Essay: Overarching Goal

Pages: 75 (18833 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 40  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Teaching  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … overarching goal of this study was to develop an improved understanding concerning assessing and developing the survey research methodology within an educational setting in general and the use of the survey research method to determine attitudes and behavioral intentions of the students in a university setting regarding their acceptance of e-learning in particular. The first part of the study presents the breadth component which is used to identify the differences between three important research paradigms which are defined, compared, and contrasted with various types of research methodologies with a particular emphasis on survey research methodology, using a selected bibliography to evaluate the methods.

Identifying Constraints to e-Learning for Rural Nigerian Students

The Breadth Component

Introduction

This study is organized into three parts. The first part, the breadth component, is used to identify the differences between three important research paradigms which are defined, compared, and contrasted with various types of research methodologies with a particular emphasis on survey research methodology, using a selected bibliography to evaluate the methods. The second part of the study, the depth component, presents the respective strengths and weaknesses of the survey methodology, as well as an evaluation of data collection instruments and sampling strategies, and the key steps that must be taken to ensure the successful use of the approach; this part also includes an annotated bibliography aligned to the research objectives. The final part, the application component, provides details concerning how the survey research method will be specifically used in the author's thesis work that seeks to determine attitudes and behavioral intentions of the students in a private university in a rural area of Nigeria regarding their acceptance of e-learning? . This is accomplished by identifying a problem for the research, the research purpose, research questions, theoretical foundations of the proposed research, and the methodology used to conduct the research.

Breadth Objectives

The objectives of the Breadth Component were as follows:

1. Identify the differences between positivist, constructivist, and pragmatic research paradigms.

2. Define a wide range of commonly used quantitative and qualitative research methods in social and behavioral sciences, with a particular emphasis on survey research methodology.

3. Compare and contrast the survey research methodology against other research approaches.

Breadth Demonstration

Today, the people of Nigeria stand at an educational crossroads, with one path leading to a continuation of the lackluster status quo and the other leading to opportunities for improvement in the manner in which educational services are delivered. The former path will likely result in the country's literacy rate remaining low, its infancy death rate remaining high and its people relegated to a life expectancy of less than 50 years (Nigeria, 2010). By very sharp contrast, the latter path can lead to improvements in the access to educational services in general and for females in particular for the large numbers of Nigerian population who live in rural regions of the country in ways that will contribute to their ability to gain meaningful employment and contribute to the economic and social growth of Nigeria in the future.

According to Roffe (2004), Nigerians who live in rural regions of the country are faced with some profound and complicated challenges in overcoming the so-called "digital divide" that separates the information "haves" from the "have-nots." Although electrification efforts have proceeded apace over the years, many parts of the country remain without reliable sources of grid-based electricity. Moreover, even assuming that an alternative energy source such as solar or wind power can be used to power Internet-enabled computers, some Nigerians may live in regions where hills or mountains interfere with the line-of-sight transmissions needed with one of the country's Internet hosts for reliable Internet service. Assuming as well that these challenges can be overcome in a cost-effective fashion, the problem remains concerning whether Nigerians living in remote regions of the country will accept the technology and apply it for learning purposes. In this regard, Roffe emphasizes that, "People living in [rural] areas are assumed to be 'digital poor.' To benefit from technology, citizens will need a suite of e-skills, not just in digital literacy, but also in a range of associated key skills such as collaborative working and learning to learn" (p. 16).

Likewise, teachers will also need to develop new teaching skills to use a virtual learning environment effectively. For example, Stevens (2006) emphasizes that, "Teaching face-to-face and online are different skills and teachers have to learn to teach from one site to another. This is fundamental to the success of e-teaching. Teachers have to learn to teach collaboratively with colleagues from multiple sites and have to judge when it is appropriate to teach online and when it is appropriate to teach students in traditional face-to-face ways. These judgments have to be defended on the basis of sound pedagogy" (p. 120).

Research on teacher preparation and adult learning highlight several factors that exemplify high quality training of teachers for e-learning settings:

1. Subject matter must be made meaningful and understandable. Through activities and tasks, students must learn general principles to apply in authentic settings (field sites).

2. Subject matter is acquired best in environments where the knowledge and methods to be learned are modeled. Multi-media presentations generated from field sites can be used to demonstrate and analyze effective practice.

3. Online modules of evidence-based practices can serve this population well by providing practice, providing relevant examples, answering questions, and offering research citations to support the practice. Such modules can be increasingly easy to access, respond to consumers' "need to know," and be updated quickly as new evidence is published (West & Jones, 2007, p. 4).

Unfortunately, many of the benefits that are available to e-learners may remain unavailable even when these young Nigerian citizens are able to gain access to institutions of higher learning where there are modern learning tools available because they may lack of so-called "e-skills" needed to use e-learning tools to their best effect. It is reasonable as well to assume that students who lack these skills will hold a vastly different attitude concerning the introduction of e-learning initiatives compared to those who do have them. The advantages of e-learning in general and for higher educational institutions that lack geographic proximity to larger urban centers in particular are well documented, though. For example, Stevens notes that, "The growth of e-learning in schools has led to pedagogical considerations and to the development of new ways of managing knowledge that enable these institutions to assume extended roles in the regions they serve" (2006, p. 119)

Therefore, in order to formulate such a path to improvement, an appropriate research paradigm must be identified and used in an effective fashion. In this regard, Wright (2002) emphasizes that, "There is a current lack of relevance of educational research in Africa that highlights the need for paradigms that would link research better with policy and practice in education" (p. 279). Moreover, the unique nature of the Nigerian educational context requires a robust research paradigm that is capable of developing an understanding of the issues involved from an African perspective. As Wright concludes, "Any such [research] paradigm needs to be firmly rooted in the reality of a particular African educational context" (p. 279). It is in this African educational context that the review of the literature concerning the analysis and selection of an appropriate research paradigm which proceeds below.

Review and Analysis

The Age of Information is characterized by incessant research of all types by people from all walks of life. Indeed, Internet "surfers" routinely search Google and other engines billions of times a day for timely answers to their academic, professional and personal questions. More formal approaches to research, though, typically involve a more systemic and rigorous approach to data collection and analysis. For instance, Leedy and Ormrod (2005) advise that, "research is a systematic process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information (data) in order to increase our understanding of the phenomenon about which we are interested or concerned" (p. 2).

The emphasis on systematic as part of the requirements for formal research is also noted by Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2000) who point out, "Research is best conceived as the process of arriving at dependable solutions to problems through the planned and systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data" (p. 45). As an extension of formal research, research paradigms provide the general framework in which research can proceed in such a systematic fashion. In this regard, Olapurath (2008) reports that, "Research paradigms are coherent sets of beliefs about that the nature of social reality, purpose of social science research, nature of knowledge, and research procedures and criteria, held by practicing researchers, and that guide the research they do" (p. 37).

There remains a lack of consensus concerning which research paradigm is best suited for specific purposes and some authorities even reject the categorization of research traditions into paradigm form at all. For instance, Corby notes that, "Some researchers do not see the value of classification by paradigm. The choice and construction of research approach is a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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