Professional Development at a Distance: A Mixed-Method Study Exploring Inservice Teachers’ Views on Presence Online

Winter, 2010

Source: Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 27(2), 76–85. (Winter, 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examined surveys from online courses that used a unique 5-week distance learning model designed for K–12 educators. This mixed-method study examined the concepts of presence, online interaction, participant satisfaction, and the impact of this online professional development experience on teaching.


This study seeks to examine:
• The participant perspective of presence related to the online professional development experience related to course satisfaction
• The factors and features of the distance learning model that contribute to student satisfaction related to online professional development
• The impact on the active classroom based on satisfaction with the online professional development experience.

This study employed a within-stage mixed-method approach in the examination of participant perspectives related to a unique model of online professional development (Johnson & Onwuebuzie, 2004). 


Participants in this study were ninety five k-12 inservice, private school teachers enrolled in one of seven online professional development courses offered in the fall, spring, and summer semesters of the 2005–06 academic year.
Fifty-two percent of the participants had never taken an online course before. However, 27% of the teachers had taken one or two previous online courses, and 21% percent had taken at least three online courses prior to the current semester. 


The findings illustrate a unique portrait of teacher, social, and cognitive presence as they related to this online professional development experience.
Results indicated that social presence and teacher presence served as the greatest factors related to participants’ learning and satisfaction in this experience.
Furthermore, participants felt that they were able to develop relationships that promoted learning.

Based on the distance learning model, online professional development course instructors served as facilitators, lecturers, and mentors by introducing new materials, posing questions, supporting discussions, and providing feedback. This design feature offered an environment for relationship building among the participants and social presence online.

The findings suggest that teacher presence plays a powerful role in online learning, and despite the satisfaction and convenience associated with this model of online professional development, there is room for improvement.

This study also found that prior participant experience with online courses played a significant role in determining satisfaction with the online professional development. Data indicated that satisfaction with the online courses increased as participant experience with online courses increased. This suggests that in addition to instructor (faculty) training, institutions may consider implementing a participant (student) preparation component for first-time online learners to provide an opportunity to preview the environment.

The authors conclude that the data supports that the online learning environment, quality of instruction, interactions and resources, and design of the model contributed to participant learning and overall satisfaction with this online professional development experience.

Johnson, R.B., & Onwuebuzie, A.J., (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. Educational Resracher, 33(7), 14-26.

Updated: Aug. 23, 2011