UBC Theses and Dissertations
Presence at a distance : the educator-learner relationship in distance education and dropout Munro, Patricia Jane
The purpose of the present study was to provide an understanding of the educator-learner relationship in distance education and then to identify and discuss parts of that relationship associated with dropout. Its underlying assumption was that education, at a distance or face-to-face, involves an educator-learner relationship. There were three justifications for this investigation: to illuminate the educator-learner relationship, to contribute to research on dropout in distance education, and to foster integration between practice and scholarship in the field. The scope of the first research question, what characterizes educator-learner relationships in distance education? necessitated drawing on a broad data base and suggested an interpretive study. The research method chosen was an integrative review of scholarly literature in the field of distance education. In answer to the first research question, the educator-learner relationship in distance education was conceptualized as a wheel with an axle of dialogue, spokes of support, and a rim of independence. The development of this model was the most important result of the present study. Concern among practitioners over high attrition rates led to the second part of the purpose and the second research question, what characteristics of the educator-learner relationship in distance education are associated with dropout? In answer to this question, findings from the dropout literature were filtered through the model of the educator-learner relationship in distance education. Tinto’s research into dropout from higher education informed the analysis. Results indicated that perceived deficiencies in dialogue along the spokes of support in the quadrants of learning and instruction have been associated with dropout. This study recognized that the relationship between educator and learner affects student perceptions of intellectual and social integration and so may influence dropout. Recommendations for research and practice were generated from the model of the educator-learner relationship in distance education. Presence at a distance can be enhanced by a dialogue-centred practice. Suggestions included the tracking of students, professional development for practitioners, and evaluations of distance education practice based on the model of the educator-learner relationship in distance education.
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