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Instructor interactions in distance education environments.

The extant literature on distance education indicates that research regarding interaction illustrates that different types of instructional design methods and delivery technologies allow differing degrees of interaction. While many studies on distance education have focused on the role of distance learners (e.g., leaner-centered instruction, learner's perceptions), there has been comparatively little focus on instructional design strategies and interactions used by distance learning instructors. Instructors in distance education share different sets of interactions from distance learners. This article discusses the results of a case study that identified and documented instructional design interactions used by selected instructors teaching at a distance.


Distance education researchers, especially in America, (Moore & Kearsley, 1996; Willis, 1994; Cyrs, 1997a; McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996; Murphy, Harvell, & O'Donnell, 1998) have claimed that distance education requires specific instructional design strategies, interactions, and skills, which can fit the particular characteristics of distance learning programs and courses. In addition to these strategies and skills, some researchers claim that a theoretical instructional design base is essential. For instance, Koymen (1989) stated that, "there is a need for a theoretical base for teaching effectively in distance education to help the educational developer and instructional designer" (p. 247). In the same sense Moore and Thompson stated that,

It must be understood that distance education is much more than simply adding a new communications technology to an existing educational organization. Major pedagogical, instructional, and philosophical implications result from the learner or learners being more or less permanently separated from the teacher. (Moore & Thompson, 1997, p. 2)

Instructional design in the field of distance education:

... provides a process and framework for systematically planning, developing, and adapting instruction based on identifiable learner needs and content requirements. This process is essential in distance education, where the instructor and students may share limited common background and typically have minimal face-to-face contact. (Willis, 1998)

The diverse instructional design models used in distance education are built around the main components and variables of the instructional process itself, such as (a) instructional analysis; (b) identification of learning objectives and goals; (c) analysis of instructional content; (d) selection and implementation of instructional strategies and delivery; (e) selection of learning materials; (f) instructional management; and (g) evaluation and assessment (Kodali, 1998). Although different instructional design models used these components in varying ways, all of these models match the basic set of constituents of instructional design, which are conditions, methods, and outcomes (Reigeluth & Merrill, 1979).

Besides these central instructional design constituents some authors (Moore & Kearsley, 1996; Cyrs, 1997b) observed that instructional design in distance education deals also with other important key elements, such as instructor interactions, communication skills, and learning principles for the design of distance learning programs and courses. These elements are important in the design of instruction for distance learning courses (Mortera, 1999). "The term instruction in this case means the planning for and delivery of learning experiences ... It involves planning, teaching, interacting, learning, and assessment" (Rossman & Rossman, 1995, p. 26). These elements differ significantly from those used in the standard face-to-face and traditional classroom setting. Besser and Bonn (1996, p. 7) noted that: "Educators must not see distance education as an universal innovation applicable to all types of instructional situations, but must carefully analyze the appropriateness of distance independent learning to vario us types of instructional situations." What differentiates distance education from traditional face-to-face education is its pertinence to different types of instructional design situations, especially in the type of interactions, skills, and strategies used to engage and motivate the learner at a distance.

There is a third dimension that also complicates the design of distance education programs and courses in addition to instructional design constituents and instructor's interactions, skills, and strategies. This dimension is the instructor's paradigmatic approach (e.g., Behaviorist, Constructivist, or Critical Theory), which also affect how interaction and design influence instruction at a distance. These paradigmatic approaches have major consequences for instructional design and learner outcomes, and they "serve as conceptual and communication tools for analyzing, designing, creating, and evaluating, ranging from broad educational environments to narrow training applications" (Gustafson & Branch, 1997, p. 76). Therefore, in distance education, the different instructional design models are influenced by diverse factors (e.g., instructional design components, instructors' strategies, and educational paradigmatic approaches) which determine the amount and quality of interaction and instruction between instruct ors and their distant learners.

In particular, the literature on distance education lacks research on the implications of, and relationships between, distance education instructional design models and instructor interactions--practices and skills--at a distance. Researchers criticize the literature in distance education because of lack of research rigor (McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996) and call for more qualitative research (Windschitl, 1998). Except for anecdotal reports and a growing body of literature on faculty development procedures within distance education (Willis, 1994), little information is available about the effects of improvement efforts, or on the actual skill acquisition of distance education faculty (Thach & Murphy, 1995). Recent research, however, substantiates the paucity of instructor training with interactive videoconference (Taylor, 1999). This article extends the findings of a case study that investigated these issues from a Naturalistic Perspective (a qualitative approach) (Mortera, 1999). The present article describes t he results of instructor interactions and instructional design strategies used in three distance education courses at Texas A&M University (TAMU), during the fall semester of 1998.

Design for Distance Education

A major premise for conducting this research was that: "... [D]istance education is much more than simply using technology in a conventional classroom....It is about the consequences of using technology on such subjects as course design and delivery, interaction and learning, management and organization" (Moore & Kearsley, 1996, p. 2).

The current instructional practice for many institutions is to simply add distance education courses "to existing academic programs with faculty being told to teach as they have always taught" (Cyrs, 1997a, p. 53). This inadequate instructional practice does not allow for the full potential for quality distance education delivery, because it ignores fundamental differences between traditional face-to-face instruction and distance education. Distance education calls for special instructional design methods and interactions (Merrill, 1994).

Because instruction at a distance frequently involves technology those who design and use distance course materials should be knowledgeable of instructional principles, technology issues, and the interaction process itself (Moore & Thompson, 1997). Faculty development is viewed as critical in assisting instructors to adapt their face-to-face teaching practices to a distance teaching mode (Dillon & Walsh, 1992). Specifically, distance instructors have to consider the course objectives, learner needs, instructional strategies, study guides, texts, and assessment strategies based on the particular characteristics of the distance learning process itself.

It is important to convey the principles and skills of distance education instructional design so that distance learning instructors will be adequately prepared to perform and interact well with distance learners. Therefore, the few scattered studies about instructional design strategies and interactions used by distance learning instructors create an urgent need to study such type of instructional practices and interactions in more detail.

While considerable research has concentrated on the role of the distance learner during the learning process (e.g., learner-centered instruction, learners' perceptions) (Moore & Kearsley, 1996; Schlosser & Anderson, 1994), comparatively little attention has been paid to instructional design practices, skills and interactions used by distance instructors (Thach & Murphy, 1995). As a result, little is known about the ways in which educators enhance their own instructional design performance over time.

Instructor Interactions at a Distance

Garrison (1989) identified two-way interaction as a critical feature of the educational process. Interaction is necessary not only for learners to receive feedback on their progress but also to engage the learners in active learning. Research indicates that higher levels of interaction typically lead to more positive attitudes toward, and greater satisfaction with, learning (Hackman & Walker, 1990).

Wagner (1994) cautioned that two-way interactive technologies (e.g., video, audio, audiographics, and computer conferencing), "while capable of providing two-way interactivity, still depend on user skill to successfully bring about interaction in an instructional context" (p. 9). Research on interaction in distance education reveals that different types of instructional design models and delivery technologies allow for differing degrees of interaction (Hanson, Maushak, Schlosser, Anderson, Sorensen, & Simonson, 1996). Interactions in distance learning are an important component for the delivery and development of instruction.

The current distance education literature addresses distance interaction from the learner's perspective. Typically, it focuses on the learner, and emphasizes the interaction occurring between the learner and the content, the learner and the instructor, and the learner with other learners (Moore, 1989). It has also been noted in the American literature that the interaction between learners and the technology, particularly with high technology communication devices, is critical (Hillman, Willis, & Gunawardena, 1994). Hence, the four typical types of interaction for distance learners are: (a) learner-content, (b) learner-instructor, (c) learner-learner, and (d) learner-technology. However, distance instructors develop similar, although relatively different, instructional interactions: (a) instructor-learner, (b) instructor-content, and (c) instructor-technology (Table 1).

The literature on distance interactions explains them as a result of a transactional distance situation, a learner control factor, and immediacy and intimacy in terms of social presence (McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996).

These instructional interactions are complex processes; the literature recommends that instructional designers keep them in mind to produce effective, efficient, and quality distance education courses. Transactional distance, according to Moore (1993), included the distance that exists in every educational relationship. This distance is established by the amount of dialogue occurring between the learner and the instructor, and the extent of structure that exists in the design of a course. On the other hand, Social Presence is a strong communication component that reduces isolation between the distant learner and other learners and instructor. Lack of social presence might affect learner's performance and outcomes during the instructional transaction (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976). McIsaac and Gunawardena (1996) explained that social presence is "the degree to which a person is perceived as a 'real person' in a mediated situation" (p. 427). The notion is that social presence can be transferred both by the medium itself and by the people using the medium for interaction. Transactional distance and social presence are strongly interrelated and together influence the learner's control of the learning process. The possession of Learner Control is a chief factor in establishing positive or negative instructional interactions between the distant learner and the instructor. Learner control implies independence, competence, and support during distance interactions (Garrison & Baynton, 1987). Interaction in distance education is an interesting issue that needs more analysis and discussion in future studies.


This case study of instructional design interactions and strategies in selected distance learning courses at Texas A&M University, was conducted from the perspective of the Naturalistic Inquiry research paradigm (Constructivism) (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The research design accomplished three goals. The first goal was to review the research rationale for carrying out the study. The second goal was to develop the research procedures followed with detailed information on criteria employed for selection of respondents and participants and data collection (e.g., fieldwork journal, reflexive journals, and memos). In this section Generic Qualitative Study and traditional sociological Case Study features were adopted (Merriam, 1998). Both are important types of qualitative studies where fieldwork participant observation, interview of informants (structured and semi-structured interviews), and analysis of meaningful documents are used. The third goal was to identify and apply the qualitative data analysis methods used, such as Formal Content Analysis and Constant Comparative Method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). These two methods had an important role during the final process of qualitative data analysis within the study (results and recommendations).

Rationale for the study. The main reason for this qualitative study was to document and analyze the current instructional interactions and strategies used in distance education courses at Texas A&M University (TAMU), which were not yet documented in any existing study. A second reason was to determine the current instructional design components used by distance education faculty and instructors at TAMU, and to observe and describe how they correlate with instructional interactions and strategies. A third reason was to discover if these instructional design interactions, practices and strategies, represent those described as desirable and appropriate in the sparse research literature on distance education.

Data collection. Data were gathered from unstructured interviews (semistructured) of three TAMU instructors and participant observation was conducted on their three distance courses (Lincoln & Cuba, 1985). The research was conducted over a one-year period. Although participant observation, which was conducted during an entire 16-week-semester, was the primary source for most of the data used (with extensive fieldnotes for each session--51 fieldwork observations), interviews and compilation of course documents also contributed to important data. The three instructors were solicited as participants for the interviews. A total of nine interviews took place. A semistructured interview format employing both closed-and open-ended questions was used with extensive probing. All interviews were transcribed verbatim. During the data collection, participant observation and document examination were used to ensure triangulation. A more detailed description of data collection and analysis is available in Mortera (1999). B rief descriptions of instructor-participants and courses observed are provided in the next paragraphs.

Case study participants criteria selection. The cases in this study are based on three TAMU faculty members who were teaching distance learning courses at the College Station campus during the fall semester of 1998. During that semester, TAMU offered 41 interactive videoconferencing courses in different locations around the state of Texas using the Trans-Texas Videoconference Network (TTVN) and other distance delivery systems including satellite TV, desktop videoconferencing, the Internet, and the Web.

The selection of the three distance learning instructor-participants was based on the following criteria: (a) Instructors had to be teaching a course at a distance, with College Station, Texas, as the local site; (b) they had to be tenured or tenure-track faculty with previous experience in delivering courses at a distance, (c) they had to represent three different departments within the university; (d) they had to use varying kinds of technology for delivering instruction (e.g., videoconferencing, the Web, e-mail); and (e) they had to use both synchronous and asynchronous forms of interaction in their courses.

The three instructors were selected from The TAMU Office of Distance Education Directory. They were contacted personally through a direct person-to-person interview.

Description of instructor-participants. The three faculty instructors represented three departments in two colleges at TAMU: Instructor A was in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS), and Instructors B and C were in the College of Education (COE). Table 2 summarizes the instructor demographic data.

The instructors' experience in teaching distance courses varied: Instructor A had three years teaching distance courses, Instructor B had six years teaching at a distance, and Instructor C had five years delivering courses at a distance. Teaching at a distance by these instructors included a wide range of faculty experiences and instructional interaction skills. In addition, they had many years of teaching traditional face-to-face courses: Instructor A had more than 30 years, Instructor B had 25 years, and Instructor C had more than 15 years.

Description of observed distance education courses. In fall 1998, three TAMU distance education courses and their instructors were observed through fieldwork participant observation. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS) offered one undergraduate course; Course A dealt with citrus production. The College of Education (COE) offered two graduate courses: Course B dealt with group dynamics, and Course C focused on telecommunications used in distance education environments. The duration of the courses was a full semester (four and one-half months), and each course was worth three credits. Table 3 summarizes data on the courses.

Course A was a multi-point class, with three locations throughout the state of Texas. The two far sites were in Stephenville and Weslaco, and the onsite location was in College Station. This course had one primary instructor at College Station, one instructor-facilitator in Weslaco, and one technical-facilitator in Stephenville. The primary instructor located at College Station site was in charge of course design, implementation of instruction, and evaluation.

Course B was a point-to-point class, with two locations in the state of Texas. The far site was in San Antonio, and the onsite location was at TAMU. This course had just one instructor, who resided in College Station. There was no facilitator at the far site, but a technical person to help with technical problems was available for the duration of each class meeting.

Course C was a multi-point class, with more than 18 virtual sites. It was a web-based course where each student took the course from his or her computer (e.g., at home, work, library, or computer lab). The instructor taught the class from different places (i.e., campus office, home office, computer lab, and hotels and friends' houses during travels away from College Station).

Data analysis. The qualitative methods used to analyze and examine the data (from interview notes, fieldwork observation notes, non-verbal cues, and course documents) were: Formal Content Analysis (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), Constant Comparative Method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), and the construction of trustworthiness through triangulation (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Most of the research tasks in the remaining steps of the study involved detailed analysis of the data using these qualitative and interpretive methods. The data were interpreted and analyzed through a naturalistic and interpretative process of construction of categories or conceptual units (e.g., instructional design constituents, types of interactions, and types of instructional strategies and practices) and themes (e.g., instructional design and instructor interactions). Once research was underway, findings from this kind of analysis widened the interview process and selection of subsequent data. Data analysis also included an intense examination of ref lexive journal notes and peer debriefing. These instruments allowed a level of validity and trustworthiness in the study. In the following section the results are presented by looking at each research question in turn.


This section presents results of the study and discusses the main two issues: Instructor Interactions and whether those interactions represent the ones considered to be desirable in the literature on distance education.

Instructor interactions. Question 1: Within instructional design used in distance education, what are the instructional interactions utilized by selected distance education instructors at TAMU?

The results show that instructional interactions in distance education are the different teaching-learning intercommunications among distance instructors and distance learners, where information and resources are shared in real and delayed time during the instructional and learning process. Instructional interactions played an important role during the implementation of the instructional design in each of the three cases observed.

The results show, also, that TAMU distance learning instructors developed instructional interactions that were similar to, although relatively different from, the learner's perspective, and also show the presence of four new types of interactions. The instructors used the following seven types of interactions: (a) instructor-learner, (b) instructor-content, (c) instructor-technology, (d) instructor-facilitator, (e) instructor-peers, (f) instructor-support staff and technical personnel, and (g) instructor-organization. A major finding was that the types of instructional interactions vary depending on the point of view of learners, or instructors, or facilitators, or authorities, or administrative and technical staff. Each one of these actors can develop distinct types of distance interactions (Mortera, 1999).

The conceptualization of just one perspective (e.g., the learner's viewpoint) does not allow for understanding the entire interaction phenomena within distance education environments. It is necessary to visualize the other types of interactions from the perspective of their different actors. The results show that instructors had a very particular way to interact with learners at a distance, but also with content, technology, peers, far-site facilitators, staff and technical personnel, and authorities. Further studies will be necessary to create a theoretical framework of instructor's interactions at a distance to understand their implications, such endeavor was beyond the goal of this research study. However, its identification as a distinctive realm within the interaction process itself is an important contribution from this research study to the discussion of instructional design factors influencing distance education programs and courses. Table 4 shows the types of interactions of each of the three instruc tors who were observed during the case study.

On the other hand, the results show a new dimension of processes related to interactions at a distance and instructional design. This dimension is composed by the concrete instructional design strategies and practices used by the three instructors who were observed. Instructional design strategies and practices in distance education are the diverse instructional actions and activities performed and implemented during the distance learning situation; where the different instructional design components and educational paradigms are applied by the instructor and the learners. Teaching and delivery of distance education courses seem to imply a myriad of different instructional design strategies and practices.

The types of interactions implemented by instructional and teaching practices are basic strategies in the instructional design process itself. Instructional implementation is concerned with understanding, improving, and applying methods of instruction into different learning environments. There are different kinds of instructional strategies based on learning interactions such as: strategies to increase participation, to develop communication, to receive feedback, to enhance collaboration and retention, and to support learner control/self-regulation (Cyrs, 1997b). There were eight concrete instructional design strategies and practices observed and found in this study: (a) organizing and planning, (b) communicating, (c) delivering, (d) management, (e) learning activities, (f) motivation, (g) feedback and supervision, and (h) evaluation and revision (Mortera 1999). Table 5 shows the types of instructional design strategies and practices used by the three instructors. These instructional design practices and str ategies are key findings for the purpose of this research study.

Instructor interactions represented in the literature. Question 2: Do these interactions represent those described as desirable in the research literature on distance education?

The findings revealed that the interactions that were observed from the instructors' instructional design strategies and practices are not totally represented in the research literature on distance education. For example, the three instructors at TAMU experienced four "new" types of interaction that were not documented in the literature, in addition to the types recognized as desirable within the literature--learners with other learners, with the instructor, with the content (Moore, 1989), and with technology (Hillman, Willis, & Gunawardena, 1994). The four new interaction types identified in this study are: (a) instructor-facilitator, (b) instructor-peers, (c) instructor-support staff/ technical people, and (d) instructor-institution interaction. Each interaction type fosters particular ways to deal with specific issues. Table 6 summarizes the traditional and "new" types of interactions that instructors used in their distance courses.


This section presents a discussion of the results of this study. This discussion focuses on TAMU instructor interactions, instructional design strategies, and paradigmatic approaches used.

Instructional design components differed in purpose, sequence, and implementation methods among the instructors. For example, instructors A and B disregarded recommended design components such as an instructional analysis, which involves an examination of learner's needs and characteristics. They did not identity learning objectives prior to teaching the course. Instead, these instructors relied on the course content (syllabus) for identifying course goals and determining instructional strategies and evaluation methods. The other instructor, however, conducted a needs assessment and instructional analysis, and identified learning objectives before the beginning of a course. These findings are supported by research on whether or not instructors of online courses use the components of the general instructional design model--conditions, methods, and outcomes (Kodali, 1998). In a study that investigated instructors' use of these three design constituents put forward by Reigeluth and Merrill (1979), Kodali discove red that all of the instructors used some or few of the components of the model, whereas only a few used all of them in designing and delivering online courses. Specifically, the most frequently used component was methods, whereas the conditions were used least. Further, the application of instructional design constituents may depend on the instructor's educational and philosophical background--for example, Behaviorist or Constructivist. Behavioral-Oriented instructors may focus on changing learners' behaviors, adoption of new attitudes and conducts, and positive transfer of learning (with more emphasis on the content of the course and evaluation process--methods and outcomes). Instructors who embody Constructivism or Interpretavism, on the other hand, tend to foster learners' reflection, critical thinking, and construction of meaning (with more emphasis on the learners' needs and instructional strategies-conditions and outcomes).

TAMU instructors' previous professional experience with distance learning and distance delivery technology also shaped the purpose, sequence, and ways to implement instructional interactions and instructional design strategies. The current study suggests that instructors with broad experience in distance education were likely to be more effective in interacting with far-site students, designing the course content, and using technology than were instructors with little or no distance education experience. A major conclusion was that instructors' educational paradigms and previous instructional experiences guide their design and delivery of instruction at a distance; and it stresses the need for training on appropriate instructional design principles and models suitable for specific distance education interactions and instructional design strategies.

Another major conclusion was that Instructors must be capable of using at least seven types of interactions, unlike their students, who are likely to use fewer types of interaction. Three instructor interactions shared with students are instructor-learner, instructor-content, and instructor-technology interaction. The remaining instructor interactions include instructor-facilitator, instructor-peers, instructor-support staff/technicians, and instructor-institution interaction. The quality and quantity of instructional interactions depend on the characteristics of the learners, the institution, costs, distance delivery technologies, instructional design model applied, instructional strategies used, course content, and course materials. Personal and unique styles of each instructor determine the dynamic of the instructional interactions.

The comparison between a review of the literature and research results shows that the design of instruction in distance learning courses and its instructional strategies depend primarily on the content, use of delivery technology, and the kind of interactions implemented among instructors, learners, facilitators, peers, and authorities (Moore & Kearsley, 1996). Different types of distance instructional design situations are intrinsically interrelated with the kind of interactions developed.

Finally, the research findings support Hillman, Willis, and Gunawardena's (1994) idea of a learner-interface interaction needed in any distance learning situation. The authors note that interaction between the learner and the technological medium, which delivers instruction, is a critical component of the interaction model. They propose a new perspective, which includes understanding the use of the interface in all transactions. Learners lacking basic skills in using a communication medium spend inordinate amounts of time learning to interact with this technological medium and have less time to learn the content. For this reason, instructors and instructional designers must include learner-interface interactions (e.g., orientation sessions) that enable the learner to use the mediating technology first without dealing with course content (Hillman, Willis, & Gunawardena, 1994).


Further qualitative and quantitative research will offer a fuller understanding of the instructional design interactions and practices used in distance learning. The results of this study suggest the following recommendations.

It appears that one of the most effective things an institution can do to promote understanding of instructional design models and their constituents, among its instructors, is to enhance their instructor's knowledge of instructional design theory and practice accordingly to the needs of their distance students. They need to know what is the state of the art of instructional design and they should learn from it. The creation of a flexible monitoring process by faculty who deliver courses at a distance would allow for the identification of areas where instructional design is weak and where it should be reinforced via seminars, workshops, and conferences. The implementation of a reward system would be a motivational factor for those who attend these kinds of events (e.g., release time).

It appears that instructor's teaching experience should be considered an asset for the enhancement of distance courses; there is a need to build a bridge between faculty teaching experience and appropriate instructional design models in distance learning environments. Professors and instructors must reflect on their educational philosophies and paradigmatic perspectives that guide them through their teaching process. This reflection should allow instructors to understand what to expect from students, course content, and learning activities and outcomes in distance learning settings. Instructors should be recommended to develop reflexive journals, portfolios, and methodological logs during instruction as tools for this reflection.

Instructors and institutions could also revisit the diverse types of instructional interactions likely to be faced during distance courses (e.g., instructor-student, instructor-content, instructor-facilitators, etc.). Discussion could be held focusing on how to handle and manage effectively diverse types of distance interactions. They should learn how to overcome the barriers created by these types of interactions at a distance, such as lack of social presence, lack of rapport among distant students-facilitators-and- authorities, limited or no body language and social cues, and so forth. They could take advantage of their personal and unique styles of interaction with these different actors, but through a professional understanding of distance education interactions.

At a training level, institutions could offer workshops specially designed to teach how to develop instructional design strategies at a distance. Such workshops should include the following areas: organization and planning, communication skills, delivery techniques, management procedures, learning activities, motivational strategies, distant student feedback and support, and evaluation and revision procedures. The workshops could consist of simulations, scenarios, and role-play instructional design situations. The workshop would have the goal of awareness among instructors of the myriad of practices and strategies used in distance education instruction. The workshop could teach how to implement appropriate instructional design practices and strategies specifically design for "distributed classroom" and "independent learning" distance courses.

This research should be duplicated with a larger number of participant (cases). This would ensure a wider picture of different interactions and instructional design strategies used by distance education instructors. In conjunction with the former recommendation, the final recommendation could be to conduct a qualitative study, observing distance learning courses, and interviewing instructors for several years. That would provide a better view and deeper understanding of distance education instructional design and its interactions and strategies.
Table 1

Traditional View of Interactions in Distance Education

Learner Interactions Instructor Interactions

Learner-Instructor Instructor-Learner
Learner-Content Instructor-Content
Learner-Technology Instructor-Technology
Table 2

Descriptions of Participants

Participants Instructor A Instructor B

Rank Full Professor Full Professor
Area of Expertise Horticulture Adult Education

Course Taught Citrus Production Group Dynamics
Level of Course Undergraduate, Masters Masters, Doctoral

Distance Education
Teaching Experience 3 years 6 years

Distance Education
Experience Prior to Teaching 0 years 0 years

Distance Training
Received 1 years 0 years

Distance Training
Provided to Others 0 years 0 years

Participants Instructor C

Rank Assistant Professor
College COE
Area of Expertise Educational
Course Taught Telecommunications
Level of Course Masters, Doctoral

Distance Education
Teaching Experience 5 years

Distance Education
Experience Prior to Teaching 10 years

Distance Training
Received 4 years

Distance Training
Provided to Others 11 years
Table 3

Descriptions of Distance Courses Observed

Description of Course A Course B

Number of Locations 3 2

Distance Delivery Web-based Video-
 System Video- conferencing

Number of Students 1st far-site = 3 Far site = 2
(onsite & far-site) 2nd far-site = 4 On-site = 13
 On-site = 4 Total = 15
 Total = 11

Level of Course Undergraduate Graduate
Type of Course Technical Theory

Instructional Strategies 1.5 hours Theory 3 hours
 session/week; combined theory/
 3 hours Lab practice session/
 session/ week week

Uses of the Web Information None


Assistance with Support staff; None
 Technology Technical people

Course Materials Text book; Text Book
 Video tapes;
 Films; Audio
 tapes; Readings
 on Web

Supplementary Class 3-day face-to- 3-hour face-to-
 Sessions face field trip face summative

Description of Course C

Number of Locations 19

Distance Delivery Web-based

Number of Students Virtual Sites =
(onsite & far-site) 17

Level of Course Graduate
Type of Course Theory/
Instructional Strategies 3 hours self-

Uses of the Web Information


Assistance with Support
 Technology staff; Technical
 people; Mentors

Course Materials Readings on
 Web; Text
 books; Course
 pack of readings

Supplementary Class 6-hour face-to-
 Sessions face orientation
Table 4

Instructional Interactions among the Participants

Interactions Instructor A Instructor B Instructor C

Instructor-Learner + + +
Instructor Content + + +
Instructor-Technology + + +
Instructor-Facilitator + - -
Instructor-Peers + - -
Instructor-Support Staff/ + - +
Technical personnel
Instructor-Institution + - +

Note: "+" = used. "-" = did not use.
Table 5

Instructional Design Practices and Strategies Used by the Instructors

Instructional Design Instructor A Instructor B Instructor C
Practices and Strategies

Organization and Planning + - +
Communication + - +
Delivery + - +
Management - - +
Learning Activities + + +
Motivation - + -
Feedback and Support + - +
Evaluation and Revision + + +

Note: "+" = Strongly Applied. "-" = Weakly Applied.
Table 6

Instructor Interactions in Distance Educations

Instructor-Learner (traditional view)
Instructor-Content (traditional view)
Instructor-Technology (traditional view)
Instructor-Facilitator (new view)
Instructor-Peers (new view)
Instructor-Support Staff & Technical Personnel (new view)
Instructor-Institution (new view)


I want to express my sincere gratitude and acknowledgment to Dr. Karen Murphy (Texas A&M University), for her comments, suggestions and contributions which were an important asset during the process of writing this article.


The Instructors and Participants in this study were promised that confidentiality would be maintained at any time (procure privacy and anonymity). Informed consent forms were obtained from each instructor.


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Author:Martera-Gutierrez, Fernando
Publication:Journal of Interactive Learning Research
Date:Jun 22, 2002
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