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Volume I A comparative case study exploring how federal probation officers experience different distance education formats

, Teachers College, Columbia University, United States

Teachers College, Columbia University . Awarded


The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of federal probation officers' perceived value of different distance education formats, the learning strategies they used to facilitate their learning, and the degree to which learner autonomy varied among the probation officers. This comparative case study sought to answer the following three research questions: (1) How do probation officers experience different distance education delivery formats, specifically, one-way video, two-way audio teleconferencing, and web-based learning; (2) In what ways does learner autonomy vary among the probation officers; and (3) What learning strategies do probation officers use to facilitate their learning? The research sites included three probation offices within the federal judiciary.

The research sample consisted of 14 probation officers and 8 managers. The researcher used a qualitative case study methodology and collected data through a combination of surveys, distribution of the Learner Autonomy Profile (LAP), individual interviews, and focus group interviews.

The key findings included: (1) A majority of the web-based probation officers viewed distance education as convenient, whereas none of the probation officers from the videoconference sites saw that format as convenient; (2) the positive factors identified by probation officers as affecting their participation in distance education courses included manager and district court support; some adverse factors included non-working equipment and family obligations; (3) overall, probation officers from the videoconference sites received higher scores on the Learner Autonomy Profile (LAP) than the probation officers from the web-based site; and (4) the probation officers identified the following learning strategies as important: finding and devoting time for the training, interaction with colleagues, note-taking, and hands-on learning.

Conclusions included the following: (1) Some of the differences between the probation officers' experiences may be explained in terms of gender; (2) work environment factors of manager and district court support proved influential to probation officers' training experiences; (3) there was less of a relationship between learner autonomy and distance education format than the researcher assumed there would be; and (4) interaction with peers and the instructor was a learning strategy favored by a majority of the probation officers in both distance education formats.


Caufield, E.C. Volume I A comparative case study exploring how federal probation officers experience different distance education formats. Ph.D. thesis, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved March 22, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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