SIGSCE 2018 Poster

Calhoun, C. D. (2018). Online Technical Education in Advanced Technical Education Curriculum. Presented at the 2018 SIGCSE Technical Symposium, Baltimore, MD. DOI:

With an expanding need for a diverse STEM workforce, community colleges play an instrumental role in filling the need with qualified technicians. This research project will identify and synthesize the experiences of developing and implementing online course components in technical education programs, including information technology and cybersecurity, with an emphasis on projects supported by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program (ATE). This study presents findings from a multiple case study of seventeen community colleges programs. The research questions guiding this study include 1) how online education is being used in technical courses and programs and 2) how challenges and benefits are perceived from implementing online education. Two participants from each project (PI and Faculty) were interviewed and program artifacts were collected. The interviews were thematically coded and data were analyzed to determine how hands-on work occurs in online technical courses including key challenges and benefits. The findings include descriptions of synchronous vs asynchronous models, use of didactic and lab based curriculum, fidelity of experience and teaching strategies. Benefits and challenges experienced by both faculty and students are discussed. Findings from this study contribute knowledge about how colleges are implementing online technical education including broader changes that occur concerning structure and philosophy. This project is important to the CSforALL initiative in that it evaluates online implementations of Cybersecurity and Information Technology programs and it provides an insight into best practices for implementing online, hybrid and flipped classroom models.

Keywords: Online Education; Advanced Technical Education; Community College

Project Goal:

Synthesize what has been learned about online technical education in ATE projects and make connections to the broader literature about what works and what does not work in online technical education.

Research Questions

  • How is online education being used in technical courses and programs?
  • What challenges and benefits are perceived from implementing online technical education?


Qualitative multi-case study

  • 18 National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education grant projects
  • Interviews with project PI and one faculty member
  • Document review
  • Analysis
    • Individual case analysis
    • Apriori coding by a minimum of two team members
    • Developed themes for each case
    • Summary narrative for each case

Online Education Models

  • Fully online
  • Flipped classroom model – hands-on labs in face-to-face classroom
  • Simulations – technologies that were too large, or too expensive to have in classroom
  • Virtual environments – sandbox labs
  • Virtual internships – students connect to internship in remote location

Online Implementation

Learning Management Tools

Desire to Learn – 25%, Blackboard – 19%, Moodle – 25%, Canvas – 31%, Wiki – 13%, VMWare – 19%

Technologies Used for Hands-on Learning

Practicum/Internship 15%, Telepresence 8%, Video 54%, Equipment-Virtual 15%, Equipment-Simulated 31%, Equipment-Lab 54%, Equipment-Home 38%

Learning Paradigms

Constructivisit 62%, Cognitivist 8%, Behavioral 38%

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

Synchronous 14%, Asynchronous 86%

Key Benefits

Teaching and learning
★ Improved student learning
★ Flexibility in serving students
★ Enhanced relationships with industry
★ Resources

Key Challenges

Tech and Teaching
★ Training
★ Structural Issues
★ Pedagogy
★ Differing expectations
★ Sustainability
Serving Students
★ Adult student needs
★ Digital Divide
★ Tech Support

Research Team

Regina Garza Mitchell
Cheryl Calhoun
Amanda Hatherly
Brian S. Horvitz
Andrea Beach
Charles Henderson


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