Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. John A. Rossi


This qualitative study examined online teaching and learning in a rural community college setting from the instructors' points-of-view. The research questions focused upon what the instructors viewed as the benefits and detriments of online teaching and learning, both for them and their students, their views of the effects of online learning on their students, the nature of teaching online in a rural community college, and the interaction between instructors and students, and among students, in online classes. Constructivist learning theory served as the theoretical framework of this study. The findings are based on an analysis of the data collected from two rounds of in-depth interviews with nine participants, observations of the participants' online courses, and the review of related documents.The key findings related to the rural setting dealt with the lack of sophisticated Internet infrastructure in rural service areas and a lack of student readiness for online instruction. A gap in theory and practice also exists; with one exception, online instruction was not grounded in any theoretical framework. The interaction in online classes varied from class to class, with e-mail correspondence and discussion threads constituting the bulk of the interaction. The lack of face-to-face contact emerged as a troublesome issue, with no instructor believing that the online course was superior to the traditional, seated course. Several instructors cited practical and learning benefits specific to online courses, and all recognized the need to offer courses online.The benefits of online teaching and learning included both practical and learning benefits. Flexibility and convenience were cited as key practical benefits, and learning benefits included additional opportunities to reflect and interact online, to draw from personal experiences, and learn at one's own pace. The acquisition of time-management, reading, writing, research, technological, and problem-solving skills on the parts of the students were also viewed as learning benefits. The negative aspects included feelings of isolation, a lack of academic preparedness to learn online on the part of the students, the problems related to dial-up Internet access in rural areas, and the increased amount of preparation required to teach an online course.The study discusses patterns in the data as well as contradictions to these patterns. Limitations of the study and recommendations for the community college and for future studies are also addressed.


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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

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