Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Second Advisor

Larry D. Burton

Third Advisor

Johanna L. Keirns


Problem. As more and more adults seek to continue their education, alternate methods of course delivery Will be required to meet their needs. Web-based courses allow students to learn at times and places that are convenient for them. There is concern, however, about whether or not such courses can create effective, active learning experiences, and whether or not knowledge can be socially constructed in online interactions. In order for higher education to provide exemplary online courses, it is important to identify necessary elements and instructional strategies to create virtual learning environments. The goals of this study were to determine instructional practices in exemplary higher education Web based courses and their perceived effectiveness and to determine implications of new delivery models for higher education.

Method. This qualitative study examined the 1998 Paul Allen Virtual Education Foundation's Outstanding Online Course Award winner and five of the six Honorable Mentions. Typical qualitative tools were used to gather data including a Web-based questionnaire, email correspondence, video recordings of conference presentations by four of the instructors, observations, interviews, course Web pages, plus articles and Web sites published by the instructors. Each course was a case study.

Results. Effective practices and design features of these exemplary online courses demonstrate multiple ways to facilitate active learning in Web-based instruction. The rich environments of these six courses included a variety of interactions between the instructor and students and among the students themselves. They model how innovative pedagogy guides the use of technology and that virtual learning communities can be created in any discipline. Faculty who have administrative support will be more likely to design, develop, and deliver effective Web-based instruction.

Conclusions. The study demonstrated ways online courses can be designed to meet the criteria of the American Psychological Association's Learner-Centered Psychological Principles. A number of implications for higher education emerged.

Subject Area

Teaching--Computer network resources, World Wide Web, Computer managed instruction


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