Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




John R. Thelin


Old Dominion University's Peninsula Center, in Hampton, Virginia, was the location for an ethnographic case study about the urban "distributed university" centers that provided instruction via video teleconference (VTC). Graduate engineers attended VTC classes at the Peninsula Center originating from five Virginia universities as part of the Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program.;The purpose of this study was to describe VTC instruction and identify aspects that impacted on student learning, faculty teaching, and the socio-cultural environment. Fifty-one interviews and two months of observations were conducted during the Spring term, 1993.;Benson Snyder's (1971) ethnographic case study at MIT, described in The Hidden Curriculum, provided a model from which to start. Based on a systematic comparative analysis of Snyder's (1971) study at MIT with that of the Peninsula Center, findings showed that socio-cultural characteristics and traditions in the VTC graduate engineering classes followed Snyder's (1971) model and affected student learning. This conclusion was evident, given the variables of elapsed time, different instructional formats such as large lecture hall and VTC, and student characteristics that varied from undergraduate to graduate, full-time to part-time, and traditional-age to adult students. This conclusion reflected higher education's resistance to change due to its "hidden curriculum" that includes its socio-cultural norms, values, and traditions.;Eight socio-cultural "constancies" were described that existed at both MIT and at the Peninsula Center. They included: environmental characteristics; student-faculty communication; the student-faculty relationship; faculty work; dissonance and gamesmanship; methods of student learning; student sub-cultures; and the engineering culture. Additionally, eight "new twists" of VTC instruction were described.;Recommendations include researching and understanding socio-cultural trends when planning for educational reform, and improving student-faculty dialogue, characterized by discussion of truth, that is reduced in VTC instruction. These are challenges for the University of the 21st Century.



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