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Emerging issues affecting distance education research and practice in higher education: A global futures perspective

, The Pennsylvania State University, United States

The Pennsylvania State University . Awarded


The proximity of the next millenium has prompted vast speculation about the future. Findings of an international, three-round Delphi futures study on globally emerging issues affecting distance education (DE) research and practice in higher education are reported. Purpose was to enable DE experts to identify issues which important stakeholders (e.g., educators, researchers, administrators, support service personnel, etc.) could use to guide DE research and practice. Three participant groups of DE administrators, researchers, and support service managers identified globally emerging DE issues anticipated to occur over the next decade.

The administrator group had a consistently high response rate over three rounds (75%, 91%, 90%), generated the most issue statements (225), had the second highest interquartile consensus range for over 60% of issue statements, yet was selective on number of issue statements (15%) assigned "high priority." Highest rated administrator issue statement concerned copyright and intellectual property rights. The top ranked issue category of administrators included learner support and student-related issues. Researchers generated 130 issue statements, achieved a high retention rate (50%, 89%, 100%) for three Delphi rounds, indicated a high consensus range on the least amount of issue statements (54%), and rated only 13% of issue statements at high priority. The highest rated researcher issue statement focused on support and professional development for academic staff. Top ranked researcher issue category was quality assurance. The smallest participant group, support service managers, had a modestly low response rate (15%) generating 34 issue statements, yet had the highest consensus scores (69% of issue statements). Support service managers indicated 100% consensus on 17% of issues, despite diversity in geographic and academic settings. Support service managers listed 48% of issue statements at highest future priority. Highest rated issue statement and top rated issue category identified by support service managers focused on the convergence of traditional and DE.

This futures forecasting should have significant implications for adult higher education curricular and research initiatives. The information generated in this study served to reveal the kind of futures, in terms of DE research and practice, that higher education professionals were creating in the late 1990s.


Cegles, K.A. Emerging issues affecting distance education research and practice in higher education: A global futures perspective. Ph.D. thesis, The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved March 22, 2019 from .

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

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