A Study of the Perceptions of Teachers of Online Teaching and Satisfaction within a Private Organisational Environment

by Jason Shaw
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Introduction

The rise in distance education has both been fuelled by technology, customer demands and legislative accommodation. What used to be exclusive to adult education and carried out via postal mail communications has moved to the internet of the World Wide Web. Eminently effective for students at college and university stage, online schooling is also accessible at the level of basic education in K-12. While the advantages of online schooling for teachers and students are self-evident, almost little is understood regarding the pitfalls, pressures and causes of frustration that teachers experience from remote distribution.

The great advances in digital technology, Internet infrastructure and the market receptivity shown by the majority of American households acquiring broadband access laid the groundwork for the success of online education.

Universities were the first institutions to deliver online teaching to their students (Arora, 2009).  Online teaching is a fast-growing part of higher education for asynchronous courses, or those conducted anywhere and anytime, without waiting to assemble an economic class size (Northcentral University, 2010).

A Study of the Perceptions of Teachers of Online Teaching and Satisfaction within a Private Organisational Environment

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Convenience for students and reduced cost are the key factors for success in online teaching. It is fair then that, according to figures maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), during the academic year 2006-07, about 4,200 U.S. institutions or about 66 percent of ‘post-secondary degree awarding institutions provided distance education courses to over 12 million students. Of these, 77% were participating in internet classes, 12% in mixed courses, and 10% in other forms of courses (Institute of Education Sciences, 2007).

In K-12 colleges, online schooling and teaching are also increasing. A nationwide study contrasting online and mixed learning carried out in the 2005-06 academic year showed this pattern (Picciano & Seaman, 2007). Another 2007-08 follow-up study revealed a 47% growth from the previous report, with more than 1 million students participating nationally in online learning (Ibid.). Based on national data collected over a six-year cycle, no fewer than half of all high school courses are projected to be online by 2019; prior to that, around five to six million K-12 students (10% of the national total) are expected to take online classes (Picciano, Seaman, & Allen, 2010).

Industry associations such as the K- 12 Online Learning International Association (iNACOL) agree that online learning is more than a pattern. Global schooling is being revolutionised, and public organisations with good e-learning programmes will step ahead to better train students to achieve their maximum potential in the modern world (Arora, 2009, p. 17). In terms of cognitive ability, history, income level or place, education by online learning offers new possibilities for all students (Curran & Allen, 2006).

Statement of the Problem

Empirical analysis into theory that extends to the field of instructor satisfaction has outpaced the complex state of online education. Indeed, rather than initiating triggers, the literature provides more coverage of professional learning problems and performance. More than half was dedicated to student satisfaction (e.g., Bradford & Wyatt, 2010; Bray, Aoki & Dlugosh, 2008; Gunawardena, Linder-VanBerschot, LaPointe & Rao, 2010), indicating an overriding obsession with market dynamics and income sources, although a relatively extensive search of the literature reveals. The aforementioned comprehensive analysis by Picciano, Seaman and Allen (2010) also stressed the satisfaction of K-12 pupils, but paid little attention to the influence of instructors, except to count instructor opposition as one of the main barriers to greater online teaching inroads. With online education resources and processes, secondary issues are (Skylar, 2009).

Otherwise, assessment of other issues in online education is sparse.  Examining the effect of online professional development on in-service K-12 teachers, for example, Holmes, Signer and MacLeod (2011) suggested that teachers valued most those system components that simulated greater social interaction, agreed that online training contributed to their professional skills, and adopted learning tools with alacrity to their own classrooms.  Overall satisfaction with online training was enhanced by the “learning environment, quality of instruction, interactions and resources, and design of the model” (p. 83).

The most recent published analysis on teacher attrition from the 2009 Teacher Follow-up Survey, covering the nationwide universe of elementary and secondary school teachers does cover factors underlying job satisfaction and attrition in both public and private schools but remains steadfast in covering traditional classroom modes (Keigher, 2010).  Neither the National Center for Education Statistics nor the analyst-contractor make a commitment to cover online pedagogy in the near future.

The Sloan Consortium (2006) has asserted that faculty satisfaction stands alongside student satisfaction as fundamental pillars of quality management in online education.  If student satisfaction impacts motivation, performance and retention, the same may be asserted for educator satisfaction. 

True, online faculty satisfaction is ground well-covered at the college level (Alexander, Perreault, Jensen, & Waldman, 2009; Koenig, 2010; Wasilik & Bolliger, 2009).  However, teacher satisfaction in online education for grades 3 to 12 has not been addressed (Bilbao, 2008; Bolliger & Wasilik, 2009).

Given increasing demand for online education at the primary and secondary levels, assessment of teacher satisfaction should address such questions as:

  • Is teacher satisfaction improved by exclusively online education or blended traditional and online methods of teaching?
  • What levels of educational training of teachers predict a particular teacher’s satisfaction with a mode of teaching?
  • To what extent are teachers more effective and accordingly more satisfied if they transfer prior classroom expertise to the online model?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to employ mixed-methods research to better understand teacher satisfaction with various aspects of online teaching in the private-contractor K-12 educational context.  The primary rationale for employing the mixed-methods approach is to first investigate with a qualitative study the private-contractor K-12 context for unanticipated or otherwise new explanatory factors contributing to teacher satisfaction or the lack of it.  This study stage will likely entail two focus groups and enough individual, in-depth interviews until the requirements of the grounded theory approach are satisfied, i.e. about a dozen interviews or less (Creswell, 2007).  Subsequently, the findings from the qualitative study shall enrich the scope of the study instrument for the second-stage quantitative survey.

The population for this exploratory study into the factors that contribute to teacher satisfaction shall be all the accredited teachers of the aforementioned private contractor located in the Southwestern United States.  The contemplated sample size for the quantitative phase of the study shall be 100% of the population, with an unknown rate of return from an email survey.

In advance of new inputs or refinements the qualitative stage will provide, it can nonetheless be anticipated the quantitative variables shall include:

Table 1: Anticipated Scope of Variables in the Quantitative Phase

Explanatory Variables Preparation time per hour of conference time or syllabus week

Percent of Title I* students to total online class load.

Percent of special-education to total online class load.

Reported emotional burnout level.

Extent of student-pupil interaction.

Perceived levels of depersonalization.

Perceived levels of personal accomplishment.

Positive student outcomes or the lack of them.

Appreciation and recognition.

Can work at home or own business.

Mediating Variables Experience in years

Extent of professional development training received

Whether professional development training is live, online or autonomous.

Whether contractor/school provides assistance in curriculum and classroom development.

Teacher-Peer relations

Teacher competence at ICT.

Confounding Variables Dual-track teaching load, i.e. handles both classroom and online classes

Concern about social and emotional development of pure-online secondary-school students.

Title I students are so called because they fall under that section of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (Pub.L. 89-10, 79 Stat. 27, 20 U.S.C. ch.70). The various sections and their applicable entitlements are as follows:

Title I—Financial Assistance To Local Educational Agencies For The Education Of Children Of Low-Income Families (see also page 9 below for a fuller definition)

Title II—School Library Resources, Textbooks, and other Instructional Materials

Title III—Supplementary Educational Centers and Services

Title IV—Educational Research and Training

Title V—Grants To Strengthen State Departments of Education

Subsequent amendments were:

Title VI – Aid to Handicapped Children

Title VII – Bilingual Education Programs

Research Questions

The main research question investigates the covariates and antecedents of teacher satisfaction in the K-12 online learning environment.  Secondly, the study will address the self-reported level of teacher satisfaction.

RQ1:   What is the self-reported level of teacher satisfaction?

RQ2:   What hypothesized independent and mediating variables co-vary with teacher satisfaction?

Hypotheses

H0. There is no difference between satisfied or dissatisfied online teachers with respect to organizational or job factors.

HA Satisfied and dissatisfied teachers differ meaningfully on the whole range of organizational and job factors.

Definition of Key Terms

Online teaching, has taken distance learning to the Web while compensating for the absence of impersonal contact with audio-visual tools and streaming video.  Some institutions and courses conduct what is termed “mixed-mode” or “blended learning”, when students must report to class a certain number of times each term.  It is further testimony to the flexibility and convenience benefits of online education that many local students select the option of online learning despite proximity to local campuses (Vrettaros, 2008).

In a synchronous environment, students must be present at a prescribed time, teachers employ a designated learning management system, and interact with students in real time.  This method is helpful for teachers working online in both K-12 and higher education contexts because they are able to provide instant feedback on assignments, help students grasp concepts more easily, and rapidly answer any questions that the students may have (Vrettaros, 2008).

Distance Teaching. This is the teaching side of “distance education” as experienced by students.  Distance teaching is defined as “a formal education process in which the students and instructor are not in the same place” (Institute of Education Sciences, 2010, p. 1).  Since this state of affairs includes separation by time or place (or both), distance teaching can be either synchronous or asynchronous. In this situation, communication takes place, for example, using computer technologies, recorded audio/video, or written correspondence.

Eligible Schools. A Supplement Educational Services term for schools who students perform below “Adequate Yearly Progress” benchmarks and are therefore qualified Title 1 funds for free tutoring service” (Ibid.).

Mixed Mode (or Blended/Hybrid) Teaching. This is a combination of online and face-to-face teaching. Part of the teaching takes place in a classroom setting and the rest online (Gibson, 2008).

Online Teaching. This is a form of distance learning that specifically utilizes information and communication technologies, which usually means learning via the Internet. It is possible that online learning is also utilized within the classroom setting but for the purpose of this study it shall be taken to mean learning at a distance. Moreover, it can be either synchronous or asynchronous (Gibson, 2008).

Supplemental Education Services (SES). “Tutoring services (free to students) or additional academic help for students provided outside of the regular school day.  These services are generally available to students who receive free or reduced-price lunch or attend Title I schools that have failed to make AYP benchmarks for 3 or more years. Parents can choose supplemental educational services from a list of approved providers developed by their state, and the district pays for these services” (Institute of Education Sciences, 2010, p. 1).

Title I.  Part of the “No Child Left Behind Act” (to which the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA was renamed in one reenactment), Title I directs Federal dollars to schools that serve high numbers of low-income students to help ensure that all students meet state academic standards.  Title I funds are distributed by state and local educational agencies to those public schools with the highest percentages of children from low-income families” (Institute of Education Sciences, 2010, p.1).

Brief Review of the Literature

The literature review discusses the differences and similarities between online and traditional teaching, and discusses their respective advantages and disadvantages. The purpose of this review is to better understand teacher satisfaction in an online education environment and identify that teachers can use a combination of traditional teaching methods and online learning skills that contribute to online teacher satisfaction. These are reviews of measurement, technology, and satisfaction of online teachers.  For example, Bilbao (2008) showed that teachers that have greater interest, excitement and persistence gained greater satisfaction and performed better in an online teaching environment.  Therefore, several variables need to be considered together as effectiveness of online learning could depend on interest, motivation, and autonomy.

Bowman and Kearns (2007) revealed the following dimensions that influence teacher satisfaction: course structure, self-regulatory cognition, teacher community and teacher autonomy.  The authors showed a positive correlation between high intrinsic motivation and curiosity and the extent of explorative behavior of teachers combining traditional learning expertise with their online teaching skills.

Vrettaros (2008) disclosed the advantages of learning tools such as e-libraries, interactive websites, books, online journals and e-challenges for teachers to present to their students. When online teachers are given these additional tools to work with, they indirectly promote greater teacher satisfaction.

Comparing and Contrasting Online and Traditional Teaching

Bilbao (2008), Bolliger and Wasilik (2009), Holmes, Signer and MacLeod (2011), and Skylar (2009) have claimed that current information technologies created a favorable learning atmosphere within the last five years.  The consensus is that the target audience of e-learning extends beyond the borders of traditional academic level to public interest of teachers because it leads to greater job satisfaction. Teachers can work within a certain time frame to serve their student through the internet in a synchronous or asynchronous environment and from anywhere they desire. This has a great appeal to teachers who are stay-at-home mothers, those who like to travel or enjoy working with students from all over the world, as well as teachers that have disabilities.

Vrettaros (2008) focused on helpful tools of e-learning.  He underscored the importance of web-based platforms for e-learning, in which e-libraries and free journal articles are available to any target audience which includes teachers, students, administrators and researchers. E-libraries are very important for any type of e-learning environment because teachers can have current research available in the form of journal articles, book lists and e-librarians to develop their leadership skills, teaching methods and help their students. In contrast, Tucker and Hodge (2005) stated that “implementation of new technological approaches in online classrooms is challenging” (p.374).  They suggested that new technology in online classrooms presents teachers and students with learning challenges. Additional training will be needed for the teachers and the students. With this rapid evolution, skills required of curriculum developers and users pose additional barriers to effective utilization (Dede, 2005).  Tucker and Hodge (2005) supported this contention with the claim that the technology for distance learning is useful only to the extent that it meets the end of developing a learning community.  Ultimately, technologically-sophisticated environments should facilitate communication.

Advantages of Traditional Learning

Traditional learning endows teachers with the ability to conduct face-to-face lectures during a course. Traditional learning also allows the teachers to interact with students’ reactions to the lessons and socialize with their students. The teachers are able to communicate with their students during office hours if they need assistance by way of teacher explanations. The students are not lost in cyberspace and have teachers physically present in the classroom. Furthermore, educators are able to teach large populations  of students in one class and are able to facilitate questions and answers that stimulate a discussion on the subject matter. Traditional teachers also have the advantage of preparing lectures which allows the students to hear and see what is written on the chalkboard during a class in a simultaneous environment (Rosenberg, 2005; Technical and Vocational School Guide, n.d.).

Advantages of Online Teaching

            Some advantages that teachers select to teach in an e-learning environment are cutting traveling costs, the ability to teach in an area that is not in close working distance, creating a green work environment to benefit global conditions, enjoy working at home, less social interaction with students and faculty members and teachers who have disabilities. Additionally, teachers are able to focus on students’ work more clearly and accurately due to the lower volume of students in their courses. Teachers are able to spend time on effective feedback on papers and exams.  In fact, administrators demand this type of teaching method interaction with students before teachers are hired.  In spite of traditional teaching, online teachers are not required travel for conferences and libraries (Cotterell, 2005; Rosenberg, 2005; Technical and Vocational School Guide, n.d.).

Alternative Approaches

There are studies which suggest alternative approaches in assessment of online teaching verses traditional teaching. Bowman and Kearns (2007) claim it is essential to combine e-learning and face-to-face teaching. These authors underline the importance of modern technological devices usage in the process of learning as well as the necessity of communication between teachers and students. They found combing a synchronous and asynchronous environment leads to greater teaching skills and effective student learning because of the social interactions between teachers and students in e-learning. They also presented ways socializing of e-learning may occur. These authors suggests that through teachers live creative groups, interactive seminars and meetings in the real time better serves the teachers and the students.

Jasinsky (2006) also makes an emphasis on the necessity of e-learning socializing: “…there is a shift away from the “e” [in e-learning] and back to “learning”’, a shift ‘from exploring technology tools to … a better understanding of e-learner pedagogies, client perspectives and demonstration of good examples of working models in local contexts” (p. 2). This author shows a little shift from e-learning to traditional education, because the latter supposes instantaneous clarity and explanations connected with a new material.

Traditional Teaching as a Basis of Online Teaching

            Traditional teaching is often considered as a starting point of online teaching (Arora, 2009). He focused on this point of view. Traditional learning theory such as a constructivist approach supposes the effectiveness of learning in the case of students’ partaking in the process of learning such as assignments with references to real life experiences and critical thinking appears as a result of these self-projected activities (Bowman and Kearns, 2007). With regard to the mentioned background of successful learning, Online teaching is a starting point when an individual has an ability to project his or her knowledge on real life and develop his critical thinking with no disturbances from around other individuals versus traditional learning when a student’s thinking is disturbed by time restriction for a class and other students’ presence (Jasinsky, 2006).

Teachers are present in either a synchronous or asynchronous e-learning environment to facilitate this knowledge in their students (Arora, 2009).  In this paradigm a lot of teachers at first have difficulty with the shift from traditional teaching to online teaching. Their teaching and leadership skills need to be polished before attempting to conduct online teaching. Teachers must have a solid foundation of traditional learning skills and methods to carry over to their online teaching style otherwise they will not be effective teachers. (Jasinsky, 2006).

 Effectiveness of Online Teaching

Effectiveness of online teaching is possible as Johnston (2005) claims, in the case of active involvement of teachers and the students in the learning process. Teachers, when covering issues, turns, and exploring new ideas have to be more creative with the online teaching environment to allow the process of learning to be interesting and fascinating. Online teachers’ motivation abilities need to be imaginative to draw the students’ attention and focus on learning (Arora, 2009).  Online teachers need to be more efficient and organized than traditional classroom learning because the teacher is not present for immediate feedback or questioning (Bowman and Kearns, 2007).

A few ways online teachers can be creative and organized is by listing interactive tools on websites, outlining the syllabus which students can understand clearly and adding a mnemonic method so they do not forget their assignments and conduct fun research studies that pertain to a less than interesting topic (Arora, 2009). Games such as gambling increase students understand of probability and relate to a real life situation. Online teaching is also considered to be an efficient one because students refer their theoretical knowledge to real experiences and practices (Jasinsky, 2006).  Solving really existent problems is more interesting and efficient than to think over invented problems and tasks.  These simple approaches which are interactive and spark conversations with the teacher will assist teachers and students throughout any type of academic online course (Johnston 2005).

Online teaching has also another advantage in comparison with traditional teaching. It is an ability to apply innovative multimedia functions such as presentations’ creation, interactive conferences, and animations. Thus, in spite of traditional teaching, the content is delivered in an interesting form both for the teacher and student (Johnston 2005).

The Main Drawbacks of Online Teaching

Online teaching has some serious disadvantages. For one, extra time is spent not on helping the students learn but on solving technical problems. Another disadvantage is students only communicate with their instructor. The students hardly have an opportunity to speak with other students in the class in forming study groups. Some academic classes need the students to communicate in order to complete assignments and gain other perspectives during the course.  Moreover, the isolation of the student is a serious drawback, leading as it does to poor motivation, high drop-out rates, and low support for resolving time conflicts (Dede, 2005; Digital Bridges, 2011).

Traditional Teaching Prevalence

Traditional teaching bears many distinct advantages over online teaching (Bolliger & Wasilik, 2009; Bowman and Kearns, 2007; Technical and Vocational School Guide, n.d.). Traditional learning is face-to-face communication with teacher and other students. Therefore, it is possible for the student to ask the professor question and explanations at once. Whereas, in online learning the students needs to look for clarification online by themselves first and have additional assistance and communication from mentors by email communication, phone or using webcams. Traditional teaching is also supported because there is a possibility of students’ communication such as creative groups, valuable friendships and student evolvement in schools extracurricular activities. Study groups are efficient in the process of learning, because every student has a possibility to stand for their point of view and critically evaluate information (Curran & Allen, 2006).

Traditional teachers do not tend to support e-learning. They claim that a traditional education prepares students for any real life situation they will encounter. Students may meet an unplanned or urgent situation such as unplanned tests or assignments. Thus, there is a presence of a stress factor which is absent in e-learning. Traditional teachers also tend to question online learning degrees as valid (Curran & Allen, 2006).

Comparing and Contrasting Online Teaching versus Traditional Teaching

There are countless studies devoted to comparing and contrasting e-learning and traditional learning (OnlineEducation.com, 2011).  These works are valuable because the researchers find similarities and differences between these two forms of learning. Online teaching and E-learning is widely discussed with a positive connotation (Cotterell, 2005; Technical and Vocational School Guide, n.d.). It is underlined that online teaching and e-learning allows teaching or studying anytime that one would like and communication during online conferences is a perfect alternative for communication during classes (Digital Bridges, 2011; Gardner & Holmes, 2006).

The K-12 Online Sector

Online education and teaching is also growing in K-12 schools.  This is best exemplified by the growth in secondary student attendance in online courses.  In just two years – between the 2005-06 and 2007-08 academic years – there was nearly a 50% rise in online high school course enrollment.  Over 1 million students enrolled in online learning nationwide (Picciano & Seaman, 2007).  By 2015, it has been predicted that no five to six million K-12 students (10% of the national total) will be taking classes online (Picciano, Seaman, & Allen, 2010).

This private organization providing online education services to both public- and private-school students is a viable option for an exploratory study into the satisfaction of K-12 online educators because there are dozens such learning providers around the nation (Educational CyberPlayGround, 1994; K12, 2011; MorningStar Home School Academy, 2011; National Private Schools Accreditation Alliance, n.d.).

Summary

As the literature review has demonstrated, there are special advantages and disadvantages of both online and traditional teaching, and many reasons that teachers might be more or less satisfied by one or the other mode. Clearly, different aspects of these two teaching methods might appeal to different kinds of teachers based on factors such as teacher comfort with face-to-face interaction, teacher age, experience, and other demographic variables.

Traditional learning gives teachers more face-to-face time with students, stimulating discussion and critical thinking in the classroom and making themselves available as well for consultation and advice outside class time.  When teacher-to-student ratios are very low, return on “sales” is very high, at least where variable costs are concerned.

The reported advantages of online teaching include more highly developed and innovative multimedia presentations, interactive conferences, and animations.  All these contribute to making coursework content more interesting both for the teacher and student.  The physical arrangements favor educators who have disabilities wish to work from home, report in less often, and therefore spend more time evaluating student coursework and giving feedback.

On the other hand, online teachers require more technical knowledge, creativity, motivation and time to take advantages of available technologies.  Greater demand for preparation time means teachers need to be more efficient and organized.  Greater motivation is needed not only an off-site teacher is not supervised as much as traditional teachers but also because the teacher is not present for immediate feedback or questioning, no matter how gripping presentations are.

Lastly, the disadvantages to online teaching count time diverted to solving technical problems, students generally being able to access only their instructor, limited opportunities for interaction with other students in the class, such isolation and low support for resolving time conflicts that the student risks poor motivation and dropping out.

Research Method

Introduction

This section defines the rationale for the recommendation of a mixed-method approach, the information that will be pursued at both the qualitative and quantitative phases, the sample specifications, and the data analyses that can be foreseen in the concept planning stage.

Overview of Mixed-Methods Approach

The stated research purpose and questions involve exploratory research into the satisfaction-dissatisfaction spectrum of educators who conduct online classes for K-12 students.  The approach shall be mixed methods, relying on a combination of focus groups, depth interviews and survey research.

A recommendation for a mixed method design rests primarily on the fact that there are extant findings on teacher satisfaction-dissatisfaction but wholly on college- and graduate-level educators (Alexander, Perreault, Jensen, & Waldman, 2009; Koenig, 2010; Wasilik & Bolliger, 2009).  However, teacher satisfaction in online education for grades 3 to 12 has not been addressed (Bilbao, 2008; Bolliger & Wasilik, 2009).

Indirect measures exist but in the wrong contexts.  There are massive databases for job attrition and all it implies for teacher satisfaction but only traditional classroom modes are covered (Keigher, 2010).  In online education, there is evidence that teachers value those components of online education that simulated greater social interaction, agreed that online training contributed to their professional skills, and adopted learning tools with alacrity to their own classrooms (Holmes, Signer and MacLeod (2011).  Too many others (e.g. Picciano, Seaman and Allen, 2010) opted to emphasize K-12 student satisfaction but paid scant heed to teacher affect except to count teacher resistance.

This gap in the empirical literature needs filling because of the aforementioned demand trends: from five to 10 percent of high school students will be taking online courses between 2015 and 2019.

The possible explanatory, mediating and confounding variables set out in Table 1 (pages 5-6) may well be incomplete without conducting an exploratory and qualitative stage.  The proposal to first carry out focus groups and individual depth interviews with target teachers is precisely the kind of concurrent triangulation design that Creswell (2009, p. 210) anticipates in certain mixed-method approaches (see also Fig. 1 overleaf).

A study of the perceptions of teachers of online teaching and satisfaction within a private organisational environment

Figure 1: Concurrent Use of Quantitative and Qualitative Research Approaches. Reprinted from “Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches” by J. W. Creswell, 2009

Seeking to refine the study instrument to better assess K-12 online educator satisfaction parameters, the researcher therefore proposes to undertake focus groups and qualitative in-depth interviews with school administrators to uncover measures taken and other factors that explain the state of academic achievement and behavioral discipline.

Sampling Frame and Sampling Method

Respondents shall be obtained via convenience sampling at a private for-profit organization that provides online education for students in grades 3-12.  Teachers at this organization typically teach in both traditional and online environments.  The universe consists of sixty teachers at the corporate education organization.

Owing to the access the researcher has, this is in fact convenience sampling.  Teachers will be invited to participate in the study by means of an e-mail invitation carrying an endorsement by senior personnel at the institution. Teachers who agree to participate will receive informed consent forms and be apprised of their freedom to not participate or to cease participation at any time, for any reason, without penalty. The informed consent form will also detail measures for protecting subject privacy.

The Mixed Methods Approach

The study stages will be implemented sequentially.  By participating in focus groups and individual depth interviews, a small sub-sample of teachers will provide the phenomenological and narrative explanations of satisfaction in their professional context.  The researcher hopes to discover new dimensions of satisfaction that will be added to the array of variables in Table 1 (page 5 above) to construct the study instrument for the quantitative phase.

Qualitative studies of teacher satisfaction should allow teachers to present narratives of the causes, effects, and components of satisfaction, going beyond simple measures of satisfaction and exploring the roots of the phenomenon.  However, diligent search of the literature yielded no such pure-qualitative research.  Mixed-methods studies of teacher satisfaction (e.g. Holmes, Signer and MacLeod 2011) have blended these approaches in order to understand both the what and the why of satisfaction.

The qualitative portion of the survey will be carried out by means of a focus group. The researcher will choose 7-10 focus group participants based on diversity of opinions. In other words, the focus group will consist of teachers who are both highly satisfied and highly dissatisfied with both traditional and online learning, and teachers whose demographics (age, highest degree received, etc.) vary significantly from each other. The focus group meetings will take place in a semi-structured fashion, with the researcher inviting members to engage in free-form discussions of satisfaction (Creswell, 2009).

Subsequently, teacher satisfaction will be measured using quantitative methodology.   Quantitative studies of teacher satisfaction have asked teachers to measure their satisfaction with distinct components of teaching, such as support from administration and cooperation from students (Alexander, Perreault, Jensen, & Waldman, 2009; Bilbao, 2008; Bolliger & Wasilik, 2009; Holmes, Signer and MacLeod 2011; Koenig, 2010; Wasilik & Bolliger, 2009).

The Survey Method

The quantitative phase of the study will measure the relative importance of the complete array of explanatory and mediating variables, while neutralizing the effect of confounding variables.  Given a core of ordinal and ratio measures will go a long way toward assuring the reliability and future replication of the proposed study.

Data for the quantitative portion of the study will be collected by means of the online survey software known as Survey Monkey.  It is likely that questionnaire that will consist of 20 items and is based on a 4-part rating scale with response options ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.  Rapport and face validity will be optimized with an introduction stating the following:

The private organization has the desire to promote open communication.  In an effort to gauge employee teacher satisfaction and characteristics the researcher is very excited to launch this system-wide employee survey. Just as with the customers, measuring the changing perceptions of our employees is important.  This private organization is focused on creating and maintaining a healthy work environment as well as supporting each employee.  The results of the survey will help the company identify areas of strength as well as development opportunities, for which the company plans to take appropriate actions.

If the statement refers to your Manager, please respond as to how that statement pertains to your direct report. If you have multiple supervisors and/or managers, respond by thinking of the group as a whole.

“Satisfaction” and its correlates will be rated by the study subjects themselves with a study instrument combining ratio and Likert-style ordinal variables.  The study instrument will be adopted – augmented with novel theory and concepts arising from the qualitative phase – from those employed in the most recent research on college-level online educator satisfaction (Holmes, Signer and MacLeod 2011; Koenig, 2010; Wasilik & Bolliger, 2009).  Aside from those listed in Table 1 (page 5), the array of explanatory factors is likely to include effort investment, persistence in the face of barriers, and incidence of setbacks (Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995).

Besides the core variables, the survey will also collect various profiling data about teachers, including: length of teaching; degree of technical knowledge; highest educational degree obtained; first language spoken; age; gender; and subject(s) taught (Creswell, 2009).

Privacy will be protected by keeping surveys anonymous and also turning off the IP tracking feature in Survey Monkey, so that no survey can be associated with an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Data Analysis

Data output from the focus groups and in-depth interviews will be in the form of word-processed transcripts.  Content analysis will be undertaken, assisted by computer-aided software (e.g. CAQDAS/NUD*IST, WinMax packages) to derive common themes.  Validity and reliability will be enhanced if the researcher herself is solely responsible for reviewing, coding and extracting meaningful findings from the transcripts because the unified viewpoint avoids such hindrances as inter-rater reliability and intersubjective bias (Kvale, 1996; Patton, 2002).

“Content analysis” is the general approach for handling verbatim material, being a systematic procedure for handling the transcripts yielded by depth interviews and focus group discussions.  This technique has broad applications in psychology, education and a variety of other social science disciplines (Weber, 1990).  Given such a systematic approach, the real difference between the two qualitative and quantitative traditions revolves on philosophies about taking phenomena in context (epistemology) and perceived reality being as valid (an ontological assumption) as the single unitary reality the natural sciences construct (Trochim, 2009).

To be effective, the content analysis that is central to processing the qualitative-stage data must:

  • Review for fidelity against audio tapes and edit for typographic errors.
  • Scan for key words, KW in context, and mark these up.
  • Successfully cull statements that are meaningful and significant principally because they reflect the professional experience of subject-educators (Berrios & Lucca, 2006; Creswell, 2009).
  • Isolate how respondents define the criterion and independent variables.
  • Search for patterns and themes by building code exhaustive and mutually exclusive category lists.
  • Reorganize according to typology (Patton, 2002), consisting of meaningful information categories.
  • Make use of grounded theory to group similar categories under domains. The process of naming categories is the basis for grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
  • Analytic Induction (Katz, 1983).
  • Create capsule summaries and, to aid synthesis, a coding tree.

In the quantitative phase, completed surveys will be downloaded into Excel and SPSS for statistical analysis, which will consist of (1) correlation analysis to determine which independent variables (e.g., teacher age, degree of technical knowledge, etc.) correlate with the two measures of satisfaction and (2) regression analysis to determine the numerical relationship between change in the independent variables and change in the dependent variable (Cozby, 2009).

Summary

Online learning is clearly here to stay.  By reason of the multiple benefits this service channel offers every stakeholder, participation continues to grow.  In particular, the presently marginal penetration in K-12 is likely to grow markedly over the next decade, particularly at the secondary level.

Private providers must fill the gaps that public-education LEAs cannot by reason of budgetary and staff constraints.  For-profit service providers can respond better to talent scarcity by adjusting wage rates and recruiting from English-speaking countries such as India, the Philippines, the UK and Ireland.

For such private service providers, the challenges of organizational development, staff and customer retention mean that measuring teacher satisfaction rates in the K-12 online environment is critical.  A study such as is proposed here has the potential to give private educational institutions valuable insight into how well their teachers are coping, where problem areas are, and what needs to be addressed in order to improve teacher morale and performance.  

However, both educational institutions and researchers have imperfect and incomplete knowledge of how satisfied teachers are with online teaching as compared to traditional teaching. One of the consequences of this lack of knowledge is failure to anticipate teacher burnout or low efficacy in the online environment, both of which can threaten the viability of online learning. The ultimate contribution of this study is data and a theoretical framework through which to approach the measurement and phenomenological exploration of teacher satisfaction in the online environment, thus better preparing all whether working in a public or private educational institutions to cope with the digital decades ahead.   

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Appendix: Annotated Bibliography
  • Curran, V. & Allen, M. (2006). Facilitating interpersonal interaction and learning online. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Profession, 26 (2), 128-136.
  • Since the commencement and launching of different online learning programs, a huge number of researchers and experts have been analyzing their different aspects, in order to create their perception accordingly. Specifically, the selected article indicates that interpersonal interaction and the quality of program design are the two major factors that have been influencing the perceptions of physicians regarding online learning. In this article, the authors have put in efforts to investigate this issue while focusing on the role and contribution of instructors and teachers in the effectiveness of online courses. One of the major attributes of this article is the inclusion of learning theories that will be very valuable in acquiring a balanced understanding of the online learning theoretically, as well as practically. In methodology, the researchers used the research tools of interviews and focus group to acquire their data while including fifty physicians as participants of the study that had the experience of online, as well as traditional learning.
  • Engvig, M. (2006). Online Learning. Cresskill, NJ: HamptonPress
  • The introduction of online learning in the education sector has caused a huge number of critics and adversaries of the methodology have attacked it in different parts of the globe, especially the USA & UK due to early introduction of online learning systems and courses in these countries. Although, online learning has a huge number of advantages it has resulted in an adverse impact on the traditional framework of education and standards that are completely different from that of the online learning courses. This book is an effort of one of the scholars that have done an extraordinary job by describing, discussing, and analyzing different types, aspects, perspectives and technologies related to the online learning while comparing it with the traditional educational methodology. The author has included a wide range of researches and studies that relate to the effectiveness of the online learning courses and programs.
  • Gardner, J. & Holmes, B. (2006). E-learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications:
  • In the last few years, e- learning has been able to achieve a pivotal place in the educational sector globally. This book is a noteworthy piece of work that includes analysis, investigation, and scrutiny of different methodologies and techniques related to the e-learning. One of the significant attributes of this book is its utilization of different examples from different parts of the globe that will be very important in acquiring a practical perspective of the online learning framework. In addition to examples, the authors have done a remarkable job by including past approaches of e-learning while discussing the future prospects in the area of online learning. Moreover, brief analysis of the book has indicated that the discussion is not specific, as the authors have endeavored to include a variety of topics for diversified discussions related to the online learning. For instance, some of the noteworthy topics in this book are extended online learning, learning theories, empowerment in learning and e-communities which will be very valuable for the proposed research.
  • Githens, R. P. (2007). Understanding interpersonal interaction in an online professional development course. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 18 (2), 253-274.
  • The selected journal article includes a case study that has focused the impact of online learning courses on interpersonal interaction behavior of students. The study is qualitative and   analyzed the positive and negative effects of an online course that will be very significant for the proposed study. There has been rapid increment in the last few years regarding the launch of facilities for students that allows them to interact and participate in different webinars and discussions. This case study has analyzed such factors and their effect on the students. In addition, the author of this case study also identified and analyzed the social existence of online programs and courses which will be very beneficial to the researcher while comparing the online teaching versus traditional teaching.
  • Hollis, V. & Madill, H. (2006). Online learning. OccupationalTherapy International, 13(2), 61-78.
  • The significant increase in the acceptance of online learning courses especially in the area of higher education has promoted and encouraged students and professionals in acquiring online degrees which support the notion of this contemporary education era. In addition, due to need of early entrance into the job market, a huge number of students are now looking for academic institutions that offer both on-campuses as well as online learning courses. This allows individuals to benefit from the advantages of traditional as well as online learning platforms. The abovementioned article seems to focus primarily on the occupational therapists and their relation with the online learning. The article has indicated that although online learning is resulting in significant effect on the higher education academic institutions and scholars associated with the study of occupational therapy are still in the process of investigating different aspects of the online learning. This will take time for them to accept the utilization of digital technology for teaching and educational purposes. One of the specific reasons of selecting this journal article is its discussion of the background of the utilization of web-based technology for education purposes, especially in the higher education while subsequently, relating it with its usage in the study of occupational therapy in online classrooms.
  • Lai, K-W. (2001). E-learning. New Zealand: University of Otago Press.
  • The abovementioned book is an extraordinary guide for educators, teachers, and scholars that are associated with online learning. Specifically, the author has emphasized primarily the importance of information and communication technology in the education sector. Brief preview of the book has indicated that the author has provided analysis of a huge variety of topics related to ICT (information and communication technology) that is one of the significant attributes of this book, and major factor of choosing this book for the proposed study. In particular, this book includes analysis on the impact of ICT on professional improvement of teachers in online learning. Moreover, discussions in the book involve examination on different education resources that are available on the internet and their effect on online instructors. Besides illustrating the effectiveness of ICT, the author discusses the availability of inadequate resource materials on the internet that is creating huge number of problems and challenges, especially in terms of recognizing the integrity and authenticity of the online programs and courses.
  • The book has recognized the fact that there has been a fast growth in the availability of digital technologies in schools, colleges, and universities that is increasing the consideration of e-learning methodologies in the educational sectors that will alter the educational framework in few years. The book includes a huge number of studies and research reports that will be very beneficial for understanding different aspects of the online learning. In addition, the author has focused specifically on the factor of availability of internet connections at schools and homes, and its impact on the effectiveness and continuity of e learning, and steps that can enable teachers in implementing e-learning approaches in their teaching methodologies.
  • Martinez-Caro, E. (2009). Factors affecting effectiveness in e-learning. Computer Applications in Engineering Education.52 (1), 37-46.
  • This article is unique as its focus is primarily on the factors that affect the efficacy of online learning in the education sector rather than the impact of online learning on something else. This is the major factor of selecting this article for the proposed research. The author in this article has accepted the fact that e -learning has been very effective in opening new avenues for conventional forms of teaching. However, the abovementioned article has endeavored to carry out this discussion in the context of engineering education, specifically industrial engineering. From this aspect, the author in this article has selected few engineering courses that are available online, and have tried to evaluate different factors that may have an effect on the usefulness of such online programs. In brief, the author has concluded that it is very imperative for educators to provide user-friendly environment to the students that may allow easy interaction and appropriate combination of human and technology that is key for the efficacy of online learning.
  • Mason, Robin and Rennie, Frank (2006). Elearning: the key concepts and key guides.
  • Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge.
  • As discussed earlier, a huge number of experts have carried out researches for the examination of efficacy of e-learning while focus of such studies have remained on the comparison of e learning approaches with the traditional education systems. This book is one of similar efforts that have endeavored to examine and evaluate different aspects of e-learning. However, this book focuses on online learners and impact of e-learning on students specifically, rather than instructors and teachers and was selected for the researcher’s study for this reason. The author has identified several benefits of online learning, such as it enables the learners to respond critically while taking time that is not permissible in conventional classrooms where teachers expect quick responses from the students. Moreover, the book has indicated that there has been increment in the social interaction and participation of students in the online courses as compared to conventional classrooms. However, at the same time, online courses do not allow students to enhance their public speaking skills while ensuring higher level of satisfaction in terms of understanding and flexibility.
  • Rosenberg M.J. (2005). Beyond e-learning: Approaches and technologies to enhance organizational knowledge, learning, and performance. Somerset, NJ: Pfeiffer Inc.
  • In short, there have been significant advancements in the field of information and technologies that have resulted in greater impact on almost every sector of the society. Specifically, such advancements have altered different aspects in the education sector as well as a huge number of academic institutions are now planning to utilize the concept of e- learning that has the advantage of eliminating the challenges of space and time confronted in traditional classrooms. In this regard, this book emphasizes different advancements of e- learning that encouraged individuals to continue their lifelong learning process without entering classrooms. The author of this book recognizes the importance of e-learning and that it can be an efficient solution for a number of problems, such as mass education, lack of teachers, lack of educational buildings, etc. Besides such aspect, the author has focused on different technologies that are responsible for success or failure of e learning methodologies. In this regard, this book will be very beneficial for understanding the relation of theory and practice of e- learning or online teaching
  • Timucin, M. (2006). Implementing CALL in an EFL Context. ELT Journal, 60 (3), 262-271.
  • Today, teachers are utilizing different technological tools to teach in an efficiently and interactively way. In all such developments, ‘computer assisted language learning’ is one of the technologies of online learning that has been very fruitful in providing learning opportunities to the non-traditional students in the acquisition of foreign language skills globally.  This article has indicated that as time passes, CALL is developing and advancing quickly due to progression of computers and digital technology that has allowed instructors to ensure an effective learning podium for the students, especially for learning foreign language. This article is part of the series of efforts that has endeavored to evaluate the impact of CALL technology in the education sector, especially in the context of students learning English language as a foreign language. In this regard, one of the basic reasons of selecting this article for the proposed research is its different context that will allow the researcher to understand different factors associated with the implementation of CALL technology in the education sector that has now become the most important tool of online learning in different parts of the globe. Brief analysis of the article has indicated that since the beginning of CALL technology in the educational sector, CALL existed in various kinds, such as “Structural CALL, Communicative CALL, and subsequently, Integrative CALL” (Timucin, 2006). In the current period, CALL has now become an incorporated form that is allowing every academic institution to incorporate advantages of traditional learning with the online learning. In addition, the author has discussed that experts are now concentrating specifically on social and cultural factors to investigate the effectiveness of online learning, and specifically, CALL technology.

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