Exploring the experiences of social work graduate students who have completed their degrees via interactive television
Jane Ann Macy, University of Minnesota, United States
University of Minnesota . Awarded
This qualitative study explored the experiences of adults who received their MSW degrees through a distance education program, which utilized ITV for course delivery. In-depth interviews, conducted in the fall of 1998, were used to gather data from fourteen subjects regarding their experiences as distance students. The sample, drawn from University of Minnesota School of Social Work records, represented three cohorts of students from two distance education sites. Three research questions guided the interviews: (a) What factors supported students in getting their degrees via a distance ITV program? (b) What obstacles did students experience in getting their degrees via a distance ITV program? (c) What impact did students believe the technology had on their experiences as students and on their subsequent professional practice? All interviews were audio taped and transcribed. A five-stage analysis process was used to identify themes and assist in conclusion drawing and verification. In addition, a subset of transcripts was reviewed by outside distance education experts. Findings indicate that (a) while the technology was occasionally frustrating, students described a number of ways they believed it enhanced their learning; (b) a major strength was the program's capacity to increase the diversity students experienced; (c) students experienced considerable support from their on-site cohort and site coordinators, much of which they described as “making the difference” in their ability to successfully complete the program; (d) students were deeply committed to getting an MSW, utilized supports from a variety of sources, and devised elaborate strategies to manage adult role demands; (e) lack of choice regarding classes, difficulties in finding and setting up field placements, and lack of access to library resources were among the barriers cited. The findings suggest that, from the learner's point of view, distance education can be a successful means for completing a graduate degree. In addition, attention is warranted to many aspects of the educational process, including admissions, choice of courses, structure and timing of the overall program, choice of distance site personnel and site coordination, specific forms of ITV instruction and pedagogy, and issues of cohort cohesiveness.
Macy, J.A. Exploring the experiences of social work graduate students who have completed their degrees via interactive television. Ph.D. thesis, University of Minnesota.
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