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Learner responses to television in distance education : the need for a qualitative approach to research

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Title: Learner responses to television in distance education : the need for a qualitative approach to research
Author: Bullen, Mark
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program School Psychology
Copyright Date: 1989
Abstract: Despite the worldwide growth of distance education and over 30 years of media research, we know very little about the role and effects of television and other media in delivering distance education. Questions such as: "What media should be used to deliver instruction?" or "Does television or any medium or format within a medium have an advantage over any other in terms of student achievement and satisfaction?" have not been properly addressed by research. This study examines approaches that characterize past and present research and offers a model for further research to address unanswered questions about the role of television in distance education. The study argues that there are two main reasons why research has failed to adequately answer questions about the use of television in distance education: the dominance of experimental or quasi-experimental research methods, and the assumption of a quantitative conception of knowledge. There is a limited amount of experimental research and what there is has methodological flaws. Most research in distance education is classified as quasi-experimental, but much of this is also methodologically weak and is criticized for trading off internal validity for ecological validity. The hypothetico-deductive paradigm in which most of the research has been conducted assumes a quantitative conception of knowledge which views learning as essentially a reproductive process. As a result, researchers have examined and compared achievement and attitudes in narrow quantitative terms. This has been difficult to accomplish in properly controlled experiments, so we are left with results that not only are inconclusive about the quantity of learning, but also reveal little about the quality of learning. This study proposes an approach that is based on a qualitative conception of knowledge and that uses both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. The qualitative approach attempts to examine phenomena from the perspective of the subject as it occurs in the natural setting. The qualitative conception of knowledge views learning as a process in which the learner actively interprets, adapts and applies the knowledge or information he or she acquires. There is less emphasis on "how much is learned" and more on "what is learned". The study concludes with a proposal that illustrates how qualitative and quantitative methodologies can be combined to examine the processes and outcomes of learning and student attitudes in a multi-media distance education course. From this exploratory study issues in distance education would emerge providing direction for further research.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/28157
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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