Teaching approaches employed by postsecondary education instructors teaching in both the traditional classroom setting and the distance education setting

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Virginia Tech

Because of decreased funding, increased enrollment, and other issues, postsecondary institutions face the challenge of providing the same or additional services to more students with less resources. One option is the increased use of innovative technology by postsecondary institutions, such as distance education. Distance education provides remote areas of a region the opportunity to participate in postsecondary coursework without having to travel or relocate to the actual campus. Little has been written regarding the identification of the different teaching approaches used in traditional or distance classrooms, nor on the preparation of distance educators who also teach in the traditional classroom. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine instructors’ perceived effectiveness in both their distance and traditional classes and to identify the approaches used by distance instructors in both of these settings. Instructors’ perceptions as to the supportive role of distance site supervisors also was identified.

Qualitative research methods involving interviews and observations were employed. Ten instructors from Old Dominion University (OQDU), who also teach through the ODU Teletechnet distance education program, were interviewed regarding their teaching approaches and rationale for selecting those approaches, as well as their view on the site supervisor's role. Each instructor was then observed twice in each of the classroom settings.

Results of the study found that instructors perceived themselves as equally effective in both their formats and behaviors while teaching in either the traditional or distance classrooms. Although suggested in the literature, instructors did not vary their teaching format between the two settings; however, teaching behaviors were observed as occurring with greater frequency in the traditional classroom than in the distance classroom. Also, while most instructors were unclear as to the specific responsibilities of the distance site supervisors beyond transferring materials between sites, many supported an increase in communication with the supervisors to improve the learning environment for these distance students.

Recommendations for practice include more opportunities for collaboration between distance faculty and the site supervisors. Also, the development of an intervention by distance learning administrators to assist instructors in varying their distance teaching format would provide exposure to other effective teaching techniques for use in the distance classroom. The information gathered from this study lends itself to further research into the possible implications of additional instructor training to prompt changes in teaching formats. Additional attention to the relationship of the distance site supervisors to the entire distance learning process also would be worthwhile.

distance learning, behaviors, instruction