Distance Education in Alberta public colleges.
The intent of this study was to analyse and describe the attitudes and decision making criteria utilized by senior decision makers within Alberta's public colleges and how they affect the adoption or rejection of distance education within these institutions. The analysis into the attitudes and decision making criteria was conducted using five central research questions: 1.How aware or knowledgeable are senior decision makers of distance education within their institution? 2.Have feelings towards distance education changed or evolved? 3.What are the future intentions for distance education within each institution? 4.What are the main sources of information that are utilized by senior decision makers to make decisions regarding distance education? 5.How do senior decision makers evaluate the sources of information they use to make decisions? This study will provide an understanding and focus for present and future distance education programs that would be similar in nature. The insights gained from this study will have significant implications for the planning, development, and design of distance education curricula and systems within Alberta's public colleges. The thesis begins with an introduction into the current contextual conditions present within the province of Alberta which describes the changes occurring in the economic climate, technology, increased public demand and changes in Alberta’s demographics. Chapter two consists of four sections: Competition and Demand in Alberta’s Public Colleges, Innovation Decision Process, Forces that Influence Decision Making Processes and Leaders as Change Agents. These four sections serve to provide a framework for an inquiry into previous research related to this study, and contextual insight into the present technological, social and political climate within Alberta. Chapter three serves to describe and inform the reader of how the study was conducted. Chapter four presents the analysis of the results obtained from the information collected as well as the findings in relation to these results. The analysis of the findings is guided by the five themes presented in the five central research questions. In chapter five the conclusions, implications, and recommendations for the findings derived from in chapter four are discussed. The principle conclusions that can be drawn from this study are: 1.Attitudes towards distance education by senior decision makers in Alberta's public colleges is generally positive, however, there is a significant amount of ambiguity regarding distance education. 2.There are significant external pressures forcing Alberta’s public colleges to get involved in distance education. 3.Distance education within Alberta’s public colleges will grow in the future. 4.There is an overriding technocratic view of distance education. 5. There is a pre-occupation with economic efficiencies rather than effectiveness as it relates to distance education.