Adult learning and distance education: A case study of a learning community in Jewish higher education
Linda Dale Bloomberg, Teachers College, Columbia University, United States
Teachers College, Columbia University . Awarded
This qualitative case study was designed to explore the learning community experience of adult learners participating in a distance learning Master's degree program in Jewish education. Further it was intended to shed light on the perceived impact on individual learning. It was the writer's assumption that this research would extract the uniqueness of Jewish study, affording new insights into the challenges and demands placed by distance education on the learner. Additionally, the premise was that this study would be of value not only to those concerned with the Jewish educational endeavor, but also to those interested in distance education in particular, and in the field of adult learning in general.
The site was an Institution of Jewish higher education that delivers degree programs by way of video-conferencing and online technology. The purposefully selected sample was comprised of two groups; twenty-two students and ten faculty members. The primary data collection methods were: in depth interviews, survey, and review of documents.
Analysis and interpretation of findings were organized by way of three analytic categories that were based on this study's conceptual framework: (a) conceptualization of the learning community experience, (b) impact on individual learning, and (c) factors facilitating and impeding individual learning. Within each category, the researcher viewed the findings through three analytical lenses---adult education, distance learning, and Jewish education.
This research revealed that a learning community offers the potential for an informal context for shared and collaborative learning. A key finding was that the learning community experience was perceived by the majority of students to impact individual learning. New learning included: openness to new perspectives; appreciation of collaborative learning; critical and reflective thinking; and application of learning to practice.
The principle recommendation is that educational institutions would benefit from increased and sustained dialogue around issues pertaining to the learning community. Creating opportunities for sharing ideas and knowledge at all levels will build a culture of shared learning, and will enhance and sustain learning communities.
Bloomberg, L.D. Adult learning and distance education: A case study of a learning community in Jewish higher education. Ph.D. thesis, Teachers College, Columbia University.
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