Date of Award

Fall 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Pink, William

Second Advisor

Eckman, Ellen

Third Advisor

Schweizer, Heidi


Online education has been increasing at an astounding rate, and advocates contend this trend will transform schooling as we know it. The current research has been centered on the student outcomes in online education. However, this myopic focus on outcomes underestimates the broader systemic factors that may be driving the implementation and everyday practices which impact student outcomes.

This study investigates the economic, political, and organizational factors that influence the situationally constrained choices of an online teacher. This study identifies the ways in which higher education budgets, policies, and technological resources impact what teachers do in the classroom while investigating the everyday practices of teachers that may challenge or reinforce the opportunities and constraints created by these systemic factors at a community college. After talking with faculty and administrators, it became clear that the economic enrollment and retention pressures combined with increased faculty course loads do not encourage the development of an academically rigorous course. Furthermore, the lack of clarity surrounding the mission and the organizational practice of using copied course shells encourage teachers to create a course that promotes retention over academic quality.

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