Planning and implementing online degree programs: a case study of a statewide university ststem distance learning initiative
Benson, Angela Denise
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The purpose of this study was to make meaning of the social and political processes in operation during the planning and implementation of one online degree program initiative. Using Cervero and Wilson's (1994a) negotiation of power and interests model as the theoretical framework, this study sought to address the need for research-based literature to direct educators and practitioners to plan and implement online degree programs. | The study employed an embedded qualitative case study design. NetEd, an online degree program initiative undertaken by the university system of a large southeastern state, served as the case, and six NetEd stakeholder groups served as the embedded cases. The investigation included 13 participants from the six stakeholder groups. Data collection methods included interviews, observations, and document analysis. Data analysis proceeded in two phases. the constant comparative method was used in the first phase and a modified form of explanation building was used in the second phase. | The findings indicated that NetEd stakeholders attempted to apply objectivist planning models, only to see their efforts thwarted by resource constraints and the preferences of other stakeholder groups. The findings further indicated that the negotiations of consensual and conflicting stakeholder interests shaped the 1) content, format, and audience of NetEd's first course and degree offerings; 2) planning processes used to plan and develop those offerings; and 3) power relationships among stakeholders. | Four conclusions about the planning and implementation of online degree programs were drawn from this research: 1) the negotiation of competing stakeholder interests resulted in discounted student perspectives, 2) the lack of depth in the distance education literature hindered effective program development, 3) traditional policies were used to direct the online degree programs, and 4) the technical processes and models used to direct planning and implementation were subject to negotiation. | The study expands the negotiation of power and interests model to incorporate the technical aspects of the planning process, making the model more representative of the everyday world of program planners, instructional designers, and online educators. Further research is needed to confirm the expanded model and to understand the role of students in the planning process.