Online Technical Education in Community College: AERA Poster
Online Technical Education in Community College: AERA Poster

Lisa R. Garcia, Regina Garza Mitchell, Brian S. Horvitz, & Cheryl D. Calhoun

Introduction & Background

Instructional methods are an important consideration when planning and investigating online formats, which favor more constructivist approaches (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2010; Major, 2015). These approaches often involve instructors connecting synchronously or asynchronously with students who interact with each other in collaborative ways (Hanna, 2003).  Despite the continuing enrollment growth in online education (Lokken, 2016) and the national emphasis on CTE as a means of boosting the economy (D’Amico, Morgan, Katsinas, & Friedel, 2014), relatively little is understood about the scope and impact of online CTE at the community college. Only a small number of empirical studies have been conducted in relation to online CTE in community colleges (Benson et al., 2008; Githens, Crawford, & Sauer, 2010).  This poster presents findings from a national study of community colleges that implemented online educational elements into technical courses and programs. 

Conceptual Framework

Online learning ultimately involves changing the nature of technical education (Garza Mitchell, 2009). In addition to new procedures and tools, current forms of online education require instructors and students to connect differently, resulting in new organizational contexts and new forms of pedagogies (Hanna, 2003, 2013; Major, 2015).  The very nature of online course design impacts the faculty role, splitting what was traditionally the work of one person into a production-line model (Smith, 2010).  These types of change have the potential to alter organizational culture, in particular “shared basic assumptions” (Schein, 2004, p. 17) about what it means to teach and learn in technical programs. 

Methods & Data Analysis

  • Multiple case study with 15 community colleges that received ATE funding to incorporate online or hybrid education into community college technical education (culled from larger national study).
  • Semi-structured interviews with 23 project leaders and faculty
  • Document analysis of project-related documents (e.g., curriculum, syllabi, and web sites).
  • A priori coding structure was developed to allow for initial sorting of data based on broad categories such as online integration and rationale for implementation.
  • A minimum of two members of the research team coded transcripts separately, and then teams of 2-4 researchers conducted an additional round of coding to compare results, come to agreement, and ensure inter-rater reliability.
  • After two rounds of coding, a narrative draft was developed for each case.
  • The research team met regularly to compare and discuss findings and to work out challenges that were faced in data analysis.


Instructional Delivery

  • Ten of the 15 projects in this study used a hybrid mode for instructional delivery with asynchronous online lectures.
  • Four of the projects used a hybrid mode for instructional delivery with synchronous online lectures.
  • One project used a hybrid mode with both asynchronous and synchronous lectures & discussions.
  • Only one project was fully online.

Student Experience

  • Learning through Observation
    • Nine of the 15 projects used pre-recorded videos.
    • One project used live video/telepresence.
  • Learning by Doing
    • Six projects used computer-based simulations.
    • Five projects required students to use technical equipment at home.
    • Eight projects required students to work on technical equipment at a lab.
    • Three projects required students to work in actual professional settings.

Garza Mitchell, R., Calhoun, C., Garcia, L., & Horvitz, B. (2018). Online Technical Education in Community Colleges. Presented at the 2018 Conference of the American Educational Research Association, New York, NY.