This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Analysis of Distance Education Adoption Barriers within Colleges and Programs of Agriculture




Boland, Kellis

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Curriculum and Teaching


Distance Education (DE) provides a means for which people, who are unable to attend on-campus courses for any of various reasons, to receive a college education. While there are many benefits cited for DE and many students show a partiality towards DE (Guthrie, 2009; Kelsey, Lindner, & Moore, 2002; Koch, Townsend, & Dooley, 2005; Mink & Moore, 2005; Murphy, 2000; Sampson, Leonard, Ballenger, & Coleman, 2010), institutions still struggle with the decision to create or expand their DE course offerings as there are many barriers hindering the growth and development of DE programs (Dooley & Murphy, 2001; Gammill & Newman, 2005; Murphy & Terry, 1998a; Murphrey & Dooley, 2000; Murphy & Terry, 1998b; Nelson & Thompson, 2005; Roberts & Dyer, 2005a). The primary purpose of this study was to determine what barriers are present in the implementation and development of DE courses within Colleges of Agriculture (COA). Research questions for this study included: What barriers prevent or hindered COA from providing distance education courses to their students amongst adopters and non-adopters? Is the development or expansion of distance education courses a viable option for COA? How can COA expedite the development of existing and future distance education courses? The majority of participants (n = 49) were affiliated with an 1862 Land Grant institution having a student enrollment of 25,000 or below. Participants identified the perceived barriers as minor, with restrictive costs being considered as a moderate barrier and resistance from faculty members as a major barrier. Respondents did not differ in their perceptions of DE barriers based on the institutional characteristics. Only one model showed a statistically significant relationship between DE availability and DE barriers and that was observability. All but one respondent thought DE development was a viable option for their COA. Lastly, respondents commonly indicated that COA can expedite the development of DE courses by focusing on funding (n = 6), time constraints (n = 5), faculty incentives (n = 6), adequate resources and support (n = 7), and cooperative programs focused on sharing course material (n = 5). In this study, faculty resistance was a major barrier to DE diffusion. Observability was also a significant barrier to DE availability. It was found that faculty resistance to DE was related to their inability to observe DE prior to use. As faculty resistance was cited as a barrier in this study, determining the individual innovativeness of each respondent would have been useful in determining adopter categories as laggards are more traditional and, therefore, more resistant to change. Future research concerning DE barriers should include adopter categories when investigating causes of faculty resistance, as this information could prove insightful in determining how best to incentivize faculty to adopt DE programs.