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Chapter 3: Methodology of Student Perception of Quality in Online Degree Programs (Dissertation Sample)


the task in this assignment was to write the methodology section of a dissertation on student's perceptions of quality in online degree programs.


Chapter 3: Methodology of “Student Perception of Quality in Online Degree Programs:
A Study of The University of Ghana”
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Table of Contents TOC \o "1-3" \h \z \u 1.Introduction PAGEREF _Toc482681502 \h 42. Qualitative Research Approach PAGEREF _Toc482681503 \h 52.1.Strategy of inquiry PAGEREF _Toc482681504 \h 62.1.1.Case study PAGEREF _Toc482681505 \h 62.1.2.Background of Case Studies PAGEREF _Toc482681506 \h 73.Participants PAGEREF _Toc482681507 \h 93.1.Demography PAGEREF _Toc482681508 \h 93.2.Sampling PAGEREF _Toc482681509 \h 103.2.1.Methods PAGEREF _Toc482681510 \h 103.2.2.Application in the University of Ghana study PAGEREF _Toc482681511 \h 123.2.3.The actors PAGEREF _Toc482681512 \h 123.2.4.Types of data PAGEREF _Toc482681513 \h 134.Data Collection PAGEREF _Toc482681514 \h 154.1.The instrument PAGEREF _Toc482681515 \h 154.2.Interviews PAGEREF _Toc482681516 \h 164.3.Focus group discussions PAGEREF _Toc482681517 \h 185. Procedures PAGEREF _Toc482681518 \h 186. Data Analysis PAGEREF _Toc482681519 \h 197. Ethical Considerations PAGEREF _Toc482681520 \h 228. Trustworthiness PAGEREF _Toc482681521 \h 239. Potential Research Bias PAGEREF _Toc482681522 \h 2310. Limitations PAGEREF _Toc482681523 \h 23
1. Introduction
According to Bhattacherjee, (2012) research can only qualify as such if it contributes to a body of scientific knowledge and utilizes methods systematic methods. In this study, the researcher investigates the inadequacy of information on contributing factors to successful implementation of e-learning programs in distance higher education in sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of creating a solution to the problem. Factors affecting quality perceptions among students are evaluated to generate knowledge that can be critical in ensuring their engagement in degree courses offered online. The study also confines itself to the African continent where the concept has not taken off completely.
To successfully accomplish this objective, it is necessary to go further than comparing the modes used in delivery of online programs. All factors that contribute to successful integration of Information and Communication Technology in delivering tertiary education should thus be investigated and conclusions drawn only from the exhaustive coverage of facts. It is also expected that findings made from the University of Ghana distance education program sample will be applicable across the board, both in Africa and abroad.
Questions that the study aims to answer are;
* What classroom level factors do students associate with successful ICT-driven distance tertiary education programs in regards to education quality?
* What faculty level factors do students associate with successful ICT-driven distance tertiary education programs in terms of education quality?
* What system level factors do students associate with successful of ICT-driven distance tertiary education programs in terms of education quality?
From the research questioned stated above, it is evident that the study postulates a multi-level system of factors affecting perceptions of quality. These three levels of cause-effects will manifest in the manner of the research, the methods to be employed in collection, analysis, and evaluation of data. In this chapter, the procedures of generating first hand data will be outlined in depth as well as their theoretical implications on research outcomes.
2. Qualitative Research Approach
Research is defined as the process of gathering, probing, and decoding data for the purposes of understanding an observed phenomenon that is organized and confined to clearly defined frameworks (Williams, 2007). There are two distinct and virtually opposite types of research, which have been used for the longest time to conduct studies in a diverse number of fields.
Qualitative research constitutes of a holistic attitude focused on evaluation of social phenomena through the perceptions of the participants and is used mostly in social sciences based on its focus on establishing new concepts of a subject, (Zainal, 2007). Quantitative research emerged at about 1250AD as a method of gathering numbered or statistical data, with a methodology that distances researchers from the process and instead prioritizes objective data generation, (Williams, 2007).
A third one, the mixed methods type of research, incorporates methods of gathering and examination of data from both of them emerged in the 1900s, (Williams, 2007). Its introduction was meant to address loopholes left by the extremes of the two existing methods and indicate that, contrary to popularly held belief at the time, the two are not completely incompatible. According to Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, (2004) mixed methods is especially well suited to education research as it does not confine students and researchers to the stiff guidelines expected to be adhered to in either of them. Another important feature of mixed methods is that it can be conducted to have varying levels of qualitative or quantitative features, creating a dominance of either style.
This research will use interviews and focus groups discussions based on an open ended questioning template to collect data on the perceptions of quality in the University of Ghana’s distance education program. Questionnaire templates enable the research inquiries to be confined within a relevant set of questions formulated for that particular research activity (Cln, 2013).
1 Strategy of inquiry
1 Case study
As a style of research, qualitative method is divided into five distinct strategies namely case study, ethnography, grounded theory research, phenomenology, and content analysis, Creswell, (2007). Content analysis gives a thorough examination of a body of scientific information to identify new patterns, links, or to develop insights about a topic. Phenomenology concentrates on the understanding of events from a particular subject’s view (Wilson, 2015). Grounded theory generates conceptual theories on a subject from their point of view. Ethnography, on the other hand, involves the careful, sustained, and interactive study of cultural groups in their natural setting and collection of observational data.
Case studies explore a single entity in a larger group, and making deductions on the bigger group based on the findings of the smaller one (Flyvbjerg, 2006). It is an important tool in the establishment of patterns, relationships, and theories on a subject matter, as it offers a detailed exploration of an event, process, or activity (Williams, 2007). According to Zainal, (2007) case studies are best suited for gathering data on social sciences, as they allow the researchers to move beyond research reports and come up with deeper comprehension of complicated topics from the rigorous study of part of the whole. They are further split into single instrument and collective case studies based on the number of cases examined and thus the acceptability of findings, (Creswell, 2007).
The weaknesses of single instrument case studies lay in creating presumptions of the whole population based on the research outcomes, which has been indicated to contain potential for disquieting bias. The partiality comes from the heterogeneity of populations playing against the non-probability methodologies of sample selection used in case studies. Several strategically selected cases make up collective case study strategy, the multiple samples in several case studies increase the sample population represented, thus the credibility.
2 Background of Case Studies
According to Flyvbjerg, (2006) case studies gained popular notoriety after Galileo used a simple self-evident experiment to disprove the long held Aristotelian law of gravity. The single case study used in that event was the speed of falling of a feather and a stone, which, being so extremely different, established the conclusions drawn from the experiment as true for almost all materials. Case studies were also used by Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton to develop popularly accepted laws of physics, as well as social scientists Charles Darwin, Carl Marx, and Sigmund Freud (Flyvbjerg, 2007).
Being a concept of research where a small sample is used to generate insight into a much larger group, the applicability of case studies have been questioned over the centuries by mainstream scholars. The determining factor that allows results from a case study to apply across a much larger population is unquestionable suitability of the selected event (Flyvbjerg, 2007). It should also be proved to be the most practical way of extracting data from a subject, and be suitable for the research questions formulated, (Zainal, 2007). In the event that a single case study is not sufficient to make conclusions about a subject, multiple case studies can be used to ascertain findings of a first (Creswell, 2007).
The current research on perceptions of quality of online degree programs among students based on The University of Ghana’s distance education program qualifies the research as a single instrument case study. While granting the research a huge opportunity to discover in greater detail facts about the topic due to the presence of a smaller sample population, the leap to be made from research findings to application in the industry will be much greater. The
While this single program will be used as the source of research data, the results from the study will be applied to other programs in different geographical locations. The advantages of the approach will be born out of a smaller test sample allowing the researcher to gather more detailed data. Rather than being speculative of some facts, all observations, deductions, and conclusions will be based on a tested process of interaction with the...
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