Date of Award:

5-2009

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

School of Teacher Education and Leadership

Advisor/Chair:

DAVID WILEY

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine and identify support service needs and preferences of distance learners studying at the Turkish Open Education System (OES). In order to fulfill this purpose, views and perceptions of OES students on importance and accessibility of student support services at the OES were investigated through a mixed-method approach that uses both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods.

Data collection took place in three distinct phases. In the first phase, available learner support services were identified through review of the literature, investigation of institutional artifacts, and interviews with the institutional representatives. In the second phase, a questionnaire was administered to OES students in order to collect data about demographic information, students' goals and motivations for participating in the distance education program, their perceptions about the importance and accessibility of support services, and types of support services they needed at different stages of their study. It also included open-ended questions to allow participants to comment on factors that are most assistive and most impeding in their distance learning experience, and also to allow them to offer suggestions for improving and/or expanding the existing learner support services. Out of 450 questionnaires distributed, 311 usable questionnaires were returned. In the third phase, individual and group follow-up interviews were performed with OES students to gain an in-depth understanding of participants' distance learning experience and to triangulate questionnaire data.

The results of this study revealed that affective support needs of OES students are largely unmet. A large needs gap was identified for five of the six affective support services included in the questionnaire. The largest needs gap was for the counseling services to promote student motivation. Moreover, a large needs gap was identified for two of the ten cognitive support services included in the questionnaire. These were face-to-face academic counseling and communication with course instructor. In addition to affective and cognitive support services, a greater needs gap was identified for one of the six systemic support services, which is orientation to the course media/delivery format. Statistical tests (t test and ANOVA) revealed significant differences (p < 0.05) in importance and accessibility ratings of several support services based on gender, employment status, and study time.

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