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The distance learning revolution

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Title:
The distance learning revolution an assessment of its effect on public administration graduate students
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Scheer, Teva J
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English
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212 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Distance education ( lcsh )
Public administration -- Study and teaching (Graduate) ( lcsh )
Distance education ( fast )
Public administration -- Study and teaching (Graduate) ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 197-212).
General Note:
School of Public Affairs
Statement of Responsibility:
by Teva J. Scheer.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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ocm45210996
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LD1190.P86 2000d .S33 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE DISTANCE LEARNING REVOLUTION:
AN ASSESSMENT OF ITS EFFECT
ON PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION GRADUATE STUDENTS
by
Teva J.Scheer
B.A., University of Northern Colorado, 1972
M.P.A., University of Southern California, 1980
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Public Administration
2000


2000 by Teva J. Scheer
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Teva J. Scheer
has been approved
by
Peter deLeon
Laura Goodwin
O /)|\a'XeAn
Date


Scheer, Teva J. (Ph.D., Public Administration)
The Distance Learning Revolution: An Assessment of Its Effect
on Public Administration Graduate Students
Thesis directed by Professor Peter deLeon
ABSTRACT
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of two primary distance
learning media, video and on-line, on the satisfaction and the academic performance of
Public Administration (PA) masters-level students. The study also sought to
determine if certain characteristics (e.g., motivation, home support) could be identified
which, together, would suggest a predictive profile of the successful PA distance
learner. Survey data were collected from students in 18 Summer or Fall semester
1999 classes offered by schools of PA at four universities. The video and on-line
classes were compared to student responses from traditional classes in the same
subject areas, offered by the same four institutions. Of the 335 students in the
targeted classes, 229 (68.4 percent) responded to the survey. Of the 108 respondents
who were distance learners, approximately 14 percent were subsequently inteviewed
by phone.
The hypotheses were that (1) there would be no significant differences between
distance learners and classroom students based on final course grade; (2) there would
be no significant differences based on their satisfaction ratings; and (3) distance
learners would be more mature, more motivated, and more self-directed than
classroom learners. The study found that there was no significant difference, based on
final grade, between the classroom and video students or between the classroom and
on-line students; but that there was a significant difference between the video and on-
line students. Subsequent statistical analysis suggested that this difference might be
due to the schools grading practices rather than to inherent differences between the
two student groups. The study also found that there was no significant difference
IV


between the three groups course and instructor satisfaction ratings. Statistical
analysis failed to identify any characteristics or constructs that predicted successful
distance learners, although on-line students were significantly older, more likely to be
working full-time or more, and somewhat more likely to have child rearing
responsibilities than the classroom students. Follow up interviews suggested that the
distance learners were enrolled in the video or on-line courses not from preference, but
from necessity. Without distance learning, most could not be pursuing PA studies
and, while they were grateful for the opportunity that distance learning media afforded,
most would prefer traditional classes if circumstances permitted. The conclusion was
that distance learners may differ little from their classroom peers, and that their
participation in distance learning courses may be situational rather than a permanent
preference or placement.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed.
Peter deLeon
v


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
And certainly there were many others .. .from whom I had assimilated a word, a glance, but of whom as
individual beings I remembered nothing; a book is a great cemetery in which, for the most part, the
names upon the tombs are effaced.
Marcel Proust, Time Regained
One acknowledges the support and assistance of certain individuals only at the
sure and terrible risk of leaving out others who helped just as much.
I am grateful for every mentor who helped me to learn and grow during my 20-
plus years in the Federal service. I remember them all with affection and admiration.
Their wisdom and their counsel are reflected on each page of this thesis.
Likewise, I owe a large debt to the professors at the Graduate School of Public
Affairs, especially Peter deLeon, who coached and assisted me throughout my
doctoral studies. Laura Goodwin from the Graduate School of Education, one of the
two most talented teachers I encountered at the University, patiently worked with
me through the methdology and data analysis phases of the dissertation; Laura
possesses a miraculous talent to make statistics seem understandable even to a math-
challenged student like me. My professors all endured with grace my arguments and
disputations. They challenged me intellectually. They pushed me to explore
alternate viewpoints. And they guided my earliest steps in the strange new world of
academic scholarship.
Finally, I acknowledge the support of my husband, Jon, who has considered me
certifiably crazy ever since the day I enrolled in the doctoral program. Despite his
misgivings as to my mental state, he insured my successful completion of this thesis
with every meal he cooked, every car pool he ran, and every chore he completed while
I sat doggedly in front of the computer. As always, I am grateful for all that he does
for me. Qucmdo ullum invenientparum?


CONTENTS
Figures ................................................................ ix
Tables....................................................................x
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION........................................................ 1
Context and Significance ..........................................1
Purpose of the Study...............................................4
Organization of the Dissertation...................................6
2. PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION IN THE ACADEMY:
A TRADITION OF EXPERIMENTATION.......................................7
Curricular Revolution: From the Classics
to Professional Graduate Education...............................7
The Bureau Movement and Practice-Oriented PA Education........... 12
Establishment and Promotion of Internships........................18
Continuing, External, and Nontraditional Study Arrangements...... 19
Adoption and Promulgation of the Case Study Method ...............22
PA Education at the Crossroads: Status Quo, or Continued Innovation? . 28
Towards a Theoretical Model of the PA Graduate Experience........32
Conclusion: Facing the Distance Learning Challenge ...............34
3. LEARNING THEORY ....................................................36
What Is Learning?...............................................37
Andragogy and Adult Learning Principles ..........................45
Experiential Learning.............................................48
Role of the Instructor............................................52
Critique of the Learning Theory Literature........................60
Concluding Thoughts on Learning Theory............................63
4. DISTANCE LEARNING RESEARCH ..........................................67
What Is Distance Learning?........................................68
Distance Learning in the PA Community ............................73
Does Course Medium Make a Difference?.............................76
vii


Studies of Video-Based Classes..................................79
Student Performance in Video-Based Courses .............81
Student Satisfaction in Video-Based Courses...............86
Studies of On-Line Classes......................................92
Best- and Worst-Practice in On-Line Courses.............97
Student Performance in On-Line Courses.................. 101
Student Satisfaction in On-Line Courses................. 105
Critique of the Distance Learning Research Studies ........... 107
Summary of Research Findings .................................. Ill
5. RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND METHODOLOGY .............................. 115
Research Questions and Hypotheses.............................. 115
Research Design ............................................... 116
Sample Characteristics and Sampling Strategy................... 120
Pilot Study and Instrument Development......................... 124
Reliability Testing...................................... 125
Validity w............................................... 127
Study Limitations and Delimitations............................ 131
6. RESEARCH RESULTS.................................................. 133
Sample Demographics and Characteristics........................ 134
Research Question #1 .......................................... 146
Research Question #2 .......................................... 150
Research Question #3 .......................................... 158
7. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS.......................................... 165
Quantitative Findings.......................................... 165
Qualitative Findings........................................... 169
Recommendations for Future Research ........................... 171
Concluding Thoughts............................................ 173
APPENDICES
A: SUBJECT CONSENT LETTER AND SURVEY........................... 177
B: CONTENT VALIDITY REVIEW BY RESPONDENTS...................... 185
C: CONTENT VALIDITY REVIEW BY EXPERTS ......................... 187
D: CONSENT LETTERS ............................................ 189
viii
BIBLIOGRAPHY
197


FIGURES
Figure
2.1 Contribution of PA Content to the MPA Distance Learning
Students Satisfaction and Performance...................... 33
3.1 Variables in Blooms Theory of School Learning...................... 43
3.2 The Experiential Learning Cycle..................................... 51
3.3 Learning Theorys Contributions to the MPA Distance Learning
Students Satisfaction and Performance...................... 65
4.1 The On-Line Course Development Process.............................. 95
4.2 Rating Factors in On-Line Course Assessment........................ 101
4.3 Overall Factors Contributing to the MPA Distance Learning
Students Satisfaction and Performance..................... 114
6.1 Gender of Respondents (%).......................................... 136
6.2 Age of Respondents (%)............................................. 137
6.3 At-Home Support System (%) ........................................ 138
6.4 # of Children Under 18 At Home (%)................................. 139
6.5 Student Enrollment Status.......................................... 139
6.6 Typical Employment Schedule (%).................................... 140
6.7 Primary Reason for School Selection (%)............................ 141
IX


6.8 # Miles Traveled to Class (%)..................................... 142
6.9 Video Students Prior Video Course Experience (%)................. 144
6.10 What Students Liked Best About Class (%).......................... 155
7.1 Factors Contributing to the MPA Distance Learning
Students Satisfaction and Performance.................... 175
x


TABLES
Table
3.1 Stages and Activities in Group Investigation......................... 56
4.1 1995 Distance Learning Course Offerings, by Medium................... 73
4.2 Summary of Factors Predicting Distance Learning Success............. 113
5.1 PA Classes Included in the Study.................................... 118
5.2 Survey Items, by Research Questions................................. 129
6.1 Frequency Responses, by Participating Institutions.................. 135
6.2 Frequency Responses, by Medium...................................... 135
6.3 Prior Experience With Computers, by Medium.......................... 143
6.4 Summary of Significant Demographic Differencs Based on
Course Medium................................................ 145
6.5 Analysis of Covariance for Effect of Medium on Grade................ 147
6.6 Descriptive Statistics and MCP Results for Final Grade,
by Medium.................................................... 148
6.7 Analysis of Variance for Student Agreement with Grade,
by Medium.................................................... 149
6.8 Course Design Satisfaction Subscale: Reliability Analysis........... 151
xi


6.9 Analysis of Variance for Course Design Satisfaction,
by Course Medium.............................................. 152
6.10 Instructor Satisfaction Subscale: Reliability Analysis.................. 153
6.11 Analysis of Variance for Satisfaction With Instructor,
by Course Medium.............................................. 153
6.12 Analysis of Variance for Overall Satisfaction, by Course Medium ... 154
6.13 Means and Standard Deviations for Overall Course
Satisfaction.................................................. 154
6.14 Interviewees Most Frequently Mentioned
Attributes of Distance Learning............................... 155
6.15 Summary of Subscales 3-1 Through 3-3.................................... 160
6.16 Analysis of Variance Summary for Subscales 3-1 Through 3-3.............. 161
6.17 Linear Regressions on Subscales 3-1 to 3-3,
by Distance Learning Groups..................................... 162
6.18 Means and Standard Deviations for Constructs, by Medium................. 163
6.19 Support Systems Subscale: Reliability Analysis.......................... 164
6.20 Analysis of Variance for Support Systems, by Course Medium........... 164
7.1 Summary of Study Findings............................................... 166
xii


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Be assured that if our faculties and administrators do not take this opportunity [to assess and change],
we shall then be led through the humiliating process of having legislators and mere market pressures
hack our schools to pieces, bit by bit.
Willimon and Naylor 1995,109
Context and Significance
As the trend toward distance learning in higher education continues, colleges
and universities will increasingly be in competition to provide the highest quality and
most relevant educational experience possible or risk going out of business. This is
germane to all levels of higher education, including professional degree programs. The
good news for schools of Public Administration (PA) is that PA schools already have
considerable experience in dealing with the older, more mature, and more demanding
studentthat lifelong learner that demographic trends tell us will comprise the
majority of students in higher education in the coming decades. By the early 1980s, 70
of the then-114 member schools in the National Association of Schools of Public
Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)1 reported that half or more of their students
1 In this dissertation, the term PA effectively incorporates a variety of similar programs that might go under
the names of public policy, public employment, or public affairs. NASPAA is the standard-setting and
accrediting body of the PA academic community.
1


were in-career, and 76 of the programs reported that half or more of their students
were studying part-time. Half or more of PA graduate students were 25 years of age
or older (Young and Eddy 1982). The worrisome news is that the vast majority of
these schools student populations are demographically parochialthey principally
draw their students from working adults in their geographic vicinity. However, with
the advent of quality distance learning programs, future PA students will have more
university, graduate program, and schedule choices than ever. With these choices
naturally comes competition for students, the likes of which the PA schools have never
seen. If the students self-perceived educational needs and priorities are not met, they
may vote with their feet and take their tuition dollars elsewhere.
In a survey conducted over 20 years ago, a majority of 600 recent graduates
with masters degrees in Public Administration or Public Policy indicated that they
selected their graduate programs based on their proximity to the students places of
work (Henry, 1977). Distance learning technologies, of course, radically alter the
school-choice equation. Suddenly, asynchronous distance learning classes at Harvard
could be more convenient to a student in Denvers southern suburbs than traditional
classes at Metropolitan State College in downtown Denver. Distance learning may
cause the primary criterion for students school selection to change from geographic
proximity to one of quality, convenience, or cost. Yet the new technologies raise
critical questions to the field of Public Administration: What is the effect of distance
I
2


learning on the ultimate quality of a PA degree? How will a PA graduate be changed,
for better and worse, as a result of education through distance learning? The answer
to the last question has an ultimate impact on the citizens to whom most PA graduates
will provide service.
Katz and his associates term the current generation of students the digital
generation.
They approach learning as a plug-and-play experience: they are
unaccustomed and unwilling to learn sequentiallyto read the manualand
instead are inclined to plunge in and learn through participation and
experimentation. Although this type of learning is far different from the
sequential, pyramidal approach of the traditional college or university
curriculum, it may be far more effective for this generation, particularly when
provided through a media-rich environment (1999, 7).
The potential convenience of distance education and the characteristics of
todays PA student (i.e., older, more experienced in the work world, more likely to be
studying part-time, more defined in their learning objectives) seem to point strongly to
the inevitability of growth in PA distance learning classes and programs.
Nevertheless, it became clear during this study that most NASPAA member schools
are still at the earliest stages of experimentation with distance learning technologies.
One PA school official even indicated that he hoped his school would avoid the
distance learning revolution for as long as possible. While there exists a fear of the
unknown and a generalized concern that distance learning may diminish the quality of
PA education, colleges and universities seem to have tremendous difficulty in
understanding that the student is already different, and . higher-education now may
3


be called upon to change. . [T]here might be more than one way to sustain a quality
academic tradition (Eaton 1991, 156).
The term distance learning revolution seems particularly relevant for the field
of Public Administration. As discussed in Chapter 2 of this dissertation, the field of
Public Administration itself has a long tradition of embracing educational innovations
within the American academic community. Rather than ignoring or resisting this sea-
change in educational media, it would seem far more fitting for the schools of Public
Administration to provide leadership to the American academy in the distance learning
arena. The challenge for the NASPAA member schools is to take advantage of the
distance learning medias opportunities for student access and flexibility, while
simultaneously insuring provision of a high-quality educational experience.
Purpose of the Study
Katz and his associates suggest that while it is difficult to anticipate the
particular form the 21st century university may take, there are certain themes that are
likely to typify higher education. The first theme they identify, one that is woven
throughout their book, is a shift from faculty-centered to learner-centered
institutions. The academy will join other social institutions in the public and private
sectors in recognizing that we must become more focused on those we serve (Katz et
al. 1999, 22; authors emphasis). For this reason, the focus of this study is the effect
of distance learning on the students rather than on the institutionsalthough, of
4


course, the latter are hardly left unaffected.
The purpose of the dissertation is to explore the effect of distance learning
technology on the students pursuing a masters-level PA degree, generally considered
to be the terminal degree for a professional practitioner.2 The study matches students
from four PA programs who completed similar courses using one of three media:
traditional classroom format, Web-based on-line format, and video-based format.3
The thesis seeks to determine if there are significant differences in students
satisfaction, attitudes and performance as a function of their courses delivery media.
A secondary purpose of the dissertation is to determine if students who successfully
complete technology-delivered courses share certain characteristics. If this study
assists in developing predictive profiles of successful and unsuccessful students in
technology-delivered programs, then PA schools could use these profiles to improve
their student selection and support systems.
At this early stage in the PA communitys experiment with technology-
delivered courses, there is as yet relatively little distance learning research emerging
from the field itself. Nevertheless, this thesis seeks to provide PA institutions with a
better understanding of the characteristics, attitudes, and motivations of their distance
2
The study is motivated, in part, by the authors past four years of experience in developing and delivering
video and CD-ROM courses for a government agency.
For detailed definitions of on-line and video-based courses, refer to the appropriate sections of
Chapter 4.
5


learning students, to help those institutions as they begin their distance learning
journeys.
Organization of the Dissertation
Three dissimilar bodies of literature are reviewed as the basis of this
dissertations research, so they have been organized into three distinct chapters.
Chapter Two establishes the thesis historical and contextual foundation within the
field of Public Administration education. Chapter Three lays out the groundwork of
learning theory that underlies best-practice course design and delivery in the distance
learning arena. Chapter Four presents an in-depth survey of distance learning
research. It provides an operational definition of distance learning, discusses the PA
educational communitys experiences to date with distance learning, examines the
controversy surrounding the impact of course medium, and reviews research studies
relating to video-based and to on-line distance learning courses.
Chapter Five presents the dissertations three research questions and associated
hypotheses. It also details the research design, the sample characteristics and
sampling strategy, the pilot study, and the research limitations and delimitations.
Chapter Six presents the research results, and Chapter Seven presents the studys
conclusions and recommendations for subsequent research and practice.
6


CHAPTER 2
PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION IN THE ACADEMY:
A TRADITION OF EXPERIMENTATION
Performance in the practice of public administration cannot be divorced from the
manner in which public managers are prepared (or ill-prepared) by universities.
Lambright 1981, 3.
This chapter establishes the Public Administration context from which we can,
in subsequent chapters, consider the import of distance learning technology on the
field. The chapters thesis is that the field of Public Administration enjoys a tradition
of experimentation in the American academic community, and that Public
Administration and its precursors have often found themselves in the forefront of
educational reform and modernization in the American academy. PA educations
legacy as an academic innovator sets the stage for a potential leadership role in the
fixture development of distance learning.
Curricular Revolution: From the Classics
to Professional Graduate Education
There was certainly nothing revolutionary about American colleges earliest
curriculum. The colleges all shared the same one, which had been borrowed in toto
from England. The curriculum varied only in degree from the medieval curriculum: a
7


narrow, rigidly conceived academic regimen consisting of. . classical works in
philology, rhetoric, formal logic or dialectic, grammar, ancient history, Greco-
Roman literature, geography, ethics, and theology (Lucas 1996, 51). All students
studied the same courses; there were no electives from which to choose. A college
education was a luxury limited almost exclusively to the upper classes. Although a
primary purpose of the nations early colleges was to prepare adequate numbers of
ministers for the growing number of churches in the colonies, the curricular emphasis
was to create moral and critical thinkersnot to teach practical skills. Practical skills
were considered ephemeral; to the extent that students would eventually need to
master them, practical skills were best left to be learned on the job (Hofstadter 1952,
Tewksbury 1976, Ricci 1984). This view of education was to have a conservative
and long-lasting impact on American higher education in the form of a controversy
that is still alive today: Which goal should predominate in the university, development
of liberally educated, critical thinkers, or development of students for careers?
Writing in 1952, Hofstadter concluded, The educational ferment of the past twenty-
five years has grown from an attempt to strike a balance between these extremes and
to salvage the best features of both (56).
Yet almost from the beginning of the colonial period, some government leaders
and educators were questioning the fitness of the classic curriculum to prepare citizens
of the New Worldand to prepare public administratorseven though the
8


establishment of PA as a recognized academic field was still more than a century away.
While Harvard (1636) and William and Mary (1696), the colonies first two colleges,
were founded largely to educate ministers, the third college (Yale, 1701) was
established so that youth may be instructed in the arts & sciences, who through the
blessing of Almighty God may be fitten for public employment. (Franklin Dexter,
quoted in Hofstadter 1952, 4). As a principal in the establishment of the University of
Virginia in the early 1800s, Jefferson proposed an expanded curriculum with several
electives, and he enumerated a set of University purposes, two of which relate directly
to public administration:
... [t]o form the statesmen, legislators and judges, on whom public prosperity
and individual happiness are so much to depend; [and]
To expound the principles and structure of government... (Hofstadter and
Smith 1961, quoting the Report of the Rockfish Gap Commission of 1818,
193-199).
By the mid-1850s, the pressures to modernize the American college had largely
carried the day. While England had provided our model of liberal undergraduate
education, 19th century Germany provided our model of a graduate institution, with
its idea of a faculty involved in research and dedicated to the preparation of future
scholars (Bok 1986, 10). However, Ricci notes that
. . [t]he German model was not strictly copied, since in Germany higher
degrees were still awarded only in the traditional medieval faculties of law,
medicine, theology, and philosophy, whereas in America advanced study also
took place in newly established schools such as those for agriculture,
engineering, and business (Ricci 1984, 42).
9


In 1847, Yale was the first American college to offer graduate study, and it
was the first to award an American Ph.D. in 1861. Congressman Justin Smith
Morrills Land Grant College Act was signed into law in 1862. The law endowed
each state with 30,000 acres of land for each state senator and representative, and
required each state to establish a land grant college within five years. The colleges
were designed to be institutions where the leading object shall be, without excluding
other scientific or classical studies, to teach such branches of learning as are related to
agriculture and the mechanic arts (Land Grant College Act of 1862, quoted in Lucas
1996, 61).
The earliest graduate programs had been in the arts and sciences; establishment
of graduate programs to prepare students for professional careers did not occur until
the 1870s. Legal studies, for example, transitioned gradually from on-the-job
clerkships to university courses. In 1870, Harvard was the first college to appoint a
dean to lead its legal studies program (Hofstadter 1952). The first collegiate school of
business, Wharton, was founded in 1881 within the University of Pennsylvanias liberal
arts college (Hofstadter 1952). One of the earliest disciplines to establish a
professional graduate school was political science. Hofstadter has noted, In 1880 a
great forward step was taken [at Columbia] when John W. Burgess founded the
School of Political Science, which very soon attracted to its faculty a striking list of
luminaries, and served as the model for Columbias other graduate divisions (62-63).
10


Seven years after the founding of the first graduate program of political
science, Woodrow Wilson published his seminal essay in which he proposed a
separation of the policy function from the practical science of administration (Wilson
1887, quoted in F.C. Mosher 1981). Ellwood has noted,
Having separated policy choice from administration what remained was the
goal of efficiency; and for the progressives efficiency could be achieved by
adopting modem business practices to the management of the public sector.
The belief that such practices could be taught led to the development of the
first forms of graduate education in the United States (Ellwood 1985, 4).
Proponents of the classic curriculum remained vocal critics of the new
professional schools for several decades. Almost 40 years after the earliest
professional graduate schools were founded, Thorsten Veblen would argue that they
were fundamentally at odds with the [academic] principles of disinterested inquiry
(Hofstadter 1952, 93-94). In a 1938 written debate with William Mosher over the
education of public administrators, Robert Hutchins, the president of the University of
Chicago, wrote that the field of public service did not lend itself to development of
curriculum content that was fundamental and teachable. He was not, however,
suggesting that future leaders could not be educated. On the contrary, Hutchins
proposed a return to the model of the classical education:
The great works of history beginning with Herodotus and Thucydides and
coming down to the present day are full of penetrating analyses of actions in
immediate concrete situations. . It seems to me self-evident that the best
educational equipment for public life is a thorough knowledge of the moral and
political wisdom accumulated through our intellectual history (Hutchins
1938, 7).
11


So began the American controversy over the appropriate direction of graduate
education and the best way to prepare future public administrators. Echoes of the
controversy continue to play out in PA education in contemporary timesfor
example, Robert Denhardts argument that PA educators have concentrated too much
on disciplinary-based cognitive knowledge, resulting in narrowly focused
practitioners who lack the social, political, and moral context to be effective leaders
in the public arena (Denhardt 1987, 119). Nevertheless, the political science
precursors of PA education were in the forefront of the innovators that supported
university-sponsored graduate education to provide practical preparation for careers.
The Bureau Movement and Practice-Oriented PA Education
Twenty-five years after Columbia established the first graduate political science
department and 18 years before Syracuse established the first academic school of
Public Administration to function independently of political science, the bureau
movement developed a number of practice-oriented initiatives that would be
embraced by the field of PA from the start. These initiatives included:
the early training and research partnerships with governmental entities,
the establishment of internships,
the adoption of external study arrangements such as extension and in-career
continuing education programs, and
use of the case study method.
In 1906, the New York Bureau of Municipal Research was founded as an
12


organization, independent of government and privately funded, whose goal was to
conduct studies to improve the municipal services in New York City. As the
Bureaus work began to have its effect on New York city government, other cities
administrators came to the Bureau to ask for help. The Bureaus scope changed from
New York City concerns to governmental issues in general, in recognition that the
process of government was similar in all locales. By 1911, the Bureau had established
a Training School for Public Service that eventually formed the nucleus of the first
university PA program, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at
Syracuse University (1924), to exist independently outside a political science program
(Dahlberg 1966, Johnson 1974, Graham 1941).
The early Training Schools initial methodology was for its students to learn
by doing. The students were assigned to various Bureau projects, supplemented by
written assignments, progress reports, and conferences. Charles Beard became head
of the school in 1915. He found that the increased number of young and
inexperienced applicants, lacking a background for immediate fieldwork, required the
establishment of a more systematic program of formal lectures and seminars, albeit still
solidly grounded in the practical problems of administration (Graham 1941). Courses
for the 1916/17 year included municipal highway engineering, municipal accounting,
and police and fire administration. Through 1930, approximately 80 percent of the
Institutes full-time graduates entered government or other public service (Stone and
13


Stone 1975a, 268-271).
The research bureau movement provided the base from which Public
Administration educational programs would grow after the split from political science.
By 1913, eight universities4 had founded such bureaus, and by 1930 the number had
increased to 12 (White 1933). Typical research bureau functions included: collecting
and distributing information to public officials, public interest groups, and individual
citizens; providing staff support to organizations of public officials such as municipal
leagues; responding to governmental requests for consulting services; conducting
surveys; providing training programs for public officials; and conducting bureau-
initiated research projects (Cooper 1946). The organizational independence of the
bureaus from existing university schools, as well as their close ties to their public
customers, may have provided them considerable latitude to concentrate on
developing the kind of practical courses of study desired by practitionerscourses
that might have been discouraged within academic political science departments.
In their earlier years, university departments of political science had sought an
active role in public affairs and in preparing practitioners for careers in the public
service. However, in the years before and after World War II, political sciences
reexamination of its proper focus as a discipline set the stage for a split between the
fields of political science and Public Administration. Waldo points out that
4 Oregon, Texas, Washington, California, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Harvard, and Iowa.
14


[i]n its early years, Political Science moved significantly in the direction of
active involvement in public affairs, including preparation for careers in public
life. But in the twenties, just at the time the first textbooks of Public
Administration were appearing, Political Science was making a fateful shift
toward the science and disciplinary models as against the professional. After
World War II the shift became pronounced; the so-called behavioralists, after
many a battle with institutionalists and theorists, emerged as the dominant
force in the discipline. The result was to make departments of Political Science
less likely to provide nurturing environments for programs designed to prepare
for careers in public service (Waldo 1992, 50).
A defining characteristic of the behavioralists was the conviction that a kind
of inquiry exists which deserves the name and reputation of science, whereas other
intellectual efforts fall short of this goal and should only be called unscientific (Ricci
1984, 136).
The newly developing field of Public Administration was
... not grounded in a profound theory of society or even of organization and
managementany more than most of the other fields developing at the time
were theoretically based. Like them, public administration was pragmatic,
problem-oriented, sustained by faith in progress, efficiency, democratic
government, and what we now call meritocracy. . Like other movements
associated with the Progressive era, it reflected a fundamental optimism that
mankind could direct and control its environment and destiny for the better
(F.C. Mosher 1975, 4).
The behavioralists divided inquiry by a dichotomy between the realm of what
is and the realm of what ought to be. Science deals with what is, and nonscience
which might be theology, ethical theory, ideology, or something elsetakes as its
province those things that ought to be (Ricci 1984, 136-137). Based on this
dichotomy, Public Administration would not be an appropriate subfield of political
15


science.
In 1946, the University of Alabamas Bureau of Public Administration
published a series of papers on the emerging field of PA that captured the substance of
the debate between those political scientists who believed the field of political science
should continue to include Public Administration, and those who believed that PAs
practice orientation had no place in political science. James Fesler of the University
of North Carolina argued for the continued inclusion of PA in the Political science
field, and pointed out the potential repercussions if PA were to separate:
... [I]t would be fatal for public administration as a subject to become so
specialized as to lose its invigorating and enriching association with political
science and the other social sciences. The great subject of the effective
mobilization of men and ideas to aid the chief executive and the legislative
branch in the crystallization and achievement of the public interest would then
have become but a shallow Hissing about with mechanical contrivances and
procedures ill adjusted to the ends of a democratic society (Fesler 1946, 1).
Lent Upson of Wayne University responded that while he did not disagree with
the need to expose future practitioners to the historical, philosophical, and juridical
slant of political science, he was convinced that future public administrators needed
and deserved more from their graduate programs than they would receive from the
standard political science curriculum:
Those of us concerned primarily with public administration do not wish to train
narrow vocationalistsspecialists with no background in government and its
cognates. We do quarrel with the idea that the study of government stops with
history and philosophy and has so little truck with pressure groups, divided
administrative responsibility, dishonest public contractors, official graft, and
archaic methods of conducting public business. It is exactly that sort of vulgar
16


political science that concerns some of useven to the creation of special
schools to teach it, if it cannot be taught otherwise because of the dead hand of
university committees and of university traditions (Upson 1946, 26-27).
The roots of political science were in the Liberal Arts, the home of philosophy,
literature, and the artsnot a comfortable intellectual home for a newly developing
discipline with a goal of improving practice. In addition to the controversy about
inclusion or exclusion of practice-oriented content in the curriculum, the field of
political science was simultaneously struggling with the advent of empiricism and the
implications of behavioralism. Dwight Waldo has summarized these issues and
controversies. The liberal arts tradition within which political science had been
created, he noted,
. .. was that of learning for its own sake, of the cultivation of the mind and the
refining of tastes and sentiments as the distinguishing pursuit of humankind ...
In this view,... In this view,... Public Administration was concerned with
counting manhole covers;... Behavioralism set itself against this liberal-arts
tradition, but its view of Public Administration was no less unfavorable.
Behavioralism represented a firm and often near fanatical commitment to
creating a political science . with the aim of discovering laws, not to
prescribe with the aim of affecting behavior. Those who taught Public
Administration, it was held, not only prescribed, but moreover prescribed
before the laws of politics had been discovered. They taught technology, not
science, and this technology was at best trivial, at worst fraudulent (Waldo
1992, 50-51).
Speculating on the currently recognized differences between the fields and the
schools of political science and Public Administration, Jonathan Bendor has noted,
The key point is based on the venerable distinction between basic and practical
17


research... [Political science departments]... are, after all, in schools of humanities and
sciences, themselves oriented to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. In general,
public administration is applied research. It therefore often is situated, quite
appropriately, in professional schools, which by design are oriented toward solving
practical problems (Bendor 1994, 28). By mutual consent, then, the fields of
political science and Public Administration began to move in separate directions.
Public Administration continued to develop an emphasis on practice, and continued to
experiment with nontraditional methods of providing its students the kinds of
grounded knowledge and skills they would need as professional administrators.
Establishment and Promotion of Internships
The bureau-sponsored training institutes encouragedin some cases, even
requiredtheir students to complete internships in the field. These internships
provided the genesis for subsequent internship programs when formal PA programs
were established by universities. A survey of university-sponsored PA programs in
the late 1950s found that about half were requiring their students to complete
internships or some other form of fieldwork (Short 1958). By 1988, almost three-
fourths of the 193 NASPAA schools that granted masters degrees listed internships as
a requirement or an option (Auth 1988). Only nine schools required the internship of
all students, but 41 of the schools who responded to the 1988 survey required it of all
18


students who lacked public sector experience. The survey underscored the impact of
the NASPAA accreditation standards that do not require that all students complete
internships, but do require all accredited institutions to make available and to
encourage internships for all students who lack significant professional work
experience (NASPAA 1997).
Continuing. External, and Nontraditional
Study Arrangements
From its roots in the Bureau training academies and the earliest university PA
programs, continuing education programs characterized PA education. The goal of
the New York Bureaus Training School had been to provide individuals already
employed in the public service with a background in government, the functions and
processes of administration, and with research techniques (Stone and Stone 1975b,
29). In the 1920s, the various professional associations such as the International City
Managers Association, the Civil Service Assembly, and the American Municipal
Association joined together in calling for in-service training of public officials; while
some of the associations offered training courses, they all encouraged the universities
to assume this responsibility (Stone and Stone 1975b).
The second Public Administration program to be set up independent of a
political science department was the School of Citizenship and Public Administration
at the University of Southern California (USC), founded in 1929. USC founded its
i
19


program in response to requests from public employers in the Los Angeles area to
provide professional academic training for their employees. From its inception, it
supported off-campus programs that were designed to meet needs of practitioners who
were interested in degree or certificate programs (Stone and Stone 1975b).
In a Public Administration Review symposium on continuing education, one
contributor noted, [ijnterest in continuing adult education for public administrators
represents one contemporary response to the age-old concern of our field. What
do administrators need to be more effective? (McGill 1973, 499). While learning
experiences on the job are paramount in developing administrators job skills, the
reinforcement of continuing education courses offers administrators a framework for
their experiences and an opportunity to reflect on events and incidents, thereby
enhancing the learning experience.
Since PA programs have catered to in-service students from the start, evening
courses have been a standard feature of many PA programs. However, as even less
traditional programming and scheduling arrangements have been adopted by some PA
institutions, concerns have arisen as to their effect on the educational experience.
These arrangements include intensive weekend courses, extension sites away from the
home campus, special courses offered in foreign countries, and provision of academic
credit for relevant work experience. Critics of these nontraditional programs include
Klay, who raised several concerns in the early 1980s:
20


Competition for students could lead to establishment of alternative programs
with lowered standards of achievement and academic content.
Distance learning arrangements would reduce the contact between student and
professor, a trend that troubled Klay, although he admitted that there was no
research that this reduced contact would diminish educational efficacy.
Many students in nontraditional programs would lack access to university
facilities, particularly research libraries (Klay 1982).
As a result of these and similar concerns, the NASPAA standards were
amended to incorporate criteria for assess whether a PA institution sponsoring such
programs should retain accreditation. The most important elements in the revised
standards are:
The special programs admission standards and core curricula must be
comparable to those of their parent programs;
academic and administrative support services available to students in special
programs must be comparable to those available at the main campus; and
faculty provision and treatment (e g., selection, tenure arrangements,
workloads, faculty diversity) must be comparable to that at the main campus
(NASPAA 1997).
Ralph Chandler addressed many of the concerns about nontraditional programs
in his contribution to a 1982 volume that examined issues facing the PA educational
21


community. Chandler addressed PAs commitment to equity, and suggested that
equity can be fostered more effectively through nontraditional course structures than
traditional ones: Students in nontraditional classrooms are there with high
expectations, maturity, and discipline . They cannot be expected to fit into the
traditional pattern of college as a kind of extended adolescence (Chandler 1982, 20).
Adoption and Promulgation of the Case Study Method
In the late 19th century, law schools faced a challenge of how to train then-
students in legal content, given that students could choose to practice in several states
and each states laws and precedents were different. They resolved the problem by
changing focus from the specific content of laws to a method of analyzing them and
applying a set of general principles to individual case circumstances. Thus was bom
the case study. Case studies ask not how a man may be trained to know, but how a
man may be trained to act (McNair and Hersum, from Walter and Marks 1981, 202).
Later, business schools faced the same dilemma. The growing sophistication of the
economy, and the separate bodies of facts and circumstances that related to individual
industries (e g., mining, textiles, automotive) required business schools to organize
their courses not by industry but by common function, such as production and
marketing (Bok 1986, 88-89).
While the use of the case study as an important teaching tool in PA education
22


more than likely began early during the bureau training school movement, some of the
earliest formal PA cases were developed in the 1930s under the auspices of the Social
Science Research Council as the Federal government expanded its roles and
responsibilities under the New Deal. In 1938, the Councils Public Administration
Committee, which included Leonard White, Donald Stone, George Graham, and
William Mosher, began a process that would eventually lead to publication of three
volumes of short case studies (Bock 1970).
In 1948, with support from the Carnegie Corporation, the Inter-University
Consortium was established to begin systematic development of public administration
cases. Out of the effort came Harold Steins voluminous and influential case book,
Public Administration and Policy Development (1948). In addition, the small
consortium of five professors evolved into the Inter-University Case Program (ICP),
comprised of several sponsoring institutions. The quality of the Stein work convinced
many schools of the value of the case study approach in PA education, encouraging
the development of numerous additional cases under the leadership of the ICP; many
of these cases were developed by scholars with practical administrative experience
gleaned from wartime or the New Deal agencies.
Waldo later wrote,
The case movement. . arose out of a dissatisfaction with the Public
Administration of the Twenties and Thirties ... It represented a search for
reality, a desire to view the administrative world afresh, in its wholeness and
without false theory and oversimplifying assumptions ... In my own view the
23


emergence of the case method in the late Forties is related to the response of
Public Administration to behavioralism. To the then young, now middle-aged
generation of Public Administrationists this was behavioralism ... the
beginning of a genuinely scientific inquiry; and it represented a more appealing
version than the alternatives, as represented especially in [Herbert Simons]
Administrative Behavior (Waldo, cited in Bock 1970, 10).
During the 1980s, the International City Management Association (ICMA) and
NASPAA, through their Task Force on Local Government Management Education,
established guidelines for local government management education. In response to the
guidelines, ICMA created a series of local government case studies as part of its
Municipal Management Series, the Green Books. The case studies, edited by James
Banovetz, have proved so popular that the original volume (1990) was updated and
reissued in 1998.
As a teaching method, the case study has proven extraordinarily useful in many
university settings in terms of grounding academic theory through practical
application. It is exceptional in its ability to deal with the involved sequences of
interaction of large public affairs, with the bounded uncertainty of government
decision-making, and with the tortuous dynamics of power, personality, urgency, and
substantive interest that often go into major policy-making (Bock 1970, 22). Its
detractors complain, however, that case studies are merely ungeneralizable anecdotal
accounts that are useless for rigorous scientific inquiiy (23-24). Despite the value of
the case method, case writers must possess both an interest in and an understanding of
24


practice in order to create valuable casescharacteristics that are not universal
among faculty researchers. In addition, Derek Bok, a past president of Harvard,
pointed out that the cost of developing these cases is sufficiently high that few
schools other than Harvard can afford to [continue to] create such material in
significant quantity (Bok 1986, 90).
Dissent and Upheaval: The 1960s and 1970s
In the late 1940s, Public Administration split from political science in order to
pursue a less traditional, more practice-oriented curricular orientation. Another split
took place in the late 1960s, this time from within the ranks of Public Administration.
Starting in 1966 with the founding of Harvards John F. Kennedy School of
Government, a number of PA programs rejected the label of Public Administration and
reorganized themselves around a policy orientation. These schools held that the
traditional Public Administration programs were too focused on description, too little
focused on analysis, and too lacking in sufficient intellectual rigor to command the
respect of other academic disciplines or the public at large (Elmore 1986, 70). The
policy school orientation was built around the Lasswellian model and its three defining
characteristics: a multi-disciplinary approach; a contextual, problem orientation; and a
normative perspective (deLeon 1988). They questioned the value of traditional PA
subjects such as personnel, budgeting, organization theory, and political institutions,
25


and instead organized their new curricula around microeconomics, quantitative
modeling, political and organizational studies (Elmore 1986, Wildavsky 1985).
Despite the schism or perhaps because of it, the schools that remained under
the traditional Public Administration umbrella have examined and overhauled their
own curricula in light of the policy schools criticisms. Under the umbrella of the
NASPAA5 curriculum standards, most PA schools have adapted their curriculum to
incorporate policy analysis and quantitative research methods, leading some to
conclude that the overt differences between public administration and public policy
programs have eroded over time (Lowery and Whitaker 1991, 1).
At the same time that the traditional Public Administration schools were re-
examining their focus and curricula as a result of the policy school split, they also were
facing the societal upheavals of Vietnam, race relations, and the Great Society. In
response, several individuals (most notably, George Frederickson and Frank Marini)
formed a movement starting in the late 1960s that they called the New Public
Administration. Waldo later noted,
The writings of those who identified with the movement were critical of
establishment practices and doctrines, and optimistic about what might be
possible for a new public administration, one with proper values, high
motivation, and proper administrative means. If a single phrase were chosen to
characterize the tone and intent it would, I believe, be . social equity (Waldo
5 NASPAA became independent of the American Society of Public Administration in 1970, the same time
period in which the policy schools were becoming established. From the onset, Public Affairs has been
part of its name and most policy schools have been part of NASPAAs constituency.
26


1992, 95).
The effect of the New Public Administration on PA education was positive,
although doubtless also painful. It caused the schools of PA to examine their courses
to remove unintended sexism and racism resulting from treatment of students as well
as the selection and handling of course content. It provided a philosophical
underpinning to laws requiring schools to step up their efforts to recruit additional
female and minority students. It issued a challenge to PA scholars to cast a much
more critical eye on establishment practices, doctrines, and values. Finally, it
questioned the anti-democratic aspects of the professional administrator and
encouraged a new emphasis on citizen participation and representative bureaucracy.
Additional approaches and schools have continued to emerge as scholars
search for a focus that will provide effective tools, skills, and interventions to improve
public program administration. On the tail of the policy movement came the
implementation approach, which, starting in the late 1960s, sought to provide the
missing link in public policy analysis between decision making and program
evaluation (Kettl 1990, 412). Then in the 1970s, public management also emerged
from the policy schools. The policy schools had discovered that there was more
demand from their customers for assistance with management issues than for either
formal quantitative analysis or grand design of policy . The policy schools needed
something that was akin to public administration but not identified with this old-
27


fashioned, craft-oriented field (Bozeman 1993, 2). While definitions of public
management as a field can differ considerably (Overman 1984, Kettl 1990, Rainey
1990, Lynn 1994, Elmore 1986), in some sense it would seem that an original impetus
behind PAimproving the administration of public programsis one shared by the
new field of public management.
PA Education at the Crossroads:
Status Quo, or Continued Innovation?
While clearly Public Administration education has continued to evolve and
adapt since the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, the optimistic certainty with which
the pre-1960 Public Administration field approached its task of training public service
practitioners is gone. In retrospect, one might even surmise that the twin blows of the
policy-oriented exodus and New Public Administration heralded the postmodern era.
To Baudrillard, postmodernism is the process of the destruction of meaning; to live
in the postmodern era is to live in a hyperreality, which blurs distinctions between real
and unreal. The postmodernist discounts all standards, among them truth, certainty,
and rationality (Farmer 1995).
Postmodern Public Administration literature can be characterized by soul-
searching, pessimism, and a never-ending examination of what is comprised by Public
Administration. Gary Wamsley and his colleagues provide us an example:
We have not...been prepared for the pace of this fragmentation, disintegration,
and kaleidoscopic change that has somehow taken a quantum leap in
28


postmodernism. It is the Context from Hell for traditional public
administration as we have known it up to now. Finding and maintaining some
kind of coherence while accommodating, and indeed being urged to foster,
emergence sounds to many like some sort of cruelty joke designed for public
administrators by Sisyphus (Wamsley and Wolf 1996, 22-23).
The field of PA has lost its certainty concerning its practice-oriented
grounding, and now is characterized by a continuing discourse as to the proper balance
between theory and practice (McCurdy and Cleary 1984; Denhardt 1981 and 1990;
Golembiewski 1990; Farmer 1995). The same search for direction is found in the
fields on-going debates about appropriate research methodology (McCurdy and
Cleary 1984; White 1986; Perry and Kraemer 1990). It is only natural that this
recrimination is also reflected in the critiques of PA education. In this sections
remaining paragraphs, we examine samples of that literature.
In his introduction to a 1979 symposium on PA education, Orion White
suggested that the traditional methods of designing and delivering Public
Administration courses have been misdirected. A concentration on knowledge
production has led to a belief that teaching is achieved through the pronouncement of
knowledge (White 1979, 258). He suggested that a continuum model of PA
teaching methods exists:
A... traditionalist position is holding that emphasis should be placedsome
say completelyon the essentially academic research enterprise of developing
substantive knowledge which can then be taught. The idea seems to be that, if
the course material is good, the course (and the curriculum) itself will be
good. There is also an implication in this position that the desire to pay
attention to the teaching enterprise is suspectindicating inferior capacity for
29


the demanding tasks entailed by academic research and writing that are
required for development of the knowledge that is taught in good courses.
The other position holds that emphasis should be placed more on the
essentially educational enterprise of attending to and developing new methods,
schedules, designs, formats, and approaches for our courses. The concept is
that even the best material cannot stand on its own before students but must be
presented with attention to the interaction of course content with teaching
method (White 1979, 254).
The same year, Linda Wolf wrote in her critique of PA education of the need
to strike a balance between practice and theory. At the two extreme ends of the
continuum, we are left with a choice between empty theorizing and organizational
shop training (Wolf 1979, 266). Practical knowledge and skills are important but,
she argues, one must guard against creating PA programs that are nothing more than
a set of technical certification exercises for aspiring public managers (265).
In 1990, Bill Kirchoff, a city manager for Arlington, Texas, reflected on how
well MPA programs prepare their students to actually manage public programs and
concluded, in a rather straightforward manner, that they do not do well at all:
Nobody at graduate school taught me how to do an organizational analysis;
how to read an audit; the best way to forecast revenues;... or what to do
during floods, tornados, and work slowdowns. I did, however, learn about
public policy theory and some other interesting stuff that has proven handy
when making small talk at the American Society of Public Administration
meetings... [We have] allowed the graduate schools to eliminate fundamental
management courses because they do not want to be traumatized by having to
teach the fundamentals required across the campus at the business school.
(Kirchoff 1990, 3-4)
Raymond Cox (1990) concluded that PA education has done a poor job of
30


)
teaching management. The field has allowed itself to get sidetracked, according to
Cox, in specialty subjects (e.g., policy analysis, human resources, budgeting), and has
failed to provide future managers with a foundation for understanding their role as
managers. Management is the art side of the field, lending itself better to on-the-
job learning than to scientific learning. Cox proposed a three-part framework for
management education: first, the intellectual and philosophical foundation of public
management; second, analysis and comparison of management practices; and third, the
development of skills for management practice.
In his doctoral dissertation, Blue Wooldridge (1993) studied current teaching
practices in Public Administration and the implications of learning-style research.
Wooldridge concluded that the quality of teaching for the professions may be even less
effective than for general university courses, and speculated that this may be because
professors in these areas may never have experienced well-designed educational
programs themselves. Wooldridge used two learning-style instruments to collect data
from 85 MPA students at one university, and found that the students displayed a wide
variety in learning style preferences, e.g. auditory, visual, verbal, and kinesthetic
learners. He summarized,
[Pjublic administration departments must become interested in making learning
style research an important part of the teaching-learning process.
Manifestations of such interest can take the form of integrating the results of
learning style research into the design and delivery of public administration
coursesfaculty development activities, promotion of classroom-based
research, orientations for students on their individual learning styles and how
31


to develop strategies for adapting them effectively (Wooldridge 1993, xii).
Towards a Theoretical Model
of the PA Graduate Experience
We close this chapter by returning to the consumers who are the focus of this
dissertationthe masters-level graduate students of Public Administration. While the
specific research questions associated with this study center on the effect of distance
learning technologies on our target population, one must establish and maintain a
perspective on the size and scope of that impact within the larger context of a Public
Administration graduate educational experience. Even if this study should find that
distance learning technologies do, indeed, have a significant effect on the PA students
satisfaction and performance, the distance learning technologies are only media. They
may affect a graduate PA students experience, but they do not constitute the core of
the education itself. Metaphorically, the relationship of distance learning technology
to PA education is analogous to that between a tape player and its music, or between
telephones and human conversations. Media, players, and phones are merely neutral
carriers of content.
Each of this studys three literature chaptersPublic Administration education,
learning theory, and distance learning researchconclude with presentation of a
developing model that will be constructed chapter by chapter. The models elements
summarize the primary ingredients that each chapters subject matter contributes to the
32


sum total of an MPA distance learning students experience. The model seeks to
demonstrate the relationship between the three elements and, most importantly, to
provide perspective on the relative contribution of distance learning technology to that
learning experience.
The model is that of a pyramid in which the base (see Figure 2.1) is comprised
of the content of Public Administration education. An MPA distance learning
student can successfully complete a graduate course of study and master the requisite
PA knowledge and skills without distance learning technologies, but the converse is
clearly not true. The bases
Figure 2.1. Contribution of PA content to
ingredients are derived both from distance learning students
satisfaction and performance.
the content in this chapter and
from the NASPAA standards for
masters degree programs.
If the purpose of the
masters-level degree program in
Public Administration is to
provide professional education
for leadership in public affairs,
policy, [and] administration
(NASPAA 1997), then the PA
33


curriculum must be focused on those applied knowledges and skills, while the
theoretical content should support those knowledges and skills by providing the big-
picture context for the practice-oriented content. Past surveys (Dennis 1984, Grade
and Holzer 1975, Henry 1977) have documented that MPA graduates satisfaction
with their educational experience is heavily colored by the degree to which they
perceive the program content helped to build their administrative expertise. Provision
of practice-related knowledge and skill, supported by appropriate theory, research
methods, and application (e g., case studies and internships), are the base upon which
any PA students educational satisfaction and attitudes must be built.
Conclusion: Facing the Distance Learning Challenge
In this chapter, we have briefly reviewed the development of PA education,
beginning with its earliest roots at the founding of the American nation. The
chapters thesis has been that PA education and its predecessors have played an
important role in helping to revolutionize portions of the American academy. Key
among these innovations were:
support for the development of elective curricula and a move away from the
classical program of studies;
relatively early organization of a professional graduate program (within the
disciplinary boundaries of political science);
34


the embrace of practice-oriented methods such as the case study;
the establishment of nontraditional programs and schedules such as evening,
intensive semester, and correspondence courses to accommodate
nontraditional students; and
reform of the curriculum to reflect the needs and concerns of a changing
American populationboth PAs students as well as the citizens who are the
customers of Public Administration.
The chapter also posited that PA and PA education are experiencing a period of
postmodern malaise that has temporarily derailed the fields tradition of revolution and
educational leadership.
The PA community is facing a new and sweeping challenge in the form of
technology-delivered education. Distance learning will affect the most fundamental
elements of the PA schoolsstudent recruitment and retention, curriculum
development, faculty performance and expectations, and program funding. This
chapter has pointed out PAs strong tradition of innovation and experimentation within
the American academy. What remains to be seen is the response of the community to
the distance learning challenge. Will PA education seize this opportunity to become
a leader in adapting to and utilizing the new delivery media?
35


CHAPTER 3
LEARNING THEORY
In the... social sciences, where [methodological teaching] problems are peculiarly conspicuous,
[experiential teaching techniques] have been little used in instruction. The student is led through some
of the most moving experiences of the race and is at the end gasping but tongue-tied. He may be a
spectator throughout his entire course.
-Graham 1941,108
Although no single key to this puzzle [of teaching and learning\ has been found, baffled but determined
educators continue their quest.
Bent and McLean 1958,76
This chapter addresses the principles of learning theory that underlie this study.
We begin this chapter with a survey of general learning theory, particularly as it
relates to adult learners, who generally comprise the bulk of PA programs students.
Given PA educations practice-oriented history and approach, we next survey
literature pertaining to experiential learning, since that area represents the theoretical
foundation for PA internships and field work. Finally, we briefly review researchers
findings concerning what constitutes an effective instructor. While this literature
review describes the typical PA adult learner as self-motivated and self-directed,
his/her instructor continues to play a critical role in whether a PA courses design and
delivery make possible an effective learning experience.
36


What Is Learning?
Virtually all the educational theorists, whether behaviorists such as B.F.
Skinner or educational philosophers such as John Dewey, define learning as a change
that occurs in the learner. Crow and Crow state, Learning involves change. It is
concerned with the acquisition of habits, knowledge, and attitudes (in Knowles 1990,
5). William Burton says, Learning is a change in the individual, due to the
interaction of that individual, and his environment, which fills a need and makes him
more capable of dealing adequately with his environment (in Knowles 1990, 5).
However, even though all theorists generally agree that learning results in a changed
learner, there are vast differences between their views concerning how that change
occurs and how one should assess or measure the resulting learning.
The roots of learning theory, as with the other subfields of modem psychology,
lie in the 18th century German field of faculty psychology, which used a tripartite
model to classify all mental activities: cognition or knowing, affection or feeling, and
conation or striving (i.e., motivation). This three-part model became an enduring
concept as the field of psychology continued to develop, although its specific content
varied from country to country as the various schools of psychology took different
paths. In England, for instance, the psychologists from the associationist school were
primarily concerned with how the human mind acquired and retained complex
37


concepts; in their view, action followed ideas. In the United States, where social
Darwinism was a major influence, psychologists focused more on the physical nervous
system than on the mind; in their view, behavior caused or even equated to learning
(Gagne 1965). The subsequent development of experimental psychology and
behaviorism in the United States emphasized those aspects of learning that could be
observed and measured. By the time Benjamin Bloom and his associates wrote the
first volume of the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (1956), the classic tripartite
division had metamorphosed in America into three domains that were more
amenable to observation and explanation than the original three: cognition, affection,
and psychomotor. Cognition dealt with the recall or recognition of knowledge and
the development of intellectual abilities and skills. Affection dealt with changes in
interest, attitudes, and values. The psychomotor domain dealt with muscular and
motor skills, manipulation of material and objects, and neuromuscular coordination
(Bloom et al. 1956).
B .F. Skinner, one of the most important American behaviorists, began his long
career of research and writing in the 1930s. He specifically rejected learning theories
based on conceptual or mental models. In his view, such theories, lacking a basis in
quantifiable behavior, not only failed to explain learning, their existence impeded the
search for true theories. Skinner defined learning as a change in probability in
response (Skinner 1982, 50). His learning theory even incorporated behaviorist-
38


based explanations for such constructs as motivation, discrimination, and preference.
Behaviorism and its stimulus-response theoretical model reached its zenith in
the 1950s, after which the information processing model of the cognitive psychology
movement began to dominate. To Skinner, the changed behavior was learning. To a
representative cognitive psychologist such as Robert Gagne, behavior change inferred
learning, which occurred mentally and could not be directly observed.
Learning is a change in human disposition or capability, which can be retained,
and which is not simply ascribable to the process of growth. .. [T]he inference
of learning is made by comparing what behavior was possible before the
individual was placed in a learning situation and what behavior can be
exhibited after such treatment. The change may be, and often is, an increased
capability for some type of performance. It may also be an altered disposition
of the sort called attitude, or interest, or value (Gagne 1965, 5).
Writing after the importance of behaviorism had waned, Abraham Maslow
(1968, 24) concluded that growth, self-development, and self-actualization were all
aspects of the same phenomenon. Maslow argued that learning imposed externally,
rather than springing from an individuals personal motivation, would be of limited
effectiveness. He concluded that behaviorist approaches will be useful only in small
areas of life and of real interest only to other learning theorists (38).
Of the three elements in the early model of mental activity, conation or the
motivational construct was neglected in the revised American model. More than
likely, it lost its preeminence due to the considerable difficulty of describing,
measuring, and explaining motivation during a period when psychometrics were of
39


paramount importance to the behaviorists. Yet, writing several decades later after the
behaviorist movement had waned in importance, Raymond Noe and Neal Schmitt
noted, Even if trainees possess the prerequisite skills needed to learn the training
program content, performance in the program will be poor if motivation is low or
t
absent (1986, 498). Motivation relates to pivotal factors such as the students need
for achievement or competencefactors that affect behavior during training. Wexley
and Latham (1981) developed the following formula to express the relationship
between ability and motivation:
Performance = Ability x Motivation . .
According to this formula, a trainees performance will have a value
of zero if either ability or motivation is absent, and increases as each
factor increases in value (55).
Abraham Maslow (1954) and DouglasMcGregor (1960) both presented a
model in which human needs are organized into a motivational hierarchy. As each
level of need is met, individuals begin to seek satisfaction at the next highest level.
The lowest two levels, physiological and social needs, can be satisfied. Needs at the
highest level, self-fulfillment, can never be fully satisfied; they include the needs for
continued self-development and creativity. An individual will be motivated to seek
self-development only to the degree that his or her lower-level needs have been met.
Coldeways research (1986) suggested that highly motivated students learn from any
educational medium and that in many instances, students learn not from the medium
or system used, but in spite of it (Coldeway, cited in Wilkes and Burnham 1991).
40


Finally, C. Wynn Wilkes and Byron Burnham (1991) concluded that [b]ecause highly
motivated learners may be willing to endure almost any educational environment or
process to achieve a passing grade, more than grades need to be examined to evaluate
educational experiences of individual students (43).
Several schools of learning theory, discussed in more detail in a later section of
this chapter, sprang up to take the place of behaviorism. Carl Rogers was a
representative of a school that focused on learning and its role in personality
development. Rogers held that learning could be described by a continuum, the ends
of which serve to divide learning into two basic types. At one end is a type that
characterizes the bulk of most formal curricula, the memorization or mastery of fact-
based content. This type, according to Rogers, involves the learners mind but not his
or her feelings or personal context; it is learning which takes place from the neck
up. At the other end of the continuum is experiential learning, which has a quality
of personal involvement. It is self-initiated. Even when the impetus or stimulus
comes from the outside, the sense of discovery, of reaching out, of grasping and
comprehending, comes from within. Experiential learning is pervasive in that it
makes a difference in the behavior, the attitudes, perhaps even the personality of the
learner. And it is evaluated by the learner, so that the learner determines the
meaning and the importance of the learning experience with regard to his or her own
personal growth (Rogers 1969; authors emphasis).
41


In the 1960s, Benjamin Bloom began to question the prevailing view that an
individuals learning ability was relatively fixed, i.e., that there were good and
poor learners. Instead, they embraced the idea that there were faster and slower
learners:
[I]f students are normally distributed with respect to aptitude for some subject
and all students are given exactly the same instruction (the same in terms of
amount and quality of instruction and learning time allowed), then achievement
measured at the completion of the subject will be normally distributed. Under
such conditions the relationship (correlation) between aptitude measured at the
beginning of the instruction and achievement measured at the end of the
instruction will be relatively high (typically about +.70). Conversely, if
students are normally distributed with respect to aptitude, but the kind and
quality of instruction and learning time allowed are made appropriate to the
characteristics and needs of each learner, the majority of students will achieve
mastery of the subject. And, the correlation between aptitude measured at the
beginning of instruction and achievement measured at the end of instruction
should approach zero (Bloom 1976, 4; authors emphasis).
Blooms theory has at least two important implications for instructors and
curriculum designers. First, a variety of individual learning styles and preferences must
be taken into consideration in the design and delivery of courses if student learning is
to be maximized. Second, the effect of successful or inadequate learning on early
tasks in a learning program have compounding effects. Assume that students are
normally distributed, as measured by pre-course achievements tests, as they begin to
master the first of three sequential learning tasks. If the specific learning needs and
styles of the individual students are addressed effectively during the phased delivery of
the learning tasks, the distribution of students as measured by task achievement tests
42


will increasingly skew to the right of the bell curve as the series of learning tasks
progresses (Bloom 1976).
Bloom (1976) proposed a theory of school learning (see Figure 3.1).
According to this theory, three factors determine the nature of a students learning
outcomes: the
students
cognitive and
affective entry
characteristics,
and the quality
of instruction.
Where these
characteristics
are favorable, the learning outcomes will be at a high, positive level and there will be
small differences between student outcomes. The degree to which one or more of the
three characteristics are less than ideal determines the differences in student outcomes.
Bloom estimated that the cognitive and affective entry characteristics together account
for about 60 percent of the achievement variation on a new set of learning tasks. He
further hypothesized that with regard to quality of instruction, teacher characteristics
account for no more than 5 percent of achievement variation; the quality of teaching
Figure 3.1. Variables in Blooms theory of
school learning.
STUDENT
CHARACTERISTICS
INSTRUCTION
LEARNING
OUTCOMES
Cognitive
Entry
Behaviors
Affective Entry.
Characteristics
LEARNING
TASK(S)
Quality of
Instruction
. Level & Type
'Of Achievement
Rate of Learning
Affective Outcomes
B.S. Bloom, Human Characteristics and Sc hod Learning
43


style and establishment of a class climate conducive to learning comprise the
remainder of the learning equation.
Moore (1989) has identified three types of interaction that contribute to
learning: learner-content, learner-teacher, and learner-learner. Moore considers the
learner-content interaction to be the fundamental form of interaction on which all
education is based (Vrasidas 1999, 10). The student may find content in elements
such as books, supplementary course materials, ideas and concepts, problems and case
studies, videos, and Web sites. The student may experience learner-teacher interaction
through classroom instruction, e-mails or other Internet communication, and instructor
support, assistance, and feedback. Learner-learner interaction may occur within a
traditional class, through Internet communication, or through informal meetings
outside the course structure. Levin, Kim, and Riel propose that the degree to which
learners will engage in learner-learner interaction is dependent on characteristics such
as personality, motivation, and locus of control (Vrasidas 1999).
With the explosion of information available to students and researchers and the
rapid changes in knowledge and entire disciplines made possible by computers and the
Information Age, Andrew Molnar (1997) has concluded that the core concept of
learning has changed. Molnar, director for 25 years of the National Science
Foundations Applications of Advanced Technologies, quoted Herbert Simons
observation that the technological developments have changed the meaning of the
44


verb, to know. It used to mean having information stored in ones memory. It
now means the process of having access to information and knowing how to use it
(2). Molnar described a major paradigm shift in education from theories of
learning to theories ofcognition:
Cognitive science approaches teaching and learning in a different way. It
addresses how the human, as an information processor, functions and uses
information. Rather than focusing on teaching facts through expository
lectures or demonstrations, the emphasis is, instead, on developing higher-
order, thinking and problem solving skills. The cognitive approach is
important because it recognizes human information processing strengths and
weaknesses, and the limits of human perception and memory in coping with the
information explosion. It focuses, instead, on organizing information to fit
human capacity, and has changed the emphasis in education from learning to
thinking (2).
Andragogv and Adult Learning Principles
Malcolm Knowles major contribution to learning theory is his model of
cmdragogy. Analogous to pedagogy, which relates to the teaching of children,
andragogy proposes a model, widely accepted today in the educational field, for the
specific teaching of adults.6 Its assumptions include:
(1) as adults encounter a situation that interests them or a knowledge/skill gap that
they must master, they will be motivated to learn;
(2) learning experiences for adults must be based on their wealth of existing life
6 Knowles made clear that he did not see andragogy and pedagogy as mutually exclusive. However, as
individuals mature, they bring more prior knowledge and experience to a formal learning situation than do
young children. This experience must be taken into account in the design and delivery of classes for adults.
45


experiences, since they will fit new information and skills into their existing
frameworks of knowledge, attitudes, and values;
(3) the core methodology of adult education is the analysis of experience, i.e., to
be maximally effective, adult learning should be experiential;
(4) adults are largely self-directed learners; they must have a hand in designing
their own learning experiences because they will reject learning they consider
personally irrelevant; and
(5) effective courses for adults need to take into consideration a variety of learning
style preferences (Knowles 1990).
Knowles identifies four basic learning style categories, and he provides
examples of media that are appropriate for each one: for auditory learners, lecture; for
visual learners, reading assignments; for verbal learners, group discussion; and for
kinesthetic learners, case studies, and role plays. However, there are are many other
systems of learning style categorization besides Knowles, and there many diagnostic
instruments available to identify a learners preferred learning style. Two of the most
widely known and used are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Flannery 1993, 52-53)
and Kolbs Learning Style Inventory (Schein 1979). While each system divides
learners into different categories of learning preference, the system selected is not as
important as the principle that various learning style preferences exist. It follows that
if a course is to be effective for all students, instructors and educational designers
46


should insure a variety of media and methods are incorporated into the learning
experience. Knowles conclusions on the importance of addressing individual student
learning style preferences are supported by Blooms (1976) theory of school learning,
discussed earlier in this chapter.
Book and Putnam (1990) review a number of researchers whose work had
discredited the traditional view of the learner as an empty glass or a clean slate, ready
to be filled with knowledge by a teacher. They cite more recent studies that
characterize the learner as a co-constructor of knowledge. To help students learn,
teachers must create an environment in which students can explore, test concepts, and
even make mistakes in order to master the subject matter. Book and Putnam
summarize: [Sjtudents must wrestle with new concepts by overlaying and juxtaposing
them with familiar concepts and making sense of the concepts for themselves. The
way in which students most effectively construct their understanding of concepts is
through student talk and interactions with others. .. about the subject matter (20-21).
Verduin and Clark (1991) have pointed out that adult learners tend to exhibit
characteristics that lend themselves to distance education: They are more likely than
younger students to be internally motivated, to be self-directed, and to accept
individual responsibility for learningall of which are indicative of the self-discipline
necessary for success in nontraditional education.
47


Experiential Learning
More than 80 years ago, John Dewey observed that the scientific method that
provides the basis for empirical knowledge acquisition is nothing more than
experiential learning carried out under conditions of deliberate control:
To the Greek,... it seemed almost axiomatic that for true knowledge we must
have recourse to concepts coming from a reason above experience. But the
introduction of the experimental method signified precisely that such
operations, carried on under conditions of control, are just the ways in which
fruitful ideas about nature are obtained and tested. .. It would seem as if five
minutes unprejudiced observation of the way an infant gains knowledge would
have sufficed to overthrow the notion that he is passively engaged in receiving
impressions of isolated ready-made qualities of sound, color, hardness, etc...
[T]he infant reacts to stimuli by activities of handling, reaching, etc., in order
to see what results follow upon motor response to a sensory stimulation;...
[W]hat is learned are not isolated qualities, but the behavior which may be
expected of a thing, and the changes in things and persons which an activity
may be expected to produce (Dewey 1916, 271-272).
Ifi as our theorists have suggested, adults learn best when they are actively
engaged in the learning process, then over-reliance on the lecture method will
negatively affect a students learning and retention. While lecture is an efficient way
for an instructor to impart information to students, it needs to be supplemented with
other methods that require students to apply what they have heard and to relate it to
what they already know. A possibility exists, both with on-line and video-based
classes, that the potentially negative aspects of the lecture method will be reproduced
if the instructor fails to build in meaningful activities and exercises into distance
learning courses. As D. Randy Garrison points out, presentation of information does
48


not equate to education. Education is a collaborative experience which necessitates
mediation by others as well as recognition and validation of learning. .[information
must be shared, critically analyzed, and applied in order to become knowledge
(Garrison, cited in Baker 1994, 15).
Since the theorists discussed above argue persuasively that true learning takes
place only when it is applied and tested, this chapter examines the literature relating to
experiential learning. As noted in Chapter 2, PA education is no stranger to some
forms of experiential learning, including field work, internships, and case studies.
Experiential learning refers to planned, structured interventions within a course design
to provide students concrete exposure to the concepts being introduced in the class.
In addition to requiring the active involvement of participants, experiential learning
requires that the subject matter be specifically relevant to the needs and interests of
students, that participants must accept personal responsibility for their learning, and
that the learning environment must be flexible and responsive to the immediate
learning needs of participants. Gordon Walter and Stephen Marks define experiential
learning as,
a sequence of events with one or more identified learning objectives, requiring
active involvement by participants at one or more points in the sequence. That
is, lessons are presented, illustrated, highlighted, and supported through the
involvement of the participants. The central tenet of experiential learning is
that one learns best by doing (Walter and Marks 1981, 1-2).
James S. Coleman (1976) posits that the patterns of experiential learning and
49


traditional academic learning, which he terms the information assimilation process,
are almost exact opposites. Information assimilation has four separate steps: The first
step is to absorb information, typically from a book or lecture; the medium is the
highly symbolic one of language. The second step is to organize that information so
that the learner may understand the general principle behind it. The third is to
extrapolate examples and applications from the general principle. The fourth is to
apply the knowledge from the first three steps to an action. Coleman contends that
only when knowledge has been applied to new action and behavior can it be said that
the person has completed the learning process. In contrast, in experiential learning,
the person first acts, then observes and understands the effects, then absorbs the
general principle, and finally applies the general principle to other actions. Typically,
Coleman notes, the experiential pattern is more prevalent in early school years and
wanes as the student progresses through his or her academic career, although it may
reappear if the student completes an internship, practicum, or similar educational
intervention. Coleman notes that both patterns have appropriate uses, benefits and
drawbacks. The weakest element in the experiential process is in the third step, where
the student generalizes the learning to a principle applicable to other circumstances.
However, Coleman holds that learning grounded in experience is less easily forgotten
than that which begins in the symbolic medium of learning through language.
Pfeiffer and Jones (1975), long-time editors of an influential handbook of
50


research, exercises, and activities for trainers and facilitators, proposed a model for
experiential learning in the form of a cycle, which is depicted in Figure 3.2.
In the Experiencing stage, the learner completes an activity related to the learning
goal. In the Publishing stage, the individual learner explains his or her reactions and
observations about the leaning experience to other individuals. In the Processing
stage, the learner or learners proceed beyond mere explanation and concentrate on
discussing and evaluating the learning experience. In the Generalizing stage, the
individual learner or the group infers principles about the real world, based on the
experience. In the Applying stage, the learner or learning group considers how to
use the knowledge or skill gained to create more effective future behavior. At this
new stage of performance, the cycle begins again. (Pfeiffer and Jones 1975).
Such a course design
Figure 3.2. The experiential learning cycle.
Experiencing
J.W Pfeiffer and J.E. Jones, Reference Guide to Handbooks and Annuals. 1975.
would incorporate different
media for the visual, the
verbal, the auditory, and the
kinesthetic learner. Pfeiffer
and Jones (1975) could
conceivably argue that in the
typical graduate-level
course, Publishing, Pro-
cessing, and Generalizing
51


occur regularly, while Experiencing and Applying are in relatively short supply.
Role of the Instructor
What is teaching versus learning? Raymond Noe and Neal Schmitts definition
of training applies well to academic as well as other kinds of teaching: a planned
learning experience designed to bring about permanent change in an individuals
knowledge, attitude, or skills (1986, 497). Philip Hosford defines instruction as the
process of influencing learners toward some goal (cited in Auth 1988, 25), while
Gagne defines it as the arrangement of external events to activate and support the
internal processes of learning (Gagne 1975, viii).
Bruce Joyce and Marsha Weil (1972) reviewed more than 80 different models
of teaching and concluded that they could be categorized into four families. The
family division is based on how the theorists orient themselves toward humans and
their universe. The first family includes those theorists oriented toward social
relations and toward the relation between humans and their culture. These models
were directed toward the improvement of the individuals ability to relate to others,
and [m]any of them developed from a desire to improve democratic processes and to
educate students to relate to and improve the society. Examples are John Deweys
group investigation model and the National Training Laboratorys (NTL) T-group
process. The second family is oriented toward the information-processing capability
of the student; these models may, for example, concentrate on development of critical
52


thinking, creativity, or problem solving. Examples are Bruners concept attainment
model and Piagets developmental model. The third family includes those that begin
with a focus on personality development, the learners self-image, and his or her
relationship with the environment. A well-known representative of this family is Carl
Rogers. The fourth family of models is based on behaviorism, reinforcement, and
conditioning. The classic model from this school is B.F. Skinners operant
conditioning model (Joyce and Weil 1972).
Joyce and Weil do not argue that there is one best model. The choice of an
appropriate model should be based on the students to be taught, the preferences of the
instructor, and the content of the material. A model may be employed either for its
instructional effects (because a model is likely to generate an environment efficient
for teaching a skill) or its nurturant effects (to affect intelligence, flexibility, values,
etc ) (Joyce and Weil 1972, 25). Teachers should develop a repertoire of models
that can serve them under different circumstances. For example,
[a]n emphasis on inquiry would lead toward the Science or social Inquiry
models, and an emphasis on inductive thinking could lead toward the Taba or
Suchman approaches... Behavior modification models, such as Skinners, are
implicit in the methods of many other teacher education programs... The
Group Investigation Model [gives a teacher] the means of organizing the
students into a mutual group... which will have the devices to improve its own
processes... The Rogerian Model is specifically applicable to helping people to
become open, to free their inquisitiveness and their creativity and to help them
to develop the drive and sensitivity to try to educate themselves (Joyce and
Weil 1972, 20).
Joseph Callahan and Leonard Clark contend that effective teaching is generally
53


learned rather than innate behavior. They emphasize that both teacher-centered and
discussion and group techniques are valuable; one category is not to be employed to
the exclusion of the other, but used in complementary fashion. The former is most
effective in imparting bodies of knowledge in a time-effective and efficient way while
the latter is most effective in providing students the opportunity to practice and
demonstrate mastery of the skills and behaviors associated with the bodies of
knowledge. The effective teacher will know when methods from each category will
be most appropriate and effective, given the specific students and curricula involved
(Rich 1993).
Within the experiential learning framework, instructor/facilitator behaviors that
interfere with participant learning include lack of technical and interpersonal
competence, counterproductive personal needs of the instructor (e.g., the need to
control or dominate discussion), untrustworthiness, and the need to
maintain/emphasize status differences between instructor and student. Effective
instructor behaviors include an awareness of student needs, skill in creating a learning
design appropriate for a given group of students, facilitation skills, ability to create an
environment of trust and openness, and an enthusiasm for the process. Fellow
participants, depending on their behaviors, may also enrich or detract from the
experiential learning experience (Walter and Marks 1981).
In her doctoral dissertation, Carla Rich (1993) examined the factors that
54


tended to support completion of classes by students, including the degree of class
participation fostered by an instructors teaching styles. She found a significant
positive correlation between student completion rates and teaching styles that favored
a high degree of student participation. She also reviewed research that relates group
dynamics and participatory management to the classroom, teaching methodology, and
learning theory.
Joyce, Weil, and Wald (in Rich 1993) suggested that the teacher should
function more as a facilitator than a straight-forward deliverer of information. The
teacher creates the learning activity, keeps the students focused, answers their
questions, and provides them feedback on their progress. The researchers proposed
the group investigation teaching model depicted in Table 3.1 (see next page).
Patricia Kearny and Timothy Plax (1992) reviewed a number of studies of the
teacher characteristics that resulted in the strongest effect on student behavior in the
classroom. University students reported a greater willingness to comply with teacher
assignments and instructions if they perceive the teacher to possess immediacy
characteristics. Immediacy, they suggested, was defined as physical or psychological
closeness, is demonstrated primarily by nonverbal behaviors of approachincluding
forward body leans, purposeful gestures, eye contact, and other behaviors that signal
closeness. In turn, these approach behaviors communicate perceptions of warmth,
friendliness, and liking (1992, 95). Students characterized teachers whom they
55


Table 3.1. Stages and activities in group investigation.
Stage Activity Task
1 Encounter and reaction Confront puzzling situation
React and discuss differences in reaction
Formulate problem focus and task
2 Organization of inquiry Further analyze task or problem
Break down task into sequence of activities
Analyze role requirements and distribution of roles
3 Operations Collect data
Analyze and interpret data
4 Reflection and evaluation Generalize about data and raise new questions
Synthesize
Reorganize ideas, modify plans, refine problem focus
5 Conclusion or recycling Reach decision or solution
Recycle activities
B. Joyce, M. Vsfeil, andR Wald, Three Teaching Strategies for the Social Science's. Cited in Rich 1993.
found to be nonimmediate as cold and uncaring, incompetent, and unenthused
about their jobs (98). While some students reported that they would confront such
teachers directly with their concerns, most indicated that they would respond passively
by dropping the class or merely doing nothing. Thus, many teachers who are found to
be nonimmediate may never know the impact (or lack of impact) they are having on
56


their students.
If one accepts andragogy as the appropriate learning theory foundation for
academic graduate study in Public Administration, and then marries that body of
theory to a medium of distance learning, where the student seldom if ever interacts in
person with the instructorthen is there still a role for the instructor to fill beyond
creation of the syllabus? At least one distance education leader indicates that the
answer will eventually be no. Boije Holmberg, a renowned European practitioner and
theorist of distance learning, has concluded that...
.. .[c]arried to its ultimate realization, student autonomy would mean the end
of teaching in distance education, for students with complete responsibility for
their courses would have no need for a teacher beyond the tasks of preparing
packets of study material. Even that might devolve to the student, with
students preparing their own list of books to read or videos to watch, based on
what they want to learn.. In that case, the only role for a teacher would be to
read an examination paper or watch an examination videoan examination
that the student had devised. Distance education would not be distance
teaching, but true distance learning, and teachers would be obsolete (Mood
1995, 77).
Yet few other distance educators would go so far; indeed, if a student is
actually determining the learning content, the arrangement would no longer meet the
widely accepted definition of distance learning that is discussed at the beginning of the
next chapter. Candy suggested that
. . even if learners do see themselves as autonomous, and would like,
ultimately, to take responsibility for directing their own enquiries, they may
lack the necessary subject-matter knowledge to make a beginning . [T]o
force learners into a self-directed or learner-controlled mode for which they
may feel unprepared seems, to me, every bit as unethical as denying freedom
57


when it is demanded (Candy 1987, 163).
Wolf (1979) warned that andragogy can be twisted into a belief that the
instructor must abdicate his or her authority in the name of self-directed student
learning. Even in the environment of mutual goal-setting and individualized learning
plans, the instructor must accept and discharge his or her leadership, coaching, and
evaluation responsibilities. The student may identify appropriate individual learning
activities based on personal interest and need; however, these activities must be within
the framework of overall learning objectives established by the instructor. Also, all
products and performance are not of the same quality. Without feedback and
evaluation by the instructor, the students growth will be constrained. Indeed, Orion
White (1979) suggested that this feedback and evaluation role is the single most
important (and often neglected) function that the instructor must discharge.
Most distance learning researchers would agree that there will continue to be
an important role for the instructor in distance education, but it will be substantially
different from that of the traditional instructor. Stowers has commented that [i]n an
Internet-mediated course, the instructor provides general class resource materials and
a structure but the goal is to influence the students to initiate interactions and engage
the material independently (Stowers 1999b, 219). In general, the role of distance
learning instructors will be less directive, less supervisory, less instructor-as-director.
They will design courses and course experiences, but not control the processes and
58


outcomes to the same degree. They will facilitate more than lecture, respond more
than tell.
New or expanded tasks for distance learning instructors, compared to their
classroom peers, include:
(1) identifying and removing technological barriers (e.g., unfamiliarity with the
distance learning equipment) that would otherwise interfere with student
progress;
(2) continually encouraging or instigating student interactions in the new media,
e g., overcoming student reluctance to use a microphone or to post on-line
comments; and
(3) tracking, considerably more closely than in the classroom setting, the individual
progress of students, and providing them the necessary feedback and
encouragement on assignments. As will be discussed, the timeliness of
feedback on student submissions is much more critical than in a traditional
(e.g., in-class) environment. Mood (1995) notes, Although learners can read
about a subject on their own, they may need help in making it truly theirs. The
teachers job is to note what is causing an individual student difficulty and to
present new information, new material, to help overcome that difficulty (77).
Sammons (1990) sums up the instructors critical role in distance learning:
As examples and models are presented, or problems for that matter, the teacher
is constantly on the lookout for indicators of how learners are perceiving,
59


interpreting, and reacting to the material presented. The teacher looks for
clues for what the learners are doing conceptually. The teacher looks for
more than simply whether the learners can produce certain specified results or
outcomes of learning. The teacher concentrates on the process of learning
(159).
Critique of the Learning Theory Literature
The philosophy underlying the learning theory literature reviewed in this
chapter is analogous to Douglas McGregors (1960) Theory Y assumptions of human
behavior in organizations. Here are McGregors assumptions, modified to address
assumptions of learner motivation:
(1) Individuals will exert self-discipline and self-direction in the pursuit of
learning experiences that are relevant to their needs and interests.
(2) The mastery of new knowledge and skills is self-actualizing and is adequate
reward in itself for the effort expended.
(3) The desire to seek out new learning experiences is a characteristic shared
by the majority of individuals.
This Theory Y view of learners is appealing, affirmative, and optimisticbut
is it realistic? One can assume that most learning theorists believe deeply in the value
of the learning process. They trust and like students, or they would have chosen a
different field of work. It is only natural that their positive perceptions of the adult
learner would be reflected in their theorizing. If we would instead apply McGregors
Theory X assumptions to the adult learner, the resulting theory would look far
60


different:
(1) Individuals will generally put in the minimum effort necessary to fulfill a
learning goal (e g., to attain a desired grade point average, to meet
promotional requirements, or to complete course or degree requirements).
(2) In order to make individuals expend the effort necessary to meet specified
learning goals or objectives, they must be directed, supervised, controlled, and
possibly even threatened with adverse consequences.
(3) Most learners actually prefer to be directed, and they hold the instructor or
educational institution rather than themselves responsible for the success or
failure of the learning experience.
As with the Theory X and Y models of human organizational behavior, neither
model of learning is appropriate nor accurate in all situations. The world is filled with
all kinds of learners, as it is filled with all kinds of employees. If, for example, an
employee in an authoritative, top-down organization is directed to complete an in-
service training course, the employee may be living in a Theory X world and may
respond as a Theory X learner. If we assume that the majority of the dissertations
subjects are participating voluntarily in their Public Administration educational
programs, the Theory Y assumptions about learners, outlined in this chapter, seem to
be more relevant. However, three caveats should be applied:
First, the proponents of self-directed learning (e g., Knowles 1990) hold that
61


students who assist in designing and directing their own learning experiences will
learn better than students who are not afforded this opportunity. It is true that self-
directedness will always exist to some degree; all learners will tune out what fails to
interest them and focus on what does. However, allowing students too much control
is not appropriate in all circumstances. Leaving them to design their own learning
experiences and to select their own readings and topics may result in their failure to
select critical subject matter through ignorance or even through laziness. The
appropriate degree of self-direction should be a function of a learners prior
knowledge basis. In those cases where learners generally lack experience or
expertise, the instructor should incorporate more direction.
Second, motivational theorists (e.g., Maslow 1968; Wexley and Latham 1981;
Noe and Schmitt 1986) hold that adult learners naturally evolve into autonomous, self-
directed learners as they mature, and that internal motivation is a primary factor in
learning. What if, however, autonomy and self-direction spring from preference
rather than motivation? There is no compelling reason why a mature adult might not
prefer directed and instructor-supervised learning, nor why a Theory X learner should
not be able to master required material. And even if autonomy is a function of
maturation, formal education programs must still address the learning needs of less
mature students. Perhaps one of the functions performed by the outstanding
instructor is to gauge the degree to which a learner is willing or capable to shoulder
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the primary responsibility for the learning experience, and provide the necessary
degree of directed instruction to keep the student on track.
Third, Knowles (1990) and others (Flannery 1993, Bloom 1976) promote the
conclusion that course design must offer a variety of methods to address the students
variety of learning style preferences. A literal application of this concept is not
realistic. No matter which method (e.g., reading, discussion, simulation) an instructor
employs at a given point, some portion of his/her students will prefer other methods.
This problem is particularly evident in the distance learning environment, where the
choice or application of methods is constrained. For example, an in-class discussion
addresses a learning style preference for face-to-face, real-time verbal interchange,
while on-line discussion will always be filtered through a computer monitor and print
text. Consideration of students varied learning style preferences, therefore, may be
thought of as an ideal. Courses should be designed to incorporate as many methods
as possible, but generally, provision of multiple methods or activities within a single
learning module will be impractical.
Concluding Thoughts on Learning Theory
What are the most important learning theory concepts we should apply to the
model we are building concerning the satisfaction and performance of the PA masters-
level student? As we list the key concepts that underlie this study, we should refer
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again, as we did at the conclusion of the last chapter, to NASPAAs statement of
purpose of the masters-level degree program in Public Administration: to provide
professional education for leadership in public affairs, policy, [and] administration.
Gagne maintained that learning is a change in human capabilities, dispositions,
or values. That change may be inferred from a students changed behavior, although
the learning itself is an invisible mental process. In the case of a typical MPA student,
learning may result in an increase in such non-observable dispositions as increased
sensitivity to ethical considerations, or such non-observable abilities as more informed
interpretation of human behavior or analysis of program data. However, the true
test of learning will still be the observable evidence of those dispositions or abilities,
for example when the MPA graduate acts in greater awareness and accordance with
ethical standards or she demonstrates greater skills in decision making or managing her
work group.
Beyond the specific impact on an MPA students subsequent work
performance, listed below are the primary theoretical contributions that underlie this
study. These are also the factors that the study assumes will have the maximum
impact on an MPA distance learning students satisfaction, attitudes, and academic
performance (Figure 3.3, next page):
Personal interest and motivation of the student are critical; learning imposed
externally will generally be less effective. Therefore, a program of learning
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should include appropriate opportunities for student self-initiation and self-
direction (Maslow 1968, Rogers 1969, Knowles 1990).
To be of maximum effectiveness, instructional design and content must address
the specific needs and interests of the learner (Knowles 1990).
To the degree practical,
application and synthesis (Dewey 1916, Knowles 1990, Walter and Marks
instructional design and
content need to provide
Figure 3.3. Learning theorys
contributions to the MPA distance
learning students satisfaction and
performance.
some flexibility in delivery
varied learning style
methods to address the
preferences of the
individual students
(Bloom 1976, Knowles
relate new concepts and
Students must be able to
1990).
content to prior life
experiences and learnings (Knowles 1990).
Learning must have an experiential element. Content is inadequate without
65


1981, Pfeiffer and Jones 1975, Joyce and Weil 1972).
The most effective instructors will adjust delivery to meet student needs, invite
participation, facilitate rather than direct or control, and demonstrate
immediacy behaviors such as showing interest in students and making
themselves easily available.
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CHAPTER 4
DISTANCE LEARNING RESEARCH
Any or all of the media with educational potential... can be used well or badly.
It is the application of a medium which defines the outcome for students, not its
inherent characteristics.
--Mason 1988, 38
This chapter builds on the foundation of learning theory reviewed in Chapter 3.
The key questions this chapter will examine are:
What is distance learning, and how did it develop?
What have been the experiences of PA programs with distance learning to
date?
Does a courses medium affect the students learning?
What are the key research findings relating to video-based courses?
What are the key research findings relating to on-line courses?
Given our literature reviews of video-based and on-line courses, what tentative
conclusions can we draw about the student characteristics and other factors
that predict success in a distance learning course?
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What Is Distance Learning?
Keegan has identified several factors that must be present for a course to be
considered distance learning. The first four factors are now generally accepted as a
basic definition of the genre:
The physical separation of teacher and learner during at least a majority of the
instructional process
The influence of an educational organization, including the provision of student
evaluation
The use of educational media to unite teacher and learner and carry course
content
The provision of two-way communication between teacher, tutor, or
educational agency and learner (Keegan 1986).
This definition eliminates a students independent, individual inquiry outside a
formal educational course. It also excludes a traditional course that is supplemented
by e-mail communication between students and instructor. It assumes the presence of
a sponsoring educational institution; it does not necessarily preclude educational
providers other than universities, although this thesis limits itself to that category. It
also assumes the presence of an instructor who provides a learning syllabus, guides
students through their course work, and evaluates them at the courses conclusion.
This is the working definition of distance learning we will adopt for this study.
At this point in the implementation of the distance learning field, we tend to see
technology-delivered courses as entities significantly different from their traditional
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counterparts. However, Garry Miller reminds us that what we take for granted as a
technology-neutral, traditional university class is, in reality, merely a reflection of
another eras state of technology. The medieval university was an invention to
disseminate knowledge in a period of poor transportation, poor communication, and
limited numbers of bookswhich were, as Miller points out, the only mediated
knowledge vehicle of their day. To overcome the transportation and communication
barriers between scholars,
.. .the best solution was to bring a lot of students together ... to learn from
the masters. That being the case, it also was logical to make study a full-time
occupation for students and teachers alike, and that meant that the primary
client of higher education had to be young peoplecaptured before they took
on other responsibilities (Miller 1990, 212-213).
The implications of these technologies shaped the university class as we still
know it today, including these elements:
For the masters to share their knowledge efficiently, scholars were required to
meet simultaneously with the master, who had to break his subject matter into
short, unified segments of content. Thus, the lecture was bom.
Since there were few books and no authorities other than the master, learning
became an authority-centered process. The students were dependent on the
master to decide what they needed to know and how it would be taught.
Memorization, of necessity, became a prime method of learning. The
closed-book test became the primary tool a master could use to assess a
69


students mastery.
The curriculum organized itself around the gathering of facts rather than their
application to problems or scenarios (Miller 1990).
Distance learning courses have their roots in early correspondence courses and
university extension programs. Isaac Pitman of Bath, cited by Verduin and Clark
(1991) as the first modem distance educator, began to offer shorthand courses by
correspondence in 1840. The University of London supported the founding of early,
private correspondence schools such as University Correspondence College in the
1880s to help students prepare for examinations.
In the United States, William Henry Harper is often named as the father of
modem correspondence education. Illinois Wesleyan University had begun to sponsor
graduate and undergraduate degrees by correspondence beginning in 1874, but it was
Harper, the first president of the University of Chicago, who institutionalized
correspondence education when he created a department of correspondence study as
part of the new universitys organization (Mood 1995).
Charles Wedemeyer of the University of Wisconsin, who many have called the
father of American distance education, began in the 1950s to establish distance
education programs at American universities. Wedemeyers distance education
philosophy was founded on two principles: a belief in the democratic social ideal and
an espousal of the principles of liberal education. Wedemeyer held that distance
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education could open higher education to a variety of individuals formerly excluded:
the poor; the geographically isolated; the socially disadvantaged; the institutionalized;
and those whose ill health or disabilities precluded campus attendance.
Wedemeyers instinctive feeling for distance education led him to realise that
the only way to break what he called the space-time barriers of education
was by separating teaching and learning. This involved planning teaching and
learning as separate activities so that educational opportunities can be provided
in any place there are students, whether or not there are teachers at the same
place at the same time ... He proposes three conceptualisations of autonomy
for learners in distance education: programs should be self-pacing,
individualised and offer freedom in goal selection . Learner autonomy
implies that the learner should have freedom in the selection of goals, the
activities that will lead to these goals and the evaluation of achievements
(Keegan 1992, 77).
The Sunrise Semester courses, one of the earliest initiatives of what came to be
the public television network system, was founded in 1957, and continued to add
additional courses and home viewers throughout the 1960s. In the 1970s, modeling
their programs after those of the Open University of the United Kingdom, the
American universities of Maryland, Houston, and Rutgers began offering courses that
combined text, videotape materials, and weekly tutorial sessions. During the 1980s,
over a million adults signed up for telecourses sponsored by the Public Broadcasting
Services Adult Learning Service (Verduin and Clark 1991).
By 1995, a survey on distance learning courses conducted by the National
Center for Education Statistics found that one-third of the nations higher learning
institutions were offering distance learning classes during that years fall semester.
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For purposes of the survey, distance learning courses included any courses received at
remote locations using audio, video, or computer technologies. Another one-fourth
of the institutions planned to offer distance learning courses within the next 3 years,
while 42 percent stated that they did not offer nor did they plan to offer such courses.
In the academic year 1994-1995, the survey researchers estimated that 25,730 distance
learning courses would be offered. Of those, 45 percent were offered by 4-year
public institutions, 39 percent by 2-year public institutions, and only 16 percent by
4-year private institutions. More than 758,600 students enrolled in distance learning
courses during the 1994-1995 academic year. Eighty-one percent of the institutions
offered courses designed primarily for undergraduate students, and 34 percent of the
institutions offered courses designed primarily for graduate students (National Center
for Education Statistics 1999).
Table 4.1 (see next page) depicts the distribution of media the surveyed
institutions are using and plan to use to deliver their distance learning courses as of
1995. At least 57 percent of institutions surveyed were using some form of distance
learning technology to deliver courses. Based on those institutions plans for distance
learning expansion, every on-line and video medium option will experience substantial
growth in subsequent years.
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Table 4.1. 1995 distance learning course offerings, by medium.
Currently use Plan to use in the next 3 years2
Type of technology Percent of institutions1 Reduce or keep the same number of courses Start or increase number of courses No plans
Two-way interactive video 57 2 79 19
Two-way audio, one-way video 24 7 35 58
One-way live video 9 6 28 66
One-way pre-recorded video 52 8 49 43
Audiographics 3 3 8 89
Two-way audio 11 6 20 75
One-way audio 10 6 11 83
Two-way online interactions 14 <0.5 71 29
Other computer-based technology 22 1 79 20
'Percentages are based on the number of all institutions that offered distance education courses in fall 1995. Percents sum to more than 100 because an institution can use more than one type of technology.
2For plans, percents are computed across each row, but may not sum to 100 because of rounding. Percents are based on all institutions currently offering or planning to offer distance education courses in the next 3 years.
NOTE: Data are for higher education institutions in the 50 states, die District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Postsecondary Education Quick Information System, Survey on Distance Education Courses Offered by Higher Education Institutions, 1995. Data are in the public domain.
Distance Learning in the PA Community
Rahm and Reed (1998) conducted surveys in 1995 and 1996 of NASPAA
members and other PA schools concerning their experiences with distance learning.
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They sent the 1995 survey to 222 schools and achieved a 71-percent response rate;
they sent the 1996 survey to 359 schools and achieved a 52-percent response rate.
Between 1995 and 1996, the percent of respondents who indicated that they were
using distance learning to deliver some courses increased from 12 to 24 percent, with
another 14 percent of the 1996 respondents reporting that they intended to implement
a distance learning program within the next two years. Over half used fiber optic
systems for delivery; while it was not completely clear from the article, it appeared that
the authors used this term to refer to two-way audio, two-way video systems in which
instructors and distant students could both see and hear one another. Another
commonly used distance learning tool was e-mail interaction with distant students (53
percent). Twenty percent used some form of chat rooms or listservs, and 43 percent
used the Internet and the World Wide Web for class or program delivery. Twenty
percent used satellites and 16 percent used public television to broadcast courses
(Rahm and Reed 1998).
Rahm and Reed presented case studies of eight institutions7 who were heavily
involved in distance learning. Their case studies documented myriad and confusing
webs of university components that were involved in setup and delivery at each of the
schools, due to the fact that the distance learning infrastructure was located outside
7 The University of Nebraska at Omaha, Iowa State University, the University of North Dakota, the University
of Baltimore, the Naval Postgraduate School, the University of Texas at Tyler, Georgia Southern University,
and the University of South Dakota.
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the PA schools or departments. Some schools, for example, had separate registration,
grade reporting, and billing systems for local and distant students. In some, a
continuing studies department, as opposed to the PA school, had primary
responsibility for PA distance learning courses. And some schools had different
tuition rates for on-campus and off-campus courses (Rahm and Reed 1998). All these
issues point out the Wild West status of distance learning programs as PA schools
scramble to establish programs and try to patch together delivery systems in unfamiliar
territory.
One of Rahms and Reeds most interesting findings was that most PA schools
that have implemented some form of distance learning have done so at the urging or
direction of forces outside the PA school, such as state legislators, governors, boards
of regents, or chancellors. Thirty-three percent of respondents to the 1996 survey
rated deans or directors as very important in the promotion of distance learning; only
seven percent rated the faculty members as very important in distance learning
promotion. Schools that reported little interest in distance learning implementation by
their external stakeholders were also significantly less likely to have implemented such
programs. Common reasons given for distance learning implementation include cost
effectiveness, a desire for higher enrollments, increased school revenue, and the need
to remain competitive (Rahm and Reed 1998). Rahm and Reed refer to the push-
pull factors, or the carrot-and-the-stick, which have led to distance learning adoption.
75


Their survey results indicate some turbulent times ahead for schools if the pressure to
implement is external and if their faculties are not supportive or involved. Rahm and
Reed conclude,
The question facing many higher education institutions is how best to organize
the resources to meet the needs of students at a distance. Should the system be
programmatically decentralized but administratively centralized? In such a
model faculty would control content and pedagogical decisions while support
services (e.g. registration, admission, library, bookstore) would have a
centralized point of contact for distance delivery. If such a model is adopted,
how will resources be allocated? Who will make key decisions about access to
support services? How will those services be prioritized among competing
academic programs?...
The challenge for public affairs programs is to work within the broader
institutional context of higher education to ensure that quality, accessible
learning will take place in their programs. This will require assertive leadership
and a willingness of faculty to take on the challenges created by distant
education (Rahm and Reed 1998, 13).
Does Course Medium Make a Difference?
The remainder of this chapters sections deal with distance learning research in
general, rather than specifically related to Public Administration.
Over time, suggested K.A. Miller, the focus on the technologies of distance
learning will wane as they come to be seen merely as part of the media choices
available to course instructors and designers.
As those new tools get accepted and people get used to using them, the
distinction between distance education and anything else will begin to diminish.
In a decade or so, we will simply be talking about education that is delivered
by the most appropriate means, depending on the student, depending on the
curricula, depending on the nature of the institution and the program (K.A.
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Miller, cited in Baker 1994, 14)
A number of researchers (e g., Lumsdaine 1963, Mielke 1968, Schramm 1977,
Whittington 1987) have concluded that a courses medium has no impact on the
students learning. Richard Clark (1983) argued the same position, and generated a
series of media articles, pro and con; he is still frequently cited in articles written in the
late 1990s. Clark, who seemed to thrive on controversy and colorful metaphors,
wrote that media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence
student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes
changes in our nutrition (Clark 1983, 445).
In a follow up article 11 years later, Clark again summarized research
supporting his contention that the choice of medium has no impact on student learning.
He concluded, [I]n thousands of media research studies conducted over a period of
70 years, we have failed to find compelling causal evidence that media or media
attributes influence learning in any essential or structural way (1994, 27). He
dismissed findings to the contrary, contending that the researchers have confused the
impact of method with that of medium:
I accept the point that whenever learning occurs, some medium or mix of
media must be present to deliver instruction. . In brief, my claim is that media
research is a triumph of enthusiasm over substantive examination of structural
processes in learning and instruction. Media and their attributes have
important influences on the cost or speed of learning but only the use of
adequate instructional methods will influence learning . [Absolutely any
necessary teaching method can be delivered to students by many media or a
variety of mixtures of media attributeswith similar learning results (27).
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Clarks conclusion that medium does not affect learning is implicit in the work
of Reeves and Nass (1996). These researchers both conducted and reviewed a
number of studies relating to the way individuals interact with and respond to the
media of computers and video. They concluded that individuals treat interactions with
all these media exactly as they treat and react to other humans. Even though their
subjects remained intellectually aware that they were dealing with inanimate media
and machines, emotionally and physiologically they were unable to prevent
responding to the media as if they were reacting to humans instead. A simple example
cited by the authors is that scary movies elicit feelings of fear, even though an
individual knows that he or she is not in danger. The implications for distance
learning course design are enormous. For example, if research finds that certain
immediacy behaviors of a classroom instructor positively or negatively affect
students satisfaction and performance, then using the media to simulate those
behaviors will similarly affect the students course evaluations.
Three examples from Reeves and Nass findings have specific implications for
distance learning design:
Subjects attention and memory were enhanced when a presenter on the video
screen appeared close because of the cameras closeup shot.
Most computer programs are replete with error messages, but are seldom
programmed to send users encouraging messages. Computer programs that
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praised the subjects caused them to rate the computer and the program
more highly and to believe that the computer did a good job. It would be
relatively easy to build such encouraging messages into on-line courses.
Subjects infer personalities for video personalities and even computer
programs. If these personalities exhibit contradictory behaviors (e.g., due to a
variety of different programmers who have written different portions of a
course), subjects will be confused. This personality attribute can be used to
increase the effectiveness of a course:
If its important that a user think the computer is an active helper, then
the personality should be dominant and friendly. If the focus is on
more aggressive instruction, it should lean more toward dominance
than friendliness. If the help is from a peer, the personality could be
more friendly than dominant. If the computer is supposed to learn from
the user, then the personality should be submissive and friendly. There
are personalities uniquely suited to different tasks and roles; designers
should choose accordingly (Reeves and Nass 1996, 98-99).
An important consideration to keep in mind with regard to Reeves and Nass
research is that if students respond to media as if the media were human, then research
findings relating to effective design and delivery of courses would apply equally to
video and on-line delivery and classroom delivery.
Studies of Video-Based Classes
Both this section and the following section on on-line courses will be divided
into sections on student performance and satisfaction. It was impossible to draw a
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clean line between the two categories, since so many studies mixed assessments of
both.
Before beginning a review of the research literature, it would be helpful to
define what video-based courses are. Most university video courses use the medium
of compressed video, in which video images are digitized, compressed, and
communicated through high-speed data transmission lines. They tend to feature
cameras at each site where instructors and students are located, so that whoever is
talking can be seen by all other participants. Instructors typically have a document
camera at their sites, so that they can display slides, charts, or other supplementary
items during their presentations.
Some research studies relating to satellite course delivery are included in this
section, since satellite courses also use a video delivery system. Satellite courses are
much less commonly used in university distance learning programs because they tend
to be much more expensive to produce than compressed video courses. Satellite
courses typically feature broadcast-quality images, while compressed video images can
be jerky. Satellite instructors often have the support of a professional television
production crew. Usually, satellite courses are only one-way video, two-way audio;
i.e., the instructor is seen but cannot see his or her students. Some of the research on
video courses applies equally to either compressed video or satellite delivery, hence
the inclusion of satellite delivery research as appropriate.
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Table 4.1 (see p. 73) demonstrates the dominance of video-based courses at
the university level. As of 1995, 57 percent of the surveyed institutions were using
some form of two-way interactive video (compressed video), while 24 percent were
using two-way audio/two-way video and 9 percent were using one-way video
without audio (typically, both of these are satellite). All computer-aided courses
totaled 36 percent, with only 14 percent featuring two-way, on-line interaction.8
Even though the surveyed institutions plans for expansion show similar expected
growth percentages for two-way video and two-way on-line courses, the substantial
lead of two-way video will result in that mediums continued dominance for years to
come.
Student Performance in Video-Based Courses
Student performance as delineated in this study includes both the grades that
students earn in a course, and their successful completion of a course, or
persistence. Successful students are those who completed a course with a grade of
C or better during the first semester; unsuccessful students are those who either
withdrew, who failed to complete the course during the first semester, or who
completed the course with less than a C. Several researchers (e.g., Feasley 1983,
Holmberg 1977, Keegan and Rumble 1982, Lewis 1983, Munshi 1980, Rekkedal
8 Numbers do not tally to 100 percent since some institutions are using more than one form of distance
learning; also, some institutions, as depicted in the table, are using audio distance learning not studied
in this thesis.
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1986, Sewart 1986) have found that students in video-based classes are significantly
more likely to drop out of a course. We begin by examining selected studies on
persistence, including a few that predate actual video courses, and then will move to
research on grades.
There is a long and rich history of research that examines the relationship
between certain individual constructs and success in courses outside the classroom.
As early as 1959, Koenig and McKeachie stated that the hypothesis emerging as most
plausible is that factors determining success in independent study are primarily
attitude, motivation, and other traits of personality rather than academic abilities
(1959, 134). In 1976, Moore hypothesized that the reason the construct of field
independence exists to a significant degree among early distance learners (i.e.,
correspondence courses) was that through a self-selection process, only those who
can tolerate non-social learning conditions survive in a program where dialogue is so
low (1976, 152).
Chere Coggins (1988) cites research by Woodley and Parlett (1983) and
Rekkedal (1983) that successful course completion is related to a students age,
gender, number of years out of school since last enrolled in full-time study, and level
of formal education. In Coggins own study of 153 distance learning students at the
University of Wisconsin, she found no significant differences between course
completers and noncompleters based on gender, occupation, marital status, or the
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numbers of children. She did find significant differences related to prior educational
level, intention to earn a degree, and length of time since the last college course.
Interestingly, the completers in Coggins study possessed a greater expectancy of
academic success than did the noncompleters.
Richard Powell, Christopher Conway, and Lynda Ross (1990) analyzed
whether certain factors would predict successful completion for 301 Canadian
university students enrolled in correspondence courses. They identified several
criteria that differentiate successful students: high self-ratings on persistence; marriage
or significant other present in the home; high self-ratings on the consequences of not
passing and the likelihood of course success (i.e., expectancy); low self-ratings in a
need for support to complete difficult tasks; high literacy/reading scores; high self-
ratings for organizational ability; and high self-ratings for perceived financial stability.
Janis Huston (1997) studied the persistence factors that tended to predict
completion of a doctoral program in education for students in video-based classes.
Her primary focus was on factors most relevant to adult, nontraditional students:
intrinsic and extrinsic motivation; interaction with the teachers and the institution;
emotional encouragement from school and family; and external factors such as
insufficient time and study distraction. She found that while the video format did not
affect the persistence rates of her subjects, there were some significant factors of
success for those students who successfully completed the course: spousal and
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financial support; intrinsic motivation; and positive interaction with instructors and the
institution.
In another study of persistence, Dille and Mezack (1991) sought to identify
predictors of community college students who were likely to complete a video course
successfully. Their subjects were 188 students enrolled for credit in one of four social
science courses during a selected semester. The researchers asked students to
complete three instruments; one gathered demographic data, the second was the
Internal-External Locus of Control Scale, and the third was Kolbs Learning Style
Inventory. They used ANOVA for differences in numeric variables, a chi square for
significant differences among categories, and a multiple regression to predict the
success of the video students. Their first research hypothesis was that the successful
students would be more likely to possess an internal locus of control, i.e., that they
would be more likely to believe that their hard work would result in academic success
than would a student who ascribes success more to external factors such as luck or
chance. They found a significant difference (p=.0077) between the locus-of-control
scores of successful and unsuccessful students. The students locus-of-control scores
also predicted their letter grades (p=.0289). Their second hypothesis was there would
be a difference based on learning style preference between the successful and
unsuccessful students. While the researchers manipulated their data numerous ways to
validate their hypothesis, they ultimately conceded that learning style could not be a
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significant predictive factor. The two characteristics that they found helpful in
predicting successful completion included age (older) and marital status (married).
Characteristics that were not significant included sex, ethnic background, number of
children, total college credits taken during the term, reasons for taking the video
course, or previous experience with video courses.
Biner, Bink, Huffman, and Dean (1995) sought to enlarge on the Dille and
Mezack study. They surveyed 449 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in 18
courses to determine whether the personality traits of video students differed from
their peers in traditional classes. They were interested in determining whether
successful video students shared certain personality traits. They administered an
existing personality assessment instrument to the students and compared their scores
to the students final course grades. Since a higher proportion of the video courses
students were female and their average age was 14 years older than the classroom
students, the researchers controlled for both these factors. The researchers
concluded,
The data. . indicate that the most successful telecourse students are those
individuals who are resourceful and prefer to make their own decisions.
Moreover, they are not overly concerned about following social rules or
conventions and may actually disregard them altogether in some circumstances.
Finally, these students are introverted, self-indulgent (probably with regard to
the variety of activities they have chosen to engage in on a daily basis), and
tend to meet their responsibilities in an efficient, expedient manner (57).
Rudy Pugliese (1994) studied whether apprehension of communication,
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communication competence, loneliness, and locus of control were predictors of
successful video course completion. He conducted his survey of community college
students by telephone to increase the studys response rate. He contacted both
students who completed a course, and those who had withdrawn; ultimately, he
surveyed 306 students, or 39 percent of total video course enrollments for the period
under study, which included more than one semester. He used five existing
instruments to assess the constructs in question. He found that none of the constructs
were significant predictors of successful course completion. Pugliese concluded,
However important the factors of social integration may be in traditional education,
they cannot be said to account for the withdrawal and withdrawal/failure problem of
telecourses. Telecourses apparently minimize both the assets and liabilities of social
skills (34).
Student Satisfaction in Video-Based Courses
In a study that speaks both to performance and to satisfaction, Biner, Barone,
Welsh, and Dean (1997) studied 288 undergraduate college students who were taking
one of 17 video courses from 68 remote sites. Student satisfaction with several
elements of the course were compared to a measure of academic performance,
constructed using prior GPA and current grade, to determine whether satisfaction is
predictive of academic performance. The satisfaction factors were contained in an
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instrument called the Telecourse Evaluation Questionnaire (TEQ), and included
instructor, technology, course management, local site personnel, promptness of
material delivery, support services, and out-of-class contacts. Their regression
analyses showed that overall satisfaction did predict student performance. Two of the
factors were also predictive: satisfaction with the course technology and satisfaction
with the promptness of material exchange with the instructor.
In an earlier study using the TEQ, Biner, Summers, Dean, Bink, Anderson, and
Gelder (1996) surveyed 699 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 33 video
classes to determine the extent to which age, gender, socioeconomic status, personal
income, and prior video course experience predicted student satisfaction. The
researchers failed to find any demographic factors that predicted overall course
satisfaction. They did find that females were significantly less satisfied with the
logistic/management aspects of their classes than were males. The researchers
speculated that since women are more likely to carry the burden for juggling school,
work, and family responsibilities, they may be more critical of the logistical demands of
a distance learning class.
In the final Biner study examined in this literature review (Biner, Barone,
Welsh, Summers, and Dean 1997), the researchers again used the TEQ to explore
whether the size of the student group at distance sites was predictive of course
satisfaction and motivation. They subtracted each students GPA from the grade for
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the target class to derive what they called an operalization of motivation, i.e., the
extent to which a students performance in a telecourse exceeds his/her typical level of
performance in prior college-level courses. Thus, the index not only includes
information regarding an individuals telecourse performance, but also reflects effort
and persistence (25). The researchers found a significant positive correlation
between small group size and overall course satisfaction, as well as between group size
and each individual element of satisfaction. They found the same significant positive
correlation between small class size and the motivation/ performance index.
Chute, Bruning, and Hulick (1984) asked their subjects from traditional and
from video classes to respond to survey questions concerning topics such as course
relevance and design and quality of instruction. They found no significant differences
(p<0.05) in satisfaction between the two groups for any of the question categories.
Westbrook (1997) obtained similar results when he studied the satisfaction of 54 video
students enrolled in a graduate business degree program.
Helen Ritchie and Timothy Newbys (1989) study of the student performance
and satisfaction in video-based classes found that the medium did not have a significant
effect on performance, but it did have an effect on satisfaction. Students were less
likely to be involved, less able to ask questions, and less likely to enjoy their learning
experience than students in traditional classrooms.
Kim Walker and Michael Hackman (1992) surveyed 164 adult students from
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