 8 to 10 hours, but you were doing 30. Why do you think you were doing so much more than they said? E: (077) Because .... Well, at the end of each reading there's these questions that you should answer, and they said to answer them i n ... I mean, t h i s i s the ins t r u c t i o n s , say to answer i t i n a couple of l i n e s , and I would s i t ... I was s i t t i n g down and answering them i n l i t t l e paragraphs, and I was spending too much time t r y i n g to do a good job. And so the next time my husband said, you know, "You're not supposed to do that. Just make a one-line answer." I t ' s what they said too, but I had to f e e l confident myself that I knew what I was reading. So that's the way I did i t , but i t ' s ended up taking me way too much time. A: You said there, "I did .... I took a l o t of time because I f e l t I was doing a good job." You c a l l that a good job, so, i n other words, you think they would c a l l a good job something less than what you're doing. E: (088) No. I t .... I don't think my time was organized well enough, or something. To me, because I hadn't taken a course for a number of years, and I r e a l l y wanted to think about the answers, and write i t down, and instead of writing one l i n e or 2 l i n e s about ... summing i t up what the answer should be, I was writing a paragraph, 126 and, you know, spending time worrying about i t . (laughter) And, you know, I just .... You know, i t might not be just the History course, but ju s t me not having a course for a long time. But I was surprised; i t ' s only a one-hundred l e v e l for the ... the amount of work that's expected of us. I was r e a l .... 'Cause I've taken three-hundred l e v e l s before, and I've ... I thought there was a l o t ... a l o t of work that was expected. A: (098) This i s ac t u a l l y compulsory reading or compulsory plus suggested extra, which you're doing? E: I never did any extra, (laughingly) I mean, I d i d a l l the readings that they say, and, you know, i f there was something that somebody would suggest that might have something to do with the topic, then I might have looked through i t , but I, you know, didn't spend hours reading i t . But I ju s t found that, uh, just the readings that they said was a l o t of reading. A: Yeah, r i g h t . Uh, connected to t h i s , how do ... how do you think then that learning History by distance education i s d i f f e r e n t from learning i t by conventional education? E: (106) I don't think i t was that much d i f f e r e n t . When you go and s i t i n front of a professor who's t a l k i n g to you, maybe he could emphasize more of the points that are stressed — what's more important or what he f e e l s i s more important. And when you're reading yourself,then you're going to have to just make that judgement 127 yourself, although there i s the ... the text. I t goes along with i t , and i t quite ... summarizes i t quite well. So, I mean, there's both those things. And there's, uh .... The course I'm taking has audio, and i t has s l i d e s too. I haven't found the s l i d e s .... I f you were s i t t i n g i n a classroom, and they were t a l k i n g , and you're looking at s l i d e s maybe i t ' s one thing, but I didn't f i n d them as ... I was learning a l o t from looking at the s l i d e s p a r t i c u l a r l y . The guide ... audio section, i t was inte r e s t i n g , but i t ' s just .... A: (118) Do you mean the audio goes with the sl i d e s ? E: Yep. A: Oh, I see. So there i s the commentary. and you (unclear) the s l i d e s yourself. E: Yeah, that's r i g h t . I t ' s j u s t that there i s the ... l i t t l e carousel of s l i d e s , and you can look at so many s l i d e s f o r each tape. //A: Oh, I see.// And, you know, they're nice pictures. A: Pictures of what? E: Of, you know, maybe what Indians looked l i k e years ago or what .... You know, I didn't f e e l I was learning anything from them or from what the (Pause...) houses looked l i k e or, I can't think r i g h t now, but, you know, jus t , j u s t pictures. I mean i t wasn't anything ... paintings and things, you know. A: (125) You f e e l you weren't r e a l l y learning anything from those s l i d e s .... 128 E: Well, I think i f . . . . I f somebody was ... a teacher was maybe pointing i t out, had i t up on the wall, I might have (Pause...) learned more. I don't know. I ju s t found .... When I was l i s t e n i n g to the tape and looking at them, I just .... A: So what's the difference between l i s t e n i n g to a tape and l i s t e n i n g to a professor? E: Well, j u s t .... I don't have a s l i d e projector f o r one thing (laughingly), and I was ju s t lookin' up i n the a i r , and I was ju s t thinking.... Well, you know, so .... A: That r e a l l y reduces i t , doesn't i t ? (laughter) E: I t does reduce i t ! But that, yeah .... A: (133) OK. Um, l e t ' s go back sort of to the beginning i n that, uh, wh.... Before you ac t u a l l y began, sort of what ... what were your hopes, your fears, your expectations before you ac t u a l l y began doing distance education? (Pause...) I should say before you began doing t h i s History course i n distance education. E: Well, I hoped that, um .... Well, I have an i n t e r e s t i n history, so I hoped that i t was going to be an in t e r e s t i n g course and that i t would enable me to sort of get my feet back i n to studying again, jus t , without having to go out to a class because of t r y i n g to organize with 3 children and time and my part-time work. I ju s t (143) thought i t would be easier for me to do i t t h i s way. And i t was less expensive because I'm on a cheaper, not very (laughingly) expensive l i f e s t y l e r i g h t now. So 129 I thought that would be easier to do i t that way, and I ... a f t e r I heard about the Open Learning I n s t i t u t e , I spoke to a number of people, and I was surprised at quite a few people who had taken one or 2 courses and then went on to here at UBC. So I j u s t thought, well, I ' l l give i t a t r y and, you know, and see how i t goes. A: What did those people say about the courses they'd taken? E: Urn, one person t o l d me i f she didn't l i v e nextdoor to her tutor and p r a c t i c a l l y drive the tutor crazy, she would never have passed, (laughter) A: (153) What kind of course was that? E: I t was a calculus course, I think. //A: No wonder! (laughter)// Something I wouldn't even tackle! And, um, you know, one person took an English course, couple of people took English courses j u s t to (Pause..) I guess 100 or something to get into the u n i v e r s i t y . So, uh, you know, they seemed to l i k e i t a l l r i g h t . But then they didn't go on and continue to f i n i s h t h e i r u n i v e r s i t y through the continuing education, but that might have been because .... You know, I'm l i v i n g i n family housing, and one spouse has to be going to u n i v e r s i t y , and the access i s there i f , you know, i f you can arrange your own schedule to be able to go to the classes. A: (162) Sure. You're r i g h t beside i t . Yeah. OK, so you t o l d me what some o... what your hopes were. Did you have any p a r t i c u l a r fears, negative fee l i n g s about i t before you started? 130 E: (Pause....) Well, I didn't have any. I went i n with an open mind. I mean, I had hoped that i t , you know, i t would f i t to my l i f e s t y l e , and I'd be able to do i t . I didn't have any p a r t i c u l a r fears that i t was ... except for my ... to make myself s i t down and do i t . And, uh, you know .... A: And do you f i n d that can make yourself s i t down and do i t ? E: (169) I was r e a l l y good at the f i r s t part, but then Christmas came, which i s a very d i f f i c u l t time. //A: With 3 children!// Yes. And, um, I must say I didn't do much; I didn't do ... have anything. Now, I took on t h i s extra job, which I should .... I mean, I needed to do i t , so I r e a l l y l e t t h i s go. And having the option of doing i t i n 4 or 6 months was good because then I could catch up. I'm f i n i s h e d t h i s p a r t i c u l a r job I was doing t h i s week, so now I can spend more time on, uh, you know, catching up. And then over Christmas the kids weren't i n school, and I f i n d I need quiet to study. I can't have d i s t r a c t i o n s of people running around or making, you know, asking me to do s t u f f . And I don't work .... I don't l i k e to s t a r t at 9 or 10 o'clock at night when the kids go to bed. So what I o r i g i n a l l y had thought I would do on when my youngest i s at pre-school so I would have, you know, 10 hours a week or 12 hours a week free, and I thought that would be the time that I would be able to do 131 i t . And i t was i n the beginning, and now I just have to get back into i t . A: (183) Uh-huh, yeah. Well, my next question was r e a l l y going to be: And now that you're into i t , uh, how has i t l i v e d up to your expectations or otherwise? E: I've .... As I said before, I f i n d the volume of work, l i k e , of reading i s ... i s ... i s a l o t , but maybe I have to learn how to, um, how to read .... I read every l i n e , and, you know, t r y .... My husband says you shouldn't do that; you should just sort of glance over i t and sort of get the important parts. But that's maybe .... He has (laughingly) years of advantage of doing that, and I haven't, I mean, so I haven't been able to do that, and I guess that's just going to come with time. You know, that's j u s t something that's going to have to, uh .... But r i g h t now I'm ... I'm spending a l o t of time reading and have to r e a l l y pay attention to what I'm doing. A: (195) Yeah. Uh, a l i t t l e while ago you said: I expected that i t would be in t e r e s t i n g . Does that mean that, i n fac t , you have or haven't found i t interesting? E: Oh, no. I've found i t in t e r e s t i n g . I'm ... I r e a l l y .... You know, I'm interested i n , um, most of the s t u f f . I'm doing some s t u f f on the L o y a l i s t s now, and i t ' s j u s t i n t e r e s t i n g an... because the ... a l o t of L o y a l i s t s s e t t l e d i n Nova Scotia and that's where I'm from, and i t ' s j u s t i n t e r e s t i n g . And with the whole French issue, and, you know, and the Indians and the whole Oka t h i s 132 summer, so, you know, a l o t of i t .... I t ' s nice to have the background and to see where everything comes from, so I enjoy i t . I t ' s just that, uh, I have to get more d i s c i p l i n e d (laughingly) I guess! A: (205) Yeah. The word ^ d i s c i p l i n e ' . D... do you think i t ' s very important to be d i s c i p l i n e d to do distance educ... to do, l e t ' s say, a History course by distance education? E: Oh, yeah, yeah. I think anything l i k e that i t ' s ... i t ' s ... you have to be d i s c i p l i n e d to be able to do i t . A: And when you say * d i s c i p l i n e d ' , you've mentioned making yourself s i t down and taking the time. Is there anything else that x d i s c i p l i n e d ' brings in? E: (Pause...) No, I don't .... Well, I think .... No, I think the time i s , for me, i t ' s ... i s what I need i s the ... i t ' s the quiet and the time to s i t down and r e a l l y do i t i n and ... to ... to write the paper and, uh, get that over with, and .... I t ' s .... We have 6 papers to do, so. And I'm r e a l l y worried about the exam too. I ... i t ' s been a long time since I've taken exams, so that's, uh .... But that's something to come up i n a while, so hopefully .... A: (217) Is that a big worry? E: I t ' s a ... i t ' s a big worry. I, uh, I don't l i k e exams; I never l i k e d them ... //A: Who does? Yeah, r i g h t , (laughter) // ... you know. So, so, we'll j u s t see. And then, the papers I've gotten back, I've done very well, 133 so I'm ju s t hoping that, uh, the time the exam comes that, you know, I ' l l j u s t have the memory of what I've studied. One disadvantage of not having a professor or somebody to t e l l you .... Usually there are hints of emphasis of what's going to be on the exam, and t h i s way you don't have any. I mean, with having to read 500 pages a week or something, and then you have .... What are you gonna ...? I t ' s j u s t the volume of information i s ... i s so immense you have to figure out, you know, what ... what i s important and what's, uh .... You shouldn't be studying just for the exam eith e r . That's another thing, which I suppose you can't r e a l l y here because you don't have any idea what the exam's going to be. So i t ' s , uh .... A: (230) Y... you said there there i s n ' t a professor; there's no one from whom you might get hi n t s . Is there nobody that you t a l k to? E: Well, there i s a tutor, and I've never .... She's c a l l e d before I started, and I've never talked to her. That's another thing I was .... I guess, I suppose I could c a l l her f o r s p e c i f i c s of ... which I haven't done. But she has never c a l l e d me either, so .... Except for at the beginning to introduce herself, and t h i s i s before the course started to make sure I got a l l my, um, books and everything. A: Why have you chosen not to contact her? 134 E: (237) Well, I guess i t ' s because I didn't have any ... I didn't know what s p e c i f i c questions to ask her, I guess, and so I just, uh, never had that r e l a t i o n s h i p before. Maybe (Pause..) i f sh... i f she c a l l e d me. I don't know whether I should be the one to i n i t i a t e i t or i f she should. But I ... I guess that's the type of person I am. I'm not going to s i t on the phone and cry to her (laughingly) about what's the problem or whatever, so I jus t , uh ... I just haven't ever c a l l e d her, that's a l l . A: So you f e e l that the, uh, the reason why you would c a l l a tutor would be i f you had a problem. E: (246) Right. Or, I mean, suppose as you ge... exam gets closer or something, uh, maybe for .... I'm ... I'm gonna have to get h... see i f she can narrow i t down to what the exam could possibly be on. So, and you know, something l i k e that, but, uh.... Otherwise, to .... I don't think her purpose was to t a l k about each week of what you're supposed to do. And I ... I assumed t h e i r purpose was just i f there was a problem to c a l l her, and you sent her, uh, (Pause..) any kind of papers that you do, and then she marks them and puts a comment on them and sends them back, so .... And i f you disagree with the comment or your mark, then you can c a l l her too, so • • • • A: (256) Which means you have agreed with her comments to date! (laughter) 135 E: Well, you know, they were f i n e . I mean my mark was f i n e , so I guess I .... I think the r e l i e f of knowing I did a l l r i g h t , I don't even care anymore, (laughter) Just glad i t ' s over with, so .... A: Yeah. Just when you mentioned the exam there you mentioned, uh, having to remember, memorize things. Is ... i s that what you anticipate the exam to be l i k e ? E: (262) Um. Oh, I don't think i t ' s going to be a memori.... And I .... Just the text of t h i s Sharon Meen, who wrote t h i s text, she ... she t r i e s to bring i n not j u s t memorizing; she wants to ... interpretations of ... of the d i f f e r e n t h i s t o r i e s and the .... So I ... I don't think i t ' s going to be memorizing, I think; i t ' l l probably be my i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of what happened during a c e r t a i n time, so .... But, uh .... A: That's an i n t e r e s t i n g thing, what you say there. I f I came back to one of my former questions where I said: H... Do you see learning History by distance education as d i f f e r e n t from learning i t by conventiona1? Speaking now about, l i k e , xmy interpretaion of i t ' , do you think that would be d i f f e r e n t or the same i n the 2 forms of education? E: (273) I suppose i t would r e a l l y depend on the professor. You're going to get a p a r t i c u l a r view from whoever, you know; they're going to have t h e i r bias, so y o u ' l l have to take that into consideration, but, uh, one thing with these readings, and I'm sure i f i t was i n a c l a s s too, 136 that there's d i f f e r e n t interpretions from each of the persons who's writing. What they t r y to do i n t h i s course i s they give you 6 readings or 4 readings on one p a r t i c u l a r thing but from d i f f e r e n t viewpoints, and so that, uh, you sort of get an idea of, you know, where t h i s guy's coming from and where t h i s person's coming from so that, you know, you do get some d i f f e r e n t interpretions of i t . So I suppose i t ... i t would depend on the professor i f , you know, how he taught or she taught, so, uh .... A: (285) So, d.... You used the word *bias'. Do you think there's perhaps less bias i n the distance education form of presenting i t ? E: There probably would be because you're getting, you know, d i f f e r e n t viewpoints and, well, the person who's wri t i n g the course text, I guess, would be that .... Well, there'd be every d i f f e r e n t viewpoint, so, I mean, I can't see that you would get anything ... one p a r t i c u l a r one except for the person wh... writing the ... the course text, and then you're ... i f you write towards the exam, then you're going to have to write towards her ... her viewpoint, I guess, (laughingly) //A: Yeah. Who knows!// Who knows! A: (296) OK. Uh, I've asked you about: Before you began, what d i d you expect? Now that you're i n i t , what are you finding? I wonder i f you could also speculate? I f you continue for 6 months, a year longer, do you think that 137 your experience, your view of distance education w i l l change? Or your view of learning History by distance education? Do you think that might change? I t ' s already changed a l i t t l e b i t . E: (303) Yeah, I I don't think that I would, i f I was going to continue the degree i n History, I would do i t through continuing ed... uh, through distance education because I don't f i n d that, uh ... because you are r e a l l y i s o l a t e d . You have nobody to, uh, to t a l k about what the readings were, and so you do get these d i f f e r e n t viewpoints but, you know, you're just reading them yourself, and i f you were i n a class s i t u a t i o n , then you're going to have, uh, other .... Maybe I might not say anything, but I'd be having other people l i s t e n i n g , you know, to l i s t e n to besides the professor i n the c l a s s , and I just .... Myself, I think I'm just ... I need the stimulation of other people i n the c l a s s to, uh, keep me ... keep my i n t e r e s t up, I guess, and r e a l l y , um, you know, I think I would get more out of i t . A: (317) Mm-hm. How would you get more out of i t with other people there? E: Well, I ... I think I just would f e e l that I was ... (Pause..) Well, i t would seem more a l i v e or something. I f i n d that, you know, i t gets kind of boring t h i s reading a l l the time, (laughingly) I can't explain i t any better than t h i s way. 138 A: Yeah. Y... you ... no ... you used the word x f e e l ' there. So you do d e f i n i t e l y have a f e e l i n g about t h i s . E: (324) About whether I would take another History course t h i s way? A: That, and also, again, learning History i n t h i s way rather than with a group of people i n a cl a s s . E: I think that there should be maybe a happy medium. I understood that quite often i n these courses that they did have a study group that would meet, and I ... but I guess t h i s i s n ' t one of them, and I thought that would sort of be the i d e a l s i t u a t i o n so that you weren't t i e d down to going every couple of days a week to go to a course, but then you would have, maybe once a month or something, that you could, uh, go and have other people (334) to t a l k about what they're doing at the same time that you're doing something so that, um, you know, could bring out things and ... or reinforce things that you've already, you know, thought you learned or to know how well you're doing because, uh, I think you're s t i l l i n a void when you're doing things by distance education. You jus t , uh .... I t ' s ... i t ' s sort of l i k e i n a void; you jus t don't know. I t ' s d i f f i c u l t that way. A: So could you i n one or 2 sentences then describe to me what to you would be the ide a l way to learn History i f i t were a distance education mode? You mentioned there something i n between. 139 E: (345) Yeah. Well, I think the idea of having, um, maybe study seminars or study groups of people who l i v e i n a p a r t i c u l a r area and meeting every 2 weeks or every once a month or something to t a l k about the course with the tutor. I mean, I ... I think that would, uh, be good. I know that, you know, i t ' s a l o t of people taking i t i n a great area, but, uh, i n Vancouver, each section, I'm sure there's a number of people even i f i t was only 4 or 5 people i n each group. I don't know what the tutor does besides, you know, correct your work once every 2 or 3 weeks when you send i n your paper. So, uh, I think meeting with a group of them every 2 or 3 weeks would be an added bonus to the course. A: (359) And what would you expect to get out of that study group? E: I ... I don't know what I would expect. I think i t would be j u s t reinforcement of ... of, uh, what you're learning, I guess, and just to make you f e e l better about l i k e , you know: Are you getting what you're supposed to be learning? Because when you're .... A: So i n ... i n terms of History, wha... how would you better learn the hist o r y by being with a study group? E: (365) (Pause....) Well, maybe i t was just to t a l k about the ideas of the d i f f e r e n t philosophies or of the historiographies of the d i f f e r e n t people who were doing i t . To, um, I think just to speak out loud about things sometimes gets things clearer i n your mind so that .... 140 You know, s i t t i n g there reading by yourself as an is o l a t e d person, you have nobody to argue with or to, uh, bring out an idea or, you know .... I think that would just, you know, help me anyway. I don't know other people, but I f e e l that way. A: (375) Yeah, yeah. Mm, I think a l o t of people f e e l that way. Um, OK, um. You're doing History. Um, i n t h i s distance education course which you're doing, what are you learning about .... Uh, t . . . t e l l me again the exact t i t l e of your course. I t ' s the History of ...? E: No, i t ' s , uh, i t ' s a Canadian history, Pre-confederation. A: Pre-confederation History. So what are you learning about pre-confederation history? E: (385) Uh, i t ' s just Canada before i t became Canada and ... and Lower Canada and Upper Canada and ... and the Lo y a l i s t s and the ... the, uh, just the French issue, the Indian issue, and the ... the, um, impact of Americans, of the French Revolution, and the American Revolution, sorry, on Canada. A: What are some of the things that you learnt about that? The impact of the American Revolution on Canada, for example. (Pause..) //E: Well, um ....// I'm not examining you! (laughter) I don't know the answers. E: (395) Well, I .... I t just t a l k s about d i f f e r e n t areas of Canada or i t ... i t mostly t a l k s about Ontario, Quebec and then the Maritimes, and i t doesn't r e a l l y go into anything past, and, um, to the p... of the L o y a l i s t s 141 coming up here what an... you know, what ... what they had to do with, uh, changing the laws of Canada and, uh .... You know, i t was just i n t e r e s t i n g . And I found with the French, too, and the Indian trade and I could r e a l l y r e l a t e to, um, part of what was going on t h i s summer [the Oka c r i s i s ] because of reading some of t h i s , and, uh, so .... You know, I ... I found i t was in t e r e s t i n g . A: (406) So you ... being able to r e l a t e i t makes a difference. E: Yes. I think .... And that's why I l i k e some of the history, and I ... I'm enjoying part of the Maritime h i s t o r y that's .... I've taken other courses i n Maritime s t u f f because I ... I can r e l a t e to what has gone by i n other days. I just, uh .... (laughter) A: Sure. OK. Th... so, uh, another question: Wh... what do you f e e l you're learning about yourself by doing t h i s ? E: (414) (Pause ) Uuh, I don't know. (Pause ) Well, I guess I'm learning whether I think ... whether i t ' s important to ... have to decide whether i t ' s important to me to spend the time that I am doing i n taking courses. What I want to do with my l i f e , and so I'm just , you know, deciding what I want to do and where I want to go from here. So I guess i t ' s sort of making me think whether t h i s time that I'm spending i s a good time or to go o... , uh, you know, put on to some place 142 else. So I guess i t ' s helping me redefine what I want to do. A: (428) So i n a sense t h i s i s an intermediate step for you, perhaps towards something else? E: Yeah. I have decided what I was doing before I didn't want to do, and I wanted to, uh, to do something else, and I, uh .... So sort of a stepping-stone into something else. A: Yeah. D... do you know what that something else w i l l be or you're j u s t ...? E: Well, yeah. I ... I ... I'm ha l f thinking of doing a degree i n education, so, uh .... I don't know. A: That's not what you were doing before; you said you were doing something d i f f e r e n t . E: (438) No. I was a l e g a l secretary. I had thought of going into Law too, but i . . . i t ' s just where we l i v e d there's a glut of lawyers, and so I don't know i f that's the place to be or not. And I ... I thought ... I thought Education would be, you know, would be good, and jus t because i t t i e s i n a l o t with what my husband's doing and (unclear) and s t u f f , (laughter) //A: And children.// A: Then, I've asked you 2 learning questions: Wh... what are you learning about the Pre-confederation History? What are you learning about yourself? A t h i r d question: What are you learning about distance education as you do th i s ? 143 E: (450) Well, I ... I have a l i t t l e b i t of a ... a slant to i t because I ju s t did, you know, 15 tapes and tra n s c r i b i n g (laughter) of Hardwick and ... and McGeer and a l l these people who ... John E l l i s , a l l these people from distance education, so I learned a l o t about i t , j u s t where i t came from and how i t , um, how i t came to be and the importance of i t and a l l the i n - f i g h t i n g between the u n i v e r s i t i e s and the colleges and, you know, the whole system here, which i s d i f f e r e n t than i t i s from where I've come from — just the college system i t s e l f and the uni v e r s i t y . So I guess I learned .... But i f I didn't have what I d... what I've done, I mean, that's unusual for somebody to have done that, I guess I didn't r e a l l y learn anything. I mean, I ... ju s t the booklet they've sent me, and I would've ... that what I've read and, uh .... So I've just learned, you know, as p r a c t i c a l things; I haven't learned anything p a r t i c u l a r l y more. A: (468) So you ... you f e e l i t ' s p r a c t i c a l things that you've learned. E: Yeah. The p... the things that they have sent me; the information that they've sent of, uh, what courses that are a v a i l a b l e and what courses you need fo r graduation or c r e d i t . I don't think I've learned anything. A: But then, on the other hand, you must have found there are some differences from standard education which you 144 didn't expect (Pause...) either i n the actual doing or i n your fee l i n g s about i t . E: (478) (Pause....) Um. I think the q u a l i t y of the courses i . . . are ... i t ' s very good. I mean, I ... I think that, uh, as compared to a standard course, i t ' s as good as a standard course. I just , as I said before about the work load I thought was excessive, and, um, I think you're i n i s o l a t i o n too much. And I ... I think i t sort of takes a ce r t a i n type of person to take that i s o l a t i o n . And maybe that's not me; I don't know. But then, I was t o l d that you can take courses at the d i f f e r e n t u n i v e r s i t i e s , i t doesn't matter where you are, and then s t i l l do i t through the Learning so that i f there was something that I wanted to take through the Open Learning University, then I could do i t that way or I could take i t at a uni v e r s i t y . I t doesn't matter where I am. So that I ... that was the advantage that I thought would be good f o r me. A: (496) Mh-hm. You mentioned before something l i k e 500 pages a week. Is i t l i t e r a l l y that? E: I never added i t up, but ... //A: I t ' s r e a l l y a l o t , eh?// ... i t ' s a l o t . I think 500 i s probably an exaggeration, but, I mean, I could check for you. (laughter) A: No, no, no. But I .... These are a l l pages that they suggest quite strongly you should read? 145 E: (502) Oh, yeah. You have to read .... You have so many readings; i t ' s , uh, you know, every .... I t ' s set out i n time periods, so I think 500 i s an exaggeration. I t just seems l i k e a l o t at the time, (laughter) So say you have, um, you know, 6 or 7 readings, 8 readings or whatever, and some of them are 50 pages, and some of them are ... you know, less and .... So .... And then the each ... at the end of each chapter of each reading, then you have 10 questions to answer about i t . And I think that's what takes the time, and that's what I have to learn — not to take the time i n doing that. But u n t i l I f e e l more confident myself with studying, then I need to have these notes of what I read. You know, that's because I haven't, you know, done something l i k e that for a long time. For somebody who's used to doing h i s t o r y courses, i s used to doing ... wouldn't probably spend as much time doing that than I would. A: (520) I f you were to do a second History course by distance education, do you think that i t would be easier f o r you or s t i l l pretty d i f f i c u l t i n the ways you've mentioned? E: I t w... would probably depend on the course. I don't know; i t depends on who's .... I just f i n d f o r a one hundred course, a one hundred-level course, I think i t ' s a very heavy course. I mean, i f i t was a 4 hundred and you were ... had ... at the top had done a l o t of courses i n h istory, then you should be expected to maybe do t h i s 146 because you had the study backgrounds and you had the background i n the ... i n the history, but as a one hundred course, I just thought that they expect a l o t out of you. (laughingly) Never, ever would they get away with i t at a regular u n i v e r s i t y . A: (534) Oh, i . . . i t ' s that much, i s i t ? Oh, wow! (laughingly) E: (laughingly) People would be r e a l l y mad at the professor i f they did. I don't know, so that's another reason i f you had a study group where you could see other people who were taking the course .... Maybe i t ' s my ... maybe i t ' s me. Maybe, you know, i f I li s t e n e d to somebody else, they'd say, "Oh, no. I t was a l l r i g h t , " you know. They didn't mind, and maybe I'm .... But ... but myself, t h i s i s how I f e e l ; I f i n d i t ' s a l o t . A: So i f you were t a l k i n g to a frie n d , who l i k e you she's a mother with 3 young children, what would you say to her about distance education? This person was perhaps thinking of doing a History course i n distance education. E: (548) I think i t ' s a good way to s t a r t i f you don't have the time to go into t r a d i t i o n a l school, and, uh .... You know, I would just t e l l them that, you know, i t i s time-consuming. My... myself, I just thought i t wouldn't be as time-consuming as i t i . . . or has been for me, but, um, I think i t ' s a ... i t ' s a ... c e r t a i n l y i t ' s a good way of studying, and I think using the t e l e v i s i o n , some of the programs, I ... I'm ... not, not with t h i s course, 147 but, I mean, some of them .... I've watched some of the programs, and i t seems l i k e , uh, they're i n t e r e s t i n g , and people with VCR's c e r t a i n l y have the advantage of taping i t , and then they could watch i t again. A: (563) D... Uh, just, TV and video, um, you said you think that would be a good way to learn. Why would i t be a good way? E: Well, I ... I think i t would bring more into the personal. I ... I f i n d when you're j u s t reading the books a l l the time, you have no feed..., not that you'd t a l k to the t e l e v i s i o n , but you have somebody else, you know, t a l k i n g or .... I guess i t ' s the i s o l a t i o n of being by yourself a l l the time that i t ' s ... i t ' s a l i t t l e more d i f f i c u l t . So I think the t e l e v i s i o n (Pause....) even though i t ' s only somebody s i t t i n g o... standing on the t e l e v i s i o n t a l k i n g to you, i t makes i t more of a personal thing than just by yourself. But that could ju s t , you know, be me; I don't know. A: (577) Yeah. I ... I've been t r y i n g to write down what struck me as some of the key words that you were using. Certainly you talked about .... Well, we're t a l k i n g about History; that's important, a History course. That's, of course, important. You ... you've mentioned a l o t of reading several times. You've mentioned i s o l a t i o n , f e e l i n g i s o l a t e d . What do you see as the r e l a t i o n s h i p between those? Is there an 148 i n t e r r e l a t i o n s h i p between having ... doing a History course, reading a l o t , f e e l i n g isolated? E: (588) I don't think i t would make any difference i f i t was any course, i f i t ... i t would be History or an English course or ... or whatever. I think that i s one of the drawbacks with the ... with distance education; i t i s the ... for me anyway, i s the i s o l a t i o n . And whether i t ' s ... to t r y and do away with i t by having study groups or, um, more telephone communication with the tutor or, um, I'm not sure, but I don't think i t would make any difference whatever subject i t was. I think i t would be worse i n some subjects, l i k e i f you were taking a ... a maths course. I have a f r i e n d who's taking i t , not through distance education, she .... I t ' s distance education but through one of the community colleges i n math. I mean, she's quit because she ... you get too fru s t r a t e d by yourself i f you have nobody to ... even i f you're j u s t complaining and you're getting somebody's shoulder to cry on, at least sort of you get some kind of feedback, so I think that, uh, I would never attempt a math course anyway, (laughingly) A: (612) So, i n other words, you're saying i f you were doing a math course where you need to ask a l o t of questions, you f e e l you wouldn't get the necessary feedback by distance education. E: Um, from what I've ... you know, my ... my r e l a t i o n s h i p with my tutor i s nonexistent, so I ... I don't know. I t 149 would just ... i t would depend on the tutor. I don't know how accessible, I mean, i n ... whether .... On the telephone, too, I think i t would be more personal i f you were seeing the person. I mean, at le a s t