Exploration of online postgraduate education: an evolving pedagogy
This thesis outlines an evolving understanding of online postgraduate healthcare education and proposes a pedagogical model to conceptualise the process. It draws together six peer-reviewed publications on the subject and highlights how understanding of this area of education has improved as a result of this work. This form of teaching is evolving rapidly and is currently undertheorized and lacking a secure evidence base. A total of 91 in-depth research interviews were carried out, with educators, learners and graduates during the individual studies affording a good oversight of online postgraduate healthcare education. Online postgraduate education is conceptualised as situated at the boundaries of professional and academic spheres, offering a potentially democratic learning environment for both educators and learners. Learning is described as a horizontal process, allowing the sharing of learning and expertise between academic and professional environments to occur. Learning is recursive as students combine their professional work while studying part-time. Many online postgraduate learners are mid-career professionals with established professional networks and this helps to explain the impact of such studies that can extend far beyond the individual learner into their wider professional practice. This work challenges the notion that online learning is social impoverished. When well designed and delivered online postgraduate education can offer profound learning opportunities, however, there is a need for academic staff who are experienced in online teaching to share their expertise more widely. Technology is merely a tool that allows human interactions and does not enhance learning without human agency. The current instrumental focus on quality within higher education risks regarding online postgraduate degrees solely in terms of their income generating potential. This focus on finance overlooks the educational potential of such programmes of study as well as the academic challenges in delivering high quality programmes. Commonly held views that online postgraduate recruitment can be scaled up without significant academic effort and additional resources are countered.