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Distance Education - "Green Acres" style

When I first graduated from doctoral school and went on the job market, a full professor at one school asked me what I thought about distance education. "It reminds me of an episdoe of the old television show 'Green Acres,'" I said. "The hired hand Eb decides to become a barber, and so he obtains his degree from a correspondence school. They send him a wig, he cuts it, then sends it back for a grade." Needless to say, I did not get (nor want) the job. Here are portions of the episode, and while my basic attitude toward distance education hasn't changed much, I actually teach courses online some and believe them valuable for one reason—they offer continuing education to students who, because of life circumstances, cannot attend brick-and-mortar schools. Are they ideal? Of course not. Can they work? Only if administrators focus less on potential profits and more on educating students.

Articles on Composition and Distance Ed

Blair, Kristine, and Cheryl Hoy. "Paying Attention to Adult Learners Online: The Pedagogy and Politics of Community." Computers and Composition 23.1 (2006): 32-48.

Our article profiles the evolution of a fully online writing course designed for adult learners in our university's Prior Learning Assessment Program. Based on our own observations and experiences teaching adult learners online, we question if the virtual learning environment presents different challenges and prospects for the adult learner versus the traditional student learner, along with an extension and complication of the more social metaphors of "virtual community." Moreover, because of the changing demographic from traditional to adult students, we argue that this change also fosters a change in the relationship between teachers and students. In chronicling this relationship, we note problems when the labor of adult education becomes invisible to those supervising online instructors. Because of these "invisible" labor issues, we argue that successful online instruction must include a range of interactions between students and instructors that extend the more public concept of community to better acknowledge the importance of personal, private interaction. Thus, we conclude with a call to rethink our online writing pedagogies to be more flexible to adult learner needs and learning styles, simultaneously recognizing the impact of adult online education on faculty workload.

Blakelock, Jane, and Tracy E. Smith. "Distance Learning: From Multiple Snapshots, a Composite Portrait." Computers and Composition 23.1 (2006): 139-61.

This article discusses the current state of distance learning in composition by reporting on and interpreting a 2005 survey that assesses trends and workload conditions in distance learning. Areas examined in the article include attitudes of faculty and administration, faculty demographics, student demographics, online course and program development, course caps, course delivery and management tools, technology support, course design freedom, impact on writing pedagogy, and institutional DE profile. The article concludes by summarizing the current DL picture, identifying areas of need, and providing research recommendations for the future.

Blythe, Stuart. "Designing Online Courses: User-Centered Practices." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 329-46.

Teachers who develop Web-based courses must learn to act like designers; however, the type of design practice one undertakes has more than pedagogical implications. It can have political and ethical implications as well. In this article, I compare two models for design--systems and user-centered--each of which embodies different values. I argue that models of technology design can be applied to the development of Web-based courses and that various forms of user-centered design embody the values most compatible with writing instruction. While acknowledging the difficulties of enacting such models when developing Web-based courses, I present strategies for adopting a user-centered design paradigm in distance learning.

Brady, Laura. "Fault Lines in the Terrain of Distance Education." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 347-58.

Distance education holds out the same hope as education in general (equal opportunity for all) and combines that hope with a popular belief in the socially transformative power of technology. The relatively new terrain of distance education contains some ideological fault lines that we need to watch. The geologic metaphor illustrates ways that both students and teachers may be differentially displaced by distance education. To map the displacements, the essay examines differential access, differential perceptions of teachers' roles, and differential retention patterns.

DePew, Kevin Eric, et al. "Designing Efficiencies: The Parallel Narratives of Distance Education and Composition Studies." Computers and Composition 23.1 (2006): 49-67.

Distance education (DE) programs at many universities have been initiated to generate new efficiencies for the academic process, particularly cost efficiency and pedagogical efficiency. In writing studies, this move toward digitally mediated instruction has, in some classrooms, recreated practices that resonate with the pedagogy that resulted from Current-Traditional Rhetoric (CTR). Thus, a trace of distance education's and composition studies' parallel narratives demonstrates that writing studies has already addressed some of the questions (and concerns) that online writing instruction raises. By specifically focusing on the tensions created by negotiating cost efficiencies and pedagogical efficiencies with communication efficiencies and medium efficiencies, we interrogate current administrative decisions as well their pedagogical outcomes. We conclude by proposing strategies for rearticulating future narratives about online writing instruction in potentially productive ways.

Dyehouse, Jeremiah. "A Politics for Interactivity: Progressivism and Its Limits in Federal Congressional Deliberations of Distance Education Policy." Computers and Composition 24.4 (2007): 404-20.

This article analyzes federal congressional discourse on distance education policy, describing progressive reformers' use of the term, interactivity. Isolating congressional records of deliberations that treat interactivity, rhetorical analysis first traces progressive legislators' and educators' attempts to use the term to eliminate a restriction on financial aid funding for distance education students. Next, critical analysis describes how legislators and educators have advanced interactivity as a simple educational good. Contrasting legislators' and educators' views on interactivity with perspectives drawn from emerging computers and composition research, this article discusses what the field has to contribute to public deliberation of this issue. A conclusion notes opportunities for researchers' participation in progressive reform efforts.

Hailey, David E., Keith Grant-Davie, and Christine A. Hult. "Online Education Horror Stories Worthy of Halloween: A Short List of Problems and Solutions in Online Instruction." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 387-97.

This article examines many surprising problems that arise in the process of distance education using the Internet and describes ways in which instructors and administrators can solve these problems. The information in the article is based largely on the experience of educators at Utah State University who have been exploring distance education for the past six years by teaching a wide range of online courses via the Internet. As a result of this varied online teaching, we have encountered a broad spectrum of challenges to which we have tried to respond and from which we have tried to learn. The solutions described are generalizable to other programs using online delivery for instruction.

Inman, James A., and Dagmar Stuehrk Corrigan. "Toward a Doctoral Degree by Distance in Computers and Writing: Promise and Possibilities." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 411-22.

This article explores the possibility of a doctoral degree program in computers and writing by distance. We begin by reporting current developments in graduate education by distance with particular attention to the types of students best served by such programs. Next, we report the results of an empirical study we conducted of the job market for computers and writing scholars emerging from graduate programs, assessing the potential of the results to inform program development. We conclude with a proposal for a doctoral degree by distance that unites adult returning graduate students with prospective mentors around the world and that sees directed research as the core of the program.

Kay Miller, Susan. "A Review of Research on Distance Education in Computers and Composition." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 423-30.

This article provides a review of the research published in Computers and Composition about teaching writing with distance-learning technology. The purpose of the article is to assess what research has been conducted in the context of a prominent journal in the field. Distance education is an emerging focus in the field of computers and writing, and the goal of this review is to provide a foundation for further analysis that begins to locate research gaps. I outline research published in the journal from 1994 (the date of the first article dealing with distance education in Computers and Composition) through 1999. Through analysis of twelve articles published in the journal during these six years, I describe two emerging categories of research in distance education: articles that theorize distance education in the context of writing instruction and articles that describe distance education in practice. In addition to describing the research already conducted, I include suggestions for further research that would build upon this foundation.

Kiefer, Kate. "Complexity, Class Dynamics, and Distance Learning." Computers and Composition 23.1 (2006): 125-38.

Classroom participants learn early on that each classroom has its own dynamic comprised of personalities, motivation levels, skills, and other variables. This paper explores features of complexity theory--nonlinearity and emergent self-organization--relevant to dynamics in physical or virtual classrooms. These central notions of complexity theory and their importance in composition classrooms help explain why students in virtual classrooms are often less successful than their physical classroom counterparts in negotiating the eddies of virtual interactions. The paper closes with a brief consideration of how teachers can interrogate all the elements of teaching and classroom context (whether physical or virtual) to influence the emergent dynamic of our classrooms.

Miller-Cochran, Susan K., and Rochelle L. Rodrigo. "Determining Effective Distance Learning Designs through Usability Testing." Computers and Composition 23.1 (2006): 91-107.

To add to the developing understanding of Web-based writing instruction, we conducted usability testing to assess the design of our online first-year composition courses at a large community college in the Southwest. Beyond the course-specific results, this study offers two primary contributions. First, it offers a model for conducting usability testing of Web-based writing classes to diagnose potential design problems in a course. This includes providing an indication of what kinds of results and data teachers should expect to gather, how to interpret that data, where to go for assistance, whom to involve in the testing process, and what to do with the results. Second, this study provides an initial understanding of guidelines for course design using Web-based technologies. These guidelines were developed by examining writing classes in the study and then comparing the results with already established principles of design from usability engineering.

Miller, Susan. "How near and yet How Far? Theorizing Distance Teaching." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 321-28.

This article theoretically maps out the larger principles that we must consider when thinking about distance learning. I explore the ways in which students' and teachers' identities must shift in these new contexts. Pointing to the changes that will or could occur when we move writing courses online, I make the overarching argument that Composition Studies needs "a theorized preparation for shifts in pedagogy that distance courses make visible."

Ragan, Tillman J., and Patricia R. White. "What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate: The Criticality of Writing in Online Instruction." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 399-409.

This article addresses how online instructors can improve their email communications with students. The characteristics and demands of online instruction are described and characterized as depending on the instructor's ability to communicate in writing. A model to guide instructors in their online communications, the Golden Triangles of Online Communication, is presented. The first triangle underscores the criticality of considering (a) the online learning environment context, (b) the learner, and (c) the learning task. The second triangle presents three critical questions that instructors using online communications must quickly answer (a) What is this about? (b) Why should I care? and (c) What am I supposed to do? The Golden Triangles represent an effort to provide assistance to instructors in the difficult task of providing high quality instruction with high student satisfaction in online learning. In the final analysis, we underscore the importance of instructors' writing skills in effective and appealing online in teaching.

Reilly, Colleen A., and Joseph John Williams. "The Price of Free Software: Labor, Ethics, and Context in Distance Education." Computers and Composition 23.1 (2006): 68-90.

The use, development, and dissemination of open-source software (OSS) appears to be more in line with the liberatory, collaborative, epistemological ideals of institutions of higher learning than does commercial software. However, our primary and secondary research reveals that due largely to institutional pressures and labor issues, open source software options are often not explored or considered when teaching distance-learning writing courses. In this article, we compare open source and commercial content/course management options and demonstrate the benefits and problems of specific applications. Additionally, we discuss our results from case studies of four instructors who teach distance-learning writing courses. We detail what types of applications they use, the level of institutional support they receive, and the motivations for their choices of applications.

Reinheimer, David A. "Teaching Composition Online: Whose Side Is Time On?" Computers and Composition 22.4 (2005): 459-70.

Although online education is at times envisioned as a time-saving enterprise, a recent, mostly anecdotal consensus indicates that, in fact, online education is more labor intensive for the instructor, if not for the student as well. Previous studies both confirm and deny this consensus because they examine different design paradigms that resist comparison. This study compares the workload for a student-centered paradigm in one face-to-face (F2F) and three online sections of the same composition course, and finds that teaching composition online takes almost twice as much time as face-to-face teaching. The major causes of this disparity appear to be hardware and applications, instructional design, and student learner characteristics.

Samuels, Robert. "The Future Threat to Computers and Composition: Nontenured Instructors, Intellectual Property, and Distance Education." Computers and Composition 21.1 (2004): 63-71.

In this article, I argue that recent initiatives concerning the use of computer-mediated instruction to improve writing skills in large lecture classes often work to undermine the professional status of composition teachers in North American universities. I trace the use of computer-assisted instruction, specifically distance-education initiatives. To further the cause of a just implementation of CAI, I discuss recent contractual language and explore the current practice of hiring computers and writing specialists into nontenurable staff positions. I posit that writing program administrators need to fight for stable, long-term positions for faculty who teach with computers and within computer-mediated spaces. I also argue that compositionists must seek to regulate and control the ownership of their intellectual property and course materials.

Sapp, David Alan, and James Simon. "Comparing Grades in Online and Face-to-Face Writing Courses: Interpersonal Accountability and Institutional Commitment." Computers and Composition 22.4 (2005): 471-89.

In spite of benefits surrounding distance education programs, many online writing courses suffer from low student completion rates. Student retention has been identified as a concern in a number of studies of online education. We extend this discussion by examining the relationship of assessment of student work to retention, and comparing the grades students receive in online and face-to-face undergraduate writing courses. Our data point to what we call the "thrive or dive" phenomenon for student performance in online writing courses, which describes the disproportionately high percentage of students who fail or do not complete online courses compared to conventional, face-to-face courses. We extend this discussion on challenges related to student retention and propose instructional approaches for online learning that include the interpersonal accountability between teachers and students, as well as the institutional commitment necessary to ensure that students can succeed in online writing courses and programs.

Savenye, Wilhelmina C., Zane Olina, and Mary Niemczyk. "So You Are Going to Be an Online Writing Instructor: Issues in Designing, Developing, and Delivering an Online Course." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 371-85.

Online education is increasing exponentially in colleges and universities. In this article, writing instructors are introduced to theories of instructional design that form the foundation to support effective student learning. We present a series of guidelines, derived from these theories and our research and teaching, that writing instructors may use to design, develop and deliver their online courses. We present considerations for instructors such as the need for the course, an analysis of the learners, appropriateness of the course for online delivery, pedagogical concerns, and resources. We then discuss how best to support students in online environments. We conclude with suggestions for faculty support and training for online course delivery.

Strenski, Ellen, Caley O'Dwyer Feagin, and Jonathan A. Singer. "Email Small Group Peer Review Revisited." Computers and Composition 22.2 (2005): 191-208.

Attention to email exchanged among a small group of student peers supercedes discussion of networked computer labs and is distinguished from research on collaborative classroom work in general, on online peer tutoring in writing centers, on email communication in online professional writing courses, and on online discourse in general. Email peer response within small groups is different from larger-scale, one-to-many computer-based communication tools (CBCT) on class mailing lists, bulletin boards, blogs, and wikis on the one hand and smaller-scale, one-to-one email exchange between an individual student and a peer tutor on the other hand. The benefits of assignments that require small groups to respond electronically and asynchronously to each other's drafts are analyzed and illustrated: rhetorical/thematic, discursive/environmental, technological, logistical/time management. The practicalities of students' exchange of drafts, deadlines, and other guidelines are explained and illustrated in typical student email responses and model instructor handouts.

Stroupe, Craig. "Making Distance Presence: The Compositional Voice in Online Learning." Computers and Composition 20.3 (2003): 255-75.

This article enacts a dialogue between my experience as a full-time, online course designer and my background in composition and English studies. It proposes and theorizes a more conscious and extensive use of a compositional or third voice in online classes as an alternative to the combination of instructional and conversational voices typically available to students and teachers. This article argues that teaching and learning in online classes need to be recognized and articulated as aesthetic, linguistic, and performative processes, for which the literary methodologies and compositional pedagogies of English provide critical tools.

Webb Boyd, Patricia. "Analyzing Students' Perceptions of Their Learning in Online and Hybrid First-Year Composition Courses." Computers and Composition 25.2 (2008): 224-43.

This article presents a study of first-year composition (fyc) courses that were taught in both online and hybrid formats in order to determine students' perceptions on how much they learned in them. The students' responses to an extensive survey, in which they analyzed their experiences in their courses, point to larger questions about our individual pedagogical assumptions as well as larger issues related to the structures of first-year composition courses and their required status.

Webb Peterson, Patricia, and Wilhelmina Savenye. "Letter from the Guest Editors: Distance Education: Promises and Perils of Teaching and Learning Online." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 319-20.

Webb Peterson, Patricia. "The Debate About Online Learning: Key Issues for Writing Teachers." Computers and Composition 18.4 (2001): 359-70.

This article addresses faculty members' fears about how they and students in their classes will change as distance-education courses are introduced into university curricula. I ask readers to consider three especially important areas of change: teacher roles, education goals, and student learning. While debunking several common faculty fears, I point to theoretical issues to which all faculty—even those not interested in teaching online—should pay attention. The article then turns to practical applications.