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Redefining practice: challenging academic and institutional traditions with distance learning

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Laura Delgaty



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-ND 4.0).


Background With the uptake of distance learning (DL), which has actually been marginal for most academics, teaching contexts, traditional power structures and relationships have been transformed, leaving lecturers potentially disenfranchised. Institutional and cultural change is vital, particularly changes concerning academic roles. The advent of DL has caused role ambiguity; however published literature related to academic roles is confusing and lacks clear guidance. For academics involved in post graduate clinical education, information is even more incomplete. Using a framework of communities, this study is a direct response to these concerns. The aim was to systematically and critically evaluate the implementation of clinical DL in an effort to improve practice. Methodological procedures Maintaining a practitioner inquiry methodology, this study investigated the development and delivery of a new DL module. Data collection consisted of documentary analysis of meetings, interviews with staff and students, student evaluations and analytics. Data analysis incorporated both quantitative and qualitative methods to triangulate the research findings. Findings New competencies for academics emerged, including leadership and management. Barriers to staff progress included: ambiguity in roles, lack of leadership and unpreparedness for responsibilities, time, and workload. Student barriers included: time, fear, relevance of learning, isolation and increased autonomy. Explicit planning, organisational support and working within communities were requisite to create a ‘sustaining’ technology. Conclusions This study contributes to educational practice on two levels. Firstly, by striving for rigour, it demonstrates that practitioner inquiry is a legitimate research approach that is accessible and valuable to teachers. Secondly, it adds to useful and applied knowledge concerning DL practice. Avoiding traditional workload assumptions that are erroneous and inaccurate, this study provides new models of organisational roles and responsibilities. The results challenge the evolutionary nature of academia, suggesting working in communities and new competencies are required whilst traditional roles and culture must be redefined.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Delgaty L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Electronic Journal of e-Learning (EJEL)

Year: 2017

Volume: 15

Issue: 1

Pages: 17-32

Print publication date: 14/04/2017

Online publication date: 07/04/2017

Acceptance date: 05/04/2017

Date deposited: 27/04/2017

ISSN (electronic): 1479-4403

Publisher: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Ltd