Figuring It Out On their Own: How Rural Adult Online Students Negotiate Barriers to Learning Online
|The health of rural communities depends, in part, on the education level of rural adults. Economic vitality is impacted by degree completion, and the rate of degree completion by rural adults lags behind that of their urban and suburban counterparts. Low completion rates suggest that there are conditions for rural students that prevent them from earning degrees. Online education addresses the geographic isolation that makes it difficult for rural adults to access brick-and-mortar college campuses. Online courses provide rural adult students with the opportunity to pursue degrees without leaving their communities or travelling long distances. Online education does, however, present barriers to rural students. The purpose of this multiple case study was to describe how rural adults negotiate barriers to learning online. Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) guided the study. A series of interviews was conducted with nine participants, exploring their rural communities, their educational histories, and their experiences as online students. Five main themes, which represented the barriers the students faced and how the barriers were negotiated, emerged from the interviews. Reflecting the language of CHAT, the barriers were named disruptions. The themes, or disruptions, included: Disconnection from Faculty, Unreliable Technology Access and Support, Insubstantial Relationships with Other Students, Challenges of Balancing Classes with Work and Family, and Troubled Educational Histories. The findings could be used by faculty, administrators, and policy makers to improve the online learning experience for rural adults. The study concludes that rural adults students persist in negotiating barriers to learning online because they recognize the importance of earning their degrees, and appreciate the convenience and flexibility of online courses.
|Drake University, School of Education;2017
|Figuring It Out On their Own: How Rural Adult Online Students Negotiate Barriers to Learning Online