Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Workforce Education and Development
AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF Gayla Stoner, for the Doctor of Philosophy in Education degree, presented on May 16, 2015, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: INSTRUCTORS' PERCEPTIONS OF ONLINE INSTRUCTION WITHIN REGISTERED APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAMS MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Barbara Hagler This qualitative study explored the perceptions of instructor use of online instruction within Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs). The study concentrated on experienced instructors within a RAP that is part of a long-term, well-established trade union located in a major metropolitan area in the Midwestern United States. This study was informed by the methodology of a constructivist case study, which included the following methods: document review, expert panel, and in-depth interviews. Swan, Garrison, and Richardson's (2009) process-oriented model of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) with a constructivist approach served as the conceptual framework to inform this study. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the body of knowledge of online instruction within RAPs. The focus of this research study described (a) how RAP instructors perceive online instruction, (b) how their perceptions might impact the learning experiences of adult learners, and (c) how the perception of online learning may be improved among such instructors. The Office of Apprenticeship, which is within U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA), recently revised regulations that now encourage the integration of technology-enhanced training into RAPs. Specifically, on October 29, 2008, the ETA, through its Office of Apprenticeship, exercised its statutory authority under the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937 and promulgated the first revision in more than 30 years to its longstanding regulatory rubric governing RAPs (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29, Part 29) (Labor, 2008). These revisions, published in Title 29, Part 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR Part 29), embrace the use of "electronic media," including "interactive distance learning," as permissible instructional vehicles for the technical training of RAP-enrolled apprentices (Labor, 2008). As a result of the revision of 29 CFR Part 29, RAPs now have the option to augment their formal training programs with non-traditional instructional modalities for the benefit of both apprentice-sponsoring employers and enrolled apprentices. Interviewee quotes are used throughout the study to illustrate the range of interviewee opinion and to support conclusions. These findings may enable the instructor to provide quality instruction by demonstrating the elements of presence described in the CoI process-oriented model. In addition, my findings indicated there is evidence of a CoI process-oriented model that helps facilitate quality online learning within this specific RAP. I also discovered that RAP instructors recognize and encourage the benefits of online instruction for the apprentice, which includes (a) increased training opportunities and (b) the ability to maintain adult lifestyles. Additionally, instructors serve as mentors for the apprentice by providing guidance and opportunities in regard to achieving their educational goals. Also, I found that perceptions of online learning will continue to improve through the ongoing support provided by the RAP. Support includes technology-based workshops and pedagogical-based professional development opportunities. Finally, RAP instructors must continue to be educated on the advantages online instruction can bring to the self-directed apprentice. Primary conclusions from the study are the revelation of a strong community establishment within this specific RAP. This community of learners support the apprentice's ability to contribute positively to the workforce through the attainment of educational goals. In addition, RAP instructors take ownership of the responsibility to provide flexible educational offerings to the apprentice. These offerings include the delivery of quality courses that result in the benefits gained through online instruction. Also, instructor support of resources must continue to remain a priority for the RAP. Finally, I concluded that the self-directed apprentice has similar attributes as the ideal online learner. Flowing from the study's conclusions are several recommendations for this specific RAP, as well as the Employment and Training Administration. My recommendations include the suggestions for online lifelong learning and professional development course offerings, as well as the comparison of the learning outcomes of apprentices based on delivery modes. I recommended assessments and evaluations or online program evaluation in RAPs. Also, I recommended instructor creation of a mechanism for evaluating the quality of online instruction within RAPs. I recommended that RAPs continue to consider additional paths for sustainable funding. Additionally, I recommended that RAP instructors should receive more knowledge and application training in regard to the utilization of the process-oriented model theoretical framework of the Community of Inquiry. Finally, I recommended the creation of a national advisory sub-committee to serve the Federal Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship. The sub-committee would be charged with the purpose of understanding and disseminating educational and technological instruction to enhance RAPs.
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