Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Courtney Stewart


Michael Freeman


Susan Turner


Online instruction is now the prevalent tool for distance learning. Understanding the adaptable role of the instructor in online distance education is pivotal in the work of comprehending its affordances and limitations. Although there are some commonalities between all forms of online teaching, experiences instructors have may vary depending upon the structure of the online course. The ready-to-teach, fixed-content format merited further study because of the degree to which it unbundles or disaggregates traditional instructor responsibilities by removing the work of determining what to teach and how to teach it. This qualitative multiple case study examined the instructional experiences of adjunct online instructors who adapted to a limited teaching role that excluded selecting online course content or developing course design. Study findings revealed that instructor perceptions of ready-to-teach courses varied according to the nature of the subject being taught and personal preferences. Findings also demonstrated that instructors applied previous teaching experiences to the situation when possible but learned new skills that reflected the modified instructional environment as well. Despite varying degrees of contentment or discontentment with the limitations regarding course content, most instructors found the motivation to continue in their employment with their sponsoring institution. This study provided perspectives on the phenomenon of instructional unbundling in higher education, in which roles that traditionally belonged to a single educator are distributed among many individuals for the purpose of greater efficiency or use of expertise.