First Advisor

Daniel Sullivan

Date of Publication

Spring 7-19-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Web-based instruction -- Study and teaching (Higher), Social science teachers -- Interviews, Social sciences -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Computer-assisted instruction, Distance education -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Technological innovations



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 113 pages)


Online learning is a rapidly growing phenomenon in post-secondary education. Institutions of higher learning have embraced online learning for its perceived merits, but without the consideration of how instructors deal with this different learning medium. Little is known of the extent to which different disciplines are suited to the online medium; this is pertinent to disciplines that rely on spontaneous in-person discussion. Furthermore, as colleges continue to invest heavily in online learning, instructors who only possess face-to-face teaching experience may begin teaching online. This poses a pedagogical challenge for instructors who are unfamiliar with the medium. This qualitative, in-depth interview study with ten social science instructors elucidates the process of transition from face-to-face teaching to online teaching. Through grounded analysis, a few key themes emerged. Respondents explain that teaching in the online classroom is qualitatively different from teaching in-person. The asynchronisity of the online classroom - which means students do not "meet", discuss, or learn at the same time - is a subtle yet significant difference between the two mediums. The asynchronous classroom means instructors relinquish control of when and where students will engage in study and discussion, and this requires students to have especially high self-regulatory skills. Respondents also explained that their online courses were several times larger than their in-person ones, with some courses allowing over twice as many students as an in-person course. Consequently, instructors must find new ways to approach teaching in the online medium. This pitfall of relying on old, obsolete methods in the online medium can be avoided if instructors are provided with the peer and pedagogical support of their professional peers, and access to teaching assistants to manage the greater time commitment of teaching online. In order to have a positive experience, online teachers must be willing to take on an intellectual challenge that may defy how they perceive themselves and their role in higher education. If instructors are open to a new intellectual challenge and possess the proper resources, they will become committed to teaching online and perceive the advantages of the medium to outweigh the disadvantages.


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