Online Pedagogy: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Best Practices
By Ahmed Al-Asfour
Although more and more tribal colleges and mainstream universities are providing online courses, the literature remains sparse. Hopefully, this issue of Tribal College Journal will spark a discussion on the topic, and the body of literature will continue to grow. Because the majority of reservations are in rural areas and districts are far from each other, many tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) find it difficult to provide education to their communities. By using e-learning, this problem could be mitigated or eliminated completely.
The Journal of Distance Education, the Journal of Research in Rural Education, the McGill Journal of Education, and several other peer-reviewed journals can provide educators and administers enough information to develop their own virtual campus. As the saying goes “there is no one size fits all,” so each TCU needs to develop its own model of providing education to its stakeholders.
In 1999, Tribal College Journal dedicated its spring issue to “Distance Education” (Vol. 10, No. 3). Articles in that issue include: “Designing the tribal virtual college of tomorrow,” by Thomas Davis and Martha McLeod; “Emphasizing the human being in distance education,” by Deborah Wetsis, Ed.D.; “Virtual ridge runners scout websites,” by Lester R. Johnson, III and Johnel R. Tailfeathers; “North Dakota spiritual leaders give guidance for distance learning,” by Carol Davis; and “Educating the Native student,” by Marjane Ambler.
Vol. 10, No. 3 can be found in the magazine’s online archives at: http://tribalcollegejournal.org//themag/backissues/spring99/spring99.html
That issue’s resource guide, compiled by John Ereaux, can also be found online at:
To join the discussion and add your own resources to the current resource guide, add a comment below, write a Letter to the Editor, or find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tribal-College-Journal/93097475627
Suggested Reading Articles
Sanchez, J., Stuckey, M., & Morris, R. (1998). Distance learning in Indian country: Becoming the spider on the web. Journal of American Indian Education, 37(3), 1-17.
This article discusses the outcomes of using technology in American Indian educational systems throughout the Indian country. In addition, it discusses the history of using distance education in American Indian colleges and universities. Distance education technologies can be utilized as a means “frustrating the ends of assimilation” (p.1). Even though the authors of this article believe that using distance education can be beneficial to promote tribal cultures, it can threaten the integrity of tribal communities. Hence, the authors say that “such education be tribally controlled” (p.6).
Al-Asfour, A., & Bryant, C. (2011). Perceptions of Lakota Native American students taking online business course at Oglala Lakota College (OLC). American Journal of Business Education, 4(11), 43-50.
The authors conducted this study at a tribal college. The research examined the perceptions of American Indian students who were taking an online course. The themes found in this study were flexibility, transportation, communication, and technical support. In addition, this study discusses the advantages and disadvantages facing students when taking online courses.
Bobak, R., Cassarino, C., & Finley, C. (2004). Three issues in distance learning. Distance Learning, 1(5), 15-18. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 809428411).
The researchers in this article discuss three specific issues in distance learning: the digital divide, academic dishonesty, and transactional distance learning theory. In addition, the authors recommend how to reduce or embrace the challenges students encounter in distance learning.
Grandzonl, J., & Grandzol, C. (2006). Best practices for online business education. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 7(1).
The authors provide information for the best educational practices for online business courses. Their review of the literature provides helpful knowledge for business schools seeking optimal online course designs. The study emphasizes consistency, cohesiveness, and assessment.
Pan, W., & Singh, P. (2004). Online education: Lessons for administrators and instructors. College Student Journal, 38(2), 302-308.
This article discusses online education across North America based on personal experiences by two instructors. The knowledge that is shared in the study is based on teaching business online courses. The authors examine the role of online education, its advantages and disadvantages, best practices, methods of delivery, and possible ways to improve the effectiveness of teaching instruments.
Burd, B., & Buchanan, L. (2004). Teaching and teachers: Teaching and learning online. Reference Services Review, 32(4), 404-412.
This article provides information about learning and teaching styles for online education. In addition, it discusses teaching in various learning styles and how it might be accomplished using the available online tools and resources. The authors’ emphasis is on the need to understand different learning styles and how to address them in the online environmentAll participants must possess the attitudes necessary to succeed online.
Townes, G. (2009). Minority students earning degrees from online school in record numbers. New York Amsterdam News. Retrieved Dec. 29, 2011, from ProQuest Central. (Document ID: 1635588481).
This 2009 article in New York Amsterdam News discusses online education at the University of Phoenix, one of the largest online universities in the United States and worldwide. The article highlighted that African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students earned more degrees online than any other ethnic groups. The article said, “The University of Phoenix has made higher education accessible to all walks of life, including minority, first-generation, underrepresented, rural, and other at-risk students.” Minorities see online education as an opportunity for them to attend online universities, work, and balance their personal and family lifestyle.
Dale, L., & Spencer, J. (2001). Student attitudes toward online courses. Allied Academies International Conference. Academy of Educational Leadership. Proceedings, 6(2), 30-34. Retrieved Dec. 30, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1557131791).
The study compared students who were taking online courses with students who were taking face-to-face courses. The overall sample of the study was 405 students, 335 of whom took traditional courses and 70 took online courses. The study found that students who were taking online courses did not want to take their entire courses online. In addition, online students observed that online courses were less personal and required self-motivation on their part to succeed. They liked the idea of flexibility; however, it can be both an advantage and disadvantage to students who lack self-discipline.
Taormino, M. (2010). Student preparation for distance education. Distance Learning, 7(3), 55-60. Retrieved from Research Library. (Document ID: 2278184461).
This article discusses what students need to do and have in order to succeed in distance education. In addition, the article mentions that because students’ drop-out rates can be higher in online environments, students can benefit from understanding some of the characteristics that can help them do better. The article also gives some recommendations to students. The recommendations are: 1)time management, 2) motivation, 3) active participation, 4)willingness to independently seek information and research (self-reliance), 5) comfort with technology, 6) ability to communicate effectively, particularly in writing, and 7) student integrity. E-learners should possess these skills to do well in the online environment.
Martz Jr., W., & Shepherd, M. (2–7). Managing distance education for success.
International Journal of Web-Based Learning and Teaching Technologies, 2(2), 50-58.
This article gives good suggestions to help students, instructors, and colleges to increase their program success in online learning. These suggestions are: have instructors use a 24 hour turnaround for email, have instructors use a 1 week turnaround for graded assignments, provide weekly “ keeping in touch” communication, provide clear expectation of workload, provide explicit grading policies, explicitly separate technical and pedagogical issues, have policies in place that deal effectively with technical problems, provide detailed, unambiguous instructions for coursework submission, provide faculty with instructional design support, do not force student interaction without good pedagogical purpose, do not force technological interaction without good pedagogical purpose, and collect regular student and faculty feedback for continuous improvement.
Ambler, M. (1994). Does distance learning solve Native education problems? Tribal College Journal, 5(14). Retrieved from Ethnic NewsWatch: All (ENWALL). (Document ID: 625177951).
Although this article was published more than ???18 years ago, it highlights the importance of looking at different ways of delivering education to American Indian communities. Since the article is old, it discusses the usage of audio conference classes to delivery education to Alaskan Native students. The researcher surveyed distance learners in Alaska; 90 percent of Alaska’s rural residents are Native. The study found that even though most students prefer face-to-face education, they are grateful that they have the option of audio conferencing classes.
Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT)
This is a free and open online community of resources designed primarily for faculty, staff, and students of higher education from around the world to share their learning materials and pedagogy.
The National Education Association’s publication, “Guide to Teaching Online Courses
This publication offers guidance and support for teachers considering online courses.
Ahmed Al-Asfour is a faculty member at Oglala Lakota College (OLC). He has been teaching at OLC for the past four years in the Business Department and is finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Wyoming