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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Education limited : framing possibilities and constraints of online teaching in a university course Qayyum, Adnan Ahmer


How much influence and control do instructors have when they teach online? How creative can they be and what limits do they encounter? Teaching via the internet can be a creative and engaging process that allows for innovative approaches to learning for students from all over the world. It can also be a challenging setting for instructors and students to teach and learn. This study investigated how instructional processes in an internet-based course were shaped by factors beyond the instructor's control? Frame factor theory was used as the conceptual framework to identify and analyze factors that shape instruction. The unique contribution of this study is to examine an online setting. Thus, most of this research is about how institutional and technological frames shape teaching. Documents were analyzed from an online graduate course to identify and analyze frame factors. Policy documents of a distance teaching unit, course design documents and the archived course discussion forum were examined. The research indicates that class size, instructor role and accountability, the assessment criteria, course content and methods of teaching online were all factors decided by the host organization before an instructor began teaching. Technological factors also shaped instruction beyond an instructors control, including: the technology required to access the course, place-independent access to the course, the nature of asynchronous communication and the nature of text-based communication. Text-based asynchronous communication highlighted students writing styles, allowed for the use of quotes and references, allowed for thoughtful, reflective communication but also created concerns about lurkers and workload. These findings from the research were used to create an analytical framework, a tetrad, conceived as a series of questions. The questions are meant to guide decision-making by instructors and planners of internet-based courses. The four questions are: 1) What teaching decisions does the organization make before you, the instructor, begin the class? 2) How will the technology affect people's participation level and their quality of interaction? 3) How much accountability is 'built-in' to the communication? 4) How labour-intensive is the medium? The tetrad has been conceived so it may be applicable to all internet-based teaching, even as the medium continues to change.

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