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Acceptability of Distance Learning

Web-Based Teacher Preparation Programs and Elementary Education A study was conducted by Huss (2006) discussing how distance learning undertaken by applicants to an elementary school might affect their chances of getting hired. The growing popularity of distance learning merits its review in terms of the ability of degree-holders to actually obtain jobs. Huss (2006) discussed previous studies in the business industry ascertaining whether or not holding an online degree affected the chances of job applicants. The studies showed that indeed there were adverse effects of holding online degrees.

As such, Huss (2006) undertook the assessment of whether or not teachers who obtain degrees through distance learning would meet the same adverse effects when applying for elementary school teaching positions. The method employed by Huss was different from that discussed in the previous studies. In the present study, Huss distributed questionnaires to several principals located in various states. Principals were chosen as participants to the study because the hiring of a teaching applicant is determined by the principal of the school.

Thus, their impression of distance learning and holders of online degrees was shown to be paramount. The principals’ opinions were solicited regarding the effectiveness of distance learning, the effect that an online degree would have on the qualification of an applicant as a teacher in their school, whether a traditional degree had any marked differences from an online degree, and the like. Through the responses of the principals it was shown that indeed traditional degrees are preferred over online degrees. Even principals who themselves had participated in distance learning revealed a bias for traditional degrees.

One of the most common concerns expressed was the lack of student-teacher and student-student interaction in distance learning. These were deemed important for the training of an elementary school teacher who the principals preferred to have good relational skills. An Analysis of “Web-Based Teacher Preparation Programs and Elementary Education” The study conducted by Huss (2006) was insightful in that it provided a new perspective on the quality of distance learning. Numerous studies have been conducted assessing the effectiveness of distance learning in terms of whether or not knowledge is indeed imparted to the distance learner.

Yet few studies have actually assessed whether or not an online degree would prove beneficial to the holder who is applying for work. Distance learning is gaining popularity to the public because of its easy accessibility thereby allowing the student to look after other pressing concerns which may be present. The goal of the study conducted by Huss however intended to analyze whether investing resources on an online degree would really afford the student the opportunity to better his or her circumstances. This indeed was a worthwhile endeavor.

Particularly in view of the lack of research conducted in the area of distance learning as undertaken by teachers, Huss’ study is quite informative. Here the paradox is shown where the educational community deems appropriate the offering of online courses yet it will not honor the quality of such courses through the refusal to hire online degree holders. Although effective in reflecting the bias of educators for traditional methods of learning, Huss’ study serves more as a benchmark and springboard for future research. The study indeed revealed several areas of weakness in terms of the method utilized.

The most notable weakness of the research is the failure to actually place the employer in the context of hiring a job applicant. The method that Huss employed focused on obtaining questionnaire responses from principals of different schools. While a questionnaire is an effective tool for soliciting in-depth information regarding the opinion and impressions of a given population, it doesn’t by itself stimulate an environment which would ensure that the participant is in a frame of mind that would yield the most appropriate responses.

In this particular study the principals were not in the process of hiring an applicant nor were they presented with application forms presenting the qualifications of various candidates. Thus, in merely distributing questionnaires to the participants the researcher was only able to fully ascertain the preconceived notions of the sample population as regards distance learning and the quality of online degrees. However, other variables which may be present during an actual hiring process were not introduced.

Take for example one of the strongest arguments presented by the participant principals, that of lack of face-to-face interaction between student-teacher and student-student in the set-up of distance learning. The study showed that the employers placed great importance on this aspect of traditional learning because they deemed it essential that elementary school teachers possess good inter-personal skills. It should be noted that a persons ability to relate to others isn’t determined by his or her exposure to traditional learning institutions.

Moreover, such characteristics of a job applicant aren’t evident in his or her resume but may better be appreciated through personal interviews conducted by the employer. Given this situation, the pre-conceived notion of the employer principal against distance learning may very well be misplaced. It can therefore be seen that while Huss’ study was able to present a fresh perspective as regards the assessment of the validity of distance learning, particularly in the field of education, the method employed to gather data was not optimal.

The failure to simulate an environment where the hiring process would be replicated caused the research to overlook a necessary variable in employing job applicants. However, despite this need for a new methodological approach, the research was helpful in ascertaining the impression that employers in the education sector held as regards distance learning. The strength of the study finds basis in its sampling. The inclusion of principals from different states allowed for externally valid data.

Moreover, the acknowledgment that some of the principals had themselves taken up some degree of distance learning allowed for a clearer picture of how distance learning is received as a means of attaining a degree. The study serves as a stepping stone for future research in the field. It has provided for the aspects of distance learning which employer principals view as difficulties making the job candidate not as qualified as those who have undergone traditional learning. As such it opens up avenues for future studies.

In the review of previous studies, Huss was able to discuss several studies concerning the business industry wherein the actual employment rates of applicants who underwent distance learning was compared with those of applicants who underwent traditional learning. Since the purpose of the study was to assess whether or not teachers holding online degrees would be hired by elementary school principals, the actual number of teachers hired would have been a more appropriate method.

Acceptability of Distance Learning as a Qualification in Hiring Elementary Teachers Distance learning is gaining popularity due to the increasing technological literacy of the general public. The ease with which online degree programs may be accessed compounded with the self-paced learning that they offer has afforded the working class an efficient means to improve their academic attainment. However, albeit efficient the effectiveness of distance learning in improving an individual’s work opportunities is questionable.

Students may invest in distance learning and even successfully complete the courses offered but they would still have to contend with students of traditional learning institutions. This paper will study how elementary school employers gauge candidates with online degree courses as compared with candidates holding traditional degrees. Previous studies regarding this field has been conducted, both as regards the element of hiring candidates holding online degrees and as regards the particular situation of elementary school hiring.

This study will broaden the current knowledge regarding the field by focusing on the perceived disadvantages of distance learning as shown by elementary school employers. First, the study will introduce the part distance learner as opposed to the distance learner who obtained a full degree online. Also, the study will attempt to address another important aspect of elementary education which is said to be neglected in distance learning, face-to-face interaction. One major concern of elementary school employers is the lack of student-student and student-teacher face-to-face interaction in distance learning.

Elementary school employers have reported the importance of being trained not only academically but also relationally since the elementary school classroom requires an instructor who has good relational skills (Huss, 2006). This study will consider how the chances of a candidate possessing an online degree but manifesting good people skills might improve or worsen. Therefore it must be seen whether or not the candidate even has a chance to show his or her relational skills either through a personal interview or through a demonstration teaching class.

Literature Review Studies have shown that investing in online degrees don’t necessarily improve the employment opportunities of distance learners. Employers are still reluctant to offer job opportunities to applicants because of doubts regarding the quality of education that is offered through distance learning. This is particularly a problem because of many online communities which have recently been flooding electronic mailboxes with offers of PhD’s in exchange for large amounts of money (Carnevale, 2007).

However, distance learning is still gaining popularity particularly since it is resorted to by individuals who are beset with social constraints, whether external or internal, thereby preventing them from pursuing more traditional degree courses. The need for distance learning is therefore quite real. Because of the need of those individuals who are confined to taking online degree courses, the disadvantaged stance of such individuals when applying for jobs must be addressed.

A study of the business industry showed the incidence of hiring when candidates were segregated as those who obtained degrees completely online, those who obtained them partially online, and those who obtained them through the traditional method (Adams & DeFleur, 2006). The study showed that candidates who obtained their degrees through the traditional method were preferred over the other two groups. A prevalent reason was the mistrust that was attached to an online degree program.

However, the study didn’t report the between-groups differences of the group wherein candidates obtained their degrees completely online and the group wherein candidates they obtained them only partially online. This present study will replicate the groupings in the study of Adams and DeFleur (2006) and will not only look at which grouping has the highest incidence of employment but also whether or not the introduction of partial traditional learning has a significant effect in improving the chances of hiring of a candidate with an online degree.

However, in the present study the researcher will also study the effect of candidates addressing common misgivings regarding distance learning. Huss (2006) was able to show that elementary school employers have difficulty accepting candidates with online degrees because they fail to undergo an important part of a teacher’s education, face-to-face interaction between co-students as well as with the teacher. Elementary school employers give primary importance to such interaction because elementary school teachers are preferred to have good relational skills in order to properly address the needs of the students (Huss, 2006).

The lack of interaction in distance learning is therefore perceived as a lack of instruction on the part of the distance learner disabling the learner from sufficient preparation for the elementary classroom. The present study will address this disadvantage of the elementary school teacher applicant through assessing the difference that will be made if a candidate possessed good people skills apart from having obtained an online degree.

In order to be able to manifest whether or not such skills are present, the candidate must be afforded the opportunity to either interview personally or to hold a demonstration teaching class. Such an opportunity as offered to online degree holders compared with their counterparts will be assessed. Moreover, the likelihood that an online degree holder who is afforded such an opportunity will be employed will also be rated. Finally, just as in the study conducted by Huss (2006), the effect that any distance learning which the employer may have undertaken on the incidence of hiring will also be noted.

Methodology The method to be applied in the current study will be similar to that employed by Adams and DeFleur as well as Huss in their individual studies. Several factors in the character of the job candidate which were not observed in the two previous studies will be taken into consideration. Apart from this, several steps in the hiring process will also be observed which weren’t previously given importance in the two previous studies. Research Design and Rationale The study will employ a mixed methods design which will integrate an interpretative approach with a positivist one.

The interpretative approach will be focused on the incidence of hiring from the perspective of the employer. This will center on the factors which affect the employers decision regarding the perceived qualifications of the candidate. The positivist approach on the other hand will be focused on the scrutiny of the candidate’s opportunity to communicate more of her personal qualifications to the employer thereby going beyond the fact that the resume reveals that the candidate’s degree was obtained online.

There is no hypothesis testing in this study. Participants The participants of this study will be elementary school employers who currently have a vacancy in their faculty. Further, all the candidates who will submit resumes as a result of the vacancy will be included as participants in the study. Huss (2006) ensured the participation of several employers in different states but due to the time constraints of this study, only nearby elementary schools within the state will be included.

The candidates on the other hand will be subdivided into three groups as determined by how their degrees were obtained: completely online, partially online, or traditionally. Procedure The researcher will first obtain permission from the respective gate-keepers of each elementary school. After obtaining permission, a copy the resumes of the job applicants will be collected by the researcher upon the submission of such resumes to the employer who will be conducting the screening.

The researcher will monitor the number of candidates who will be invited for interview or demonstration teaching opportunities. The identity of the candidates will also be noted but only for the purpose of ascertaining to which grouping they belong. The researcher will also record such interviews or be present in such demonstration teachings if the consent of the candidate is obtained. After the interview or demonstration, the candidates will be asked to answer a questionnaire which will assess their relational skills. Finally, the researcher will note who were finally hired by the employer.

After such hiring, the employers will be asked to complete a questionnaire which will help the researcher better understand what factors were considered by the employer in choosing the candidate, what the employer’s opinion of distance learning is, and whether or not he or she took up any form of distance learning. Data Collection and Instrumentation The data will be collected through questionnaires handed out to the candidates as well as to the employers which will present both fixed choice questions and open-ended questions.

Furthermore, data will be obtained from the resumes of the applicants such that the means by which they obtained their degrees will be assessed. Throughout the whole process the anonymity of the participants will be secured. Data analysis Statistical analysis will be employed to determine whether or not significant differences are present when the various factors being studied are introduced: online degree, partial online degree, opportunity to be interviewed, opportunity to demo teach, etc. However, the questionnaires will also be analyzed using content analysis.

The persistent themes presented as answers to the open-ended questions will be codified in order that a more holistic understanding of the perspectives and experience of the participants is reached. Limitations The study is limited however in terms of the time within which it is to be conducted. The time constraint prevents the researcher from including too many participants. Thus, a smaller area will be covered in carrying out the study. Furthermore, the study will be limited in that it will only consider actual incidents of hiring. Potential uses of the planned research

The research is useful in that it assesses the actual incidence of hiring and does not merely draw out the factors which may contribute to pre-conceived notions regarding distance learning as held by employers. In showing the actual incidence of hiring, the chances of an online degree holder are better appreciated. Moreover, the focus which the study will give to steps in the hiring process wherein the holder of an online degree may improve his or her chances of being hired will address the need to give more opportunities to those people who are constrained to obtaining degrees online.

References Adams, J. , & Defleur, M. (2006). The acceptability of online degrees earned as a credential for obtaining employment. Communication Education, 55, 32-45. Carnevale, D. (2007). Employers Often Distrust Online Degrees. Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(18), 28-37. Huss, J. A. (2006). Web-Based Teacher Preparation Programs and Elementary Education: Will Principals Hire These Teachers? Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, 6, 43-54.

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