Teachers Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Music Education

Abstract

This study seeks to explore the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees in music education through distance learning. With the development of information communication technology, distance learning through the Internet has gained ground globally. Presently, an increasing number of universities and colleges are offering online master’s programs.

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Music education was relatively late in introducing distance learning master’s programs, and there is scant research on the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing masters’ degrees through distance learning in this field. Thus, the rationale behind this proposal is to fill the gap resulting from the lack of research on the proposed topic. The proposed research will attempt to explore the possible barriers facing in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees in music education and to suggest methods for ameliorating the issues that in-service teachers have encountered during their studies.

Evidence has revealed that 50% of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees through distance learning may not finish their studies due to various problems (Faculty Focus, 2008). Thus, this study intends to provide insights into how distance learners in music education can find solutions to the unfavorable experiences they face while pursuing master’s degrees in music education.

The proposed study will address the following research questions in order to explore and describe the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees through distance learning.

  1. What influences the decision of learners in a selected online Master of Education program to report the program provides the most valuable experience during their studies?
  2. What influences the decision of learners in a selected online Master of Education program to report the program provides the least valuable experience during their studies?
  3. How do the student participants report using information from the online master’s program in their own teaching situations?
  4. What are the perceptions do students in a selected online Master of Education program report regarding online learning experience?
  5. What Challenges do online students encounter with their learning experiences in a selected online Master of Education?

The study will use qualitative techniques for data collection, and the method of data collection will be in-depth interviews. The interviews will be used to collect the opinions of selected individuals in order to gain insight into the proposed topic. In addition, there will be data analysis, peer review, and external audit of the proposal to ensure its reliability.

Introduction

Background

The development of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has increased the strong international trend of providing distance education (D.E.) with the aim of providing high-quality higher education in many fields. D.E. has been convenient in facilitating remote educational opportunities to underserved populations and thus providing access to students who cannot attend school in the traditional sense.

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Various notable colleges and universities around the world offer distance education, presumably because of the value that D.E. has added to the educational system. With an increasing number of courses and programs being delivered online by institutions of higher learning, the trend toward electronically customized education may be irreversible. The strong support of online education shows that it is an avenue capable of reaching groups of students around the world (Popov, 2009; Braun, 2008).

Most schools, libraries, and government facilities have adopted strategies such as satellite communication, televised courses, and Internet delivery methods to reach the student audience by distance learning (Paul, 2002). These methods have become the present and next generations’ system of delivering education. As pointed out by Ma (2003):

“Communication and Information networks are influencing the very essence of the educational process, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the proliferation of the online-education, courses delivered primarily or entirely using computer-mediated communication technologies (CMC). CMC technologies are unique in providing unprecedented access to information and allowing learners to participate in the educational process anywhere, anytime.” (p.1).

Studies have illustrated concerns about several barriers involved in online programs, which include isolation of students, limited access to library resources, technology problems, and inflexible instructors (Pribesh, Dickinson & Bucher, 2006).

The proposed study attempts to identify the characteristics of online learners and their learning experiences and needs. Thus, the paucity of research in the field necessitates the rationale behind this study.

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The rationale for the study

Technological-based learning in graduate programs in music education is a recent phenomenon that deserves attention. In the United States, only ten graduate music education programs offer coursework through online distance learning (Austin, 2007). Although several scholars have explored students’ experience on distance learning, we have not found a significant amount of literature that has been centered on the experiences of in-service teachers’ pursuing a master’s degree in music education by distance learning.

For example, a study conducted by Mancuso (2008) was only centered on a qualitative study of barriers to participation in Web-based environments among learners at the community college level, and nothing was mentioned in this study on the experience of music teachers pursuing master’s degree in music education through distance education. A similar study conducted by Kwang-Yi (2003) explored the general overview of web-based distance learning education among graduate students in Texas higher institutions. Despite that the study centered on the graduate students, the study did not mention the experience of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees through distance education. No literature has been found that centered on the experiences of in-service teachers’ pursuing a master’s degree in music education by distance learning. Due to the paucity of research in the area, the study intends to fill the gap that has resulted from the inadequacy of research studies on the experiences of in-service teachers’ pursuing a master’s degree in music education by distance learning. Filling this gap is essential to provide the methods by which there could provide solutions to the potential difficulties that the in-service teachers might be experiencing during their course of study in an online master’s music program.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to describe the experiences and perceptions of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education through distance learning. It is essential to note that with the increased presence of information communication technology, higher education is replete with online education delivery methods. With the increase of ICT to enhance the opportunity of web learning, the proposed study provides an excellent opportunity to assess the experiences of practicing teachers as students pursuing a master’s degree in the music education field.

Evidence has revealed that distance education students face a greater risk of dropping out before completion of their studies. Specifically, 50% of distance learning students do not finish their studies mostly because of their unfamiliarity with the system and resources (Faculty Focus, 2008). Thus, this study could serve to provide a detailed description of the experiences of in-service teachers as students pursuing a Master’s degree in music education through distance learning. Essentially, the study needs to center on the area due to the perception of in-service teachers and their experiences during their course of study.

Research Questions

The proposed dissertation will employ qualitative techniques in order to gain insight into the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing a Master’s degree in music education through distance learning. The specific research questions to be addressed in this study are :

  1. What influences the decision of learners in a selected online Master of Education program to report the program provides the most valuable experience during their Studies?
  2. What influences the decision of learners in a selected online Master of Education program to report the program provides the least valuable experience during their studies?
  3. How do the student participants report using information from the online master’s program in their own teaching situations?
  4. What are the perceptions do students in a selected online Master of Education program report regarding online learning experience?
  5. What Challenges do online students encounter with their learning experiences in a selected online Master of Education?

Answers to these research questions will be based on the students’ feedback from in-depth interviews. In addition, a critical analysis of previous literature regarding online learners’ perceptions of distance learning will be conducted.

Review of literature

Background

The proposed research study will address the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees in music education in the Web-based environment. This chapter reviews literature about online education, the benefits and barriers of Web-based learning, and experiences of in-service teachers pursuing masters’ degrees in music education through Web-based learning. Finally, the review will examine learning theories related to the proposed research.

Review of Relevant Research Organized Thematically

Online education – benefits of and barriers to Web-based learning for learners Mancuso (2008) defines online education as the process of delivering educational instruction away from a classroom using video, multimedia communication, and a computer system. Advances in information communication technology (ICT) have changed the educational system over the last ten years, and the provision of a Web-based environment using virtual classrooms is generally referred to as online distance education. Essentially, distance learning is a form of teaching at all levels, conducted not in the lecture room but through Internet technology. For example, Open University in London has established a successful distance education program. Typically, the major characteristic of online distance education is the separation of students and teachers, with both interacting through Web-based technology.

To stay current with societal changes, online learning programs have expanded to include more disciplines, from arts to engineering, and it is essential to realize that the attractiveness of online education is a result of increased awareness of the value of education. Many people have realized that it is possible to earn university degrees right from the comfort of their homes. Many people with family responsibilities, work, and social obligations enroll in distance education because they lack sufficient time for traditional education. These groups have thus found online distance learning an excellent method for pursuing their educational goals. The result has been increased popularity of these programs as well as an increase in the population of online students (Spevak, 2004, Hines, 2008).

Trends of online education

As online education gains recognition, overwhelming numbers of universities and colleges are offering courses online. In 2005 approximately 3.2 million learners took at least one course through online programs, and it is estimated that total enrolment for online learning will grow to between 30 million and 80 million by the year 2025 (Mancuso, 2008). In addition, research reported in 2007 by Eduventures (a research and consulting firm for higher education) reveals that 61% of universities and colleges offer master’s degree programs online, 53% offer bachelors’ degree programs, and 40% offer associates’ degree programs online. This report was the result of a survey of 163 institutions with online higher education programs. (Popov, 2009).

Benefits of online education

Several benefits have been attributed to online education programs. Danzinger (2007) argued that, over the last two decades, online education had provided opportunities for learning. Online education has provided the ability for learners from different countries to enrich their knowledge and advance their skills. Many people who would not have benefited from traditional education because of geographical location, family engagements, and social commitments are achieving their educational objectives through distance education. Although distance education is very old, formerly it was termed as correspondence education where the institutions sent the educational instructions to the student by postal mails.

Cicco (2007) argued that online distance education provides an opportunity for underprivileged individuals to access education. The author’s perception of online education is too narrow because many online courses in the United States and the United Kingdom are expensive and not within reach of underprivileged individuals.

Distance learning was derived theoretically from correspondence education, and the University of London was the first institution to offer correspondence education (Keegan, 1993). However, with the advent of ICT, distance education has taken on a new dimension and now provides opportunities for students at national and global levels. Many learners find online distance education attractive because of the ability to pursue a class or course not available in their geographical locations. For example, many potential learners nurture the idea of studying at a prestigious university but may not be able to achieve their dream because they live far from where these universities are located (Ma, 2003). With the availability of online education, it is now possible to study in a graduate program at any of the Ivy League universities, such as Harvard University, Yale University, and Columbia University. Despite the benefits of online distance education, some studies have demonstrated pessimistic views with regard to the possibilities for mutual enrichment in distance learning when compared face-to-face (Popov, 2009).

Smith (1998) argued that, with video conferencing, distance learners could enjoy the same benefits of education as traditional learners because students are able to see their lecturers and fellow students and interact with instructors. The author further argued that this type of instructional methodology provides very satisfying distance classes as well as strengthens the satisfaction the students derive from online distance education.

Montgomery (2000) claims that technological advancement has introduced new ways of teaching and learning. The introduction of technology such as computers, software, USB, and other technological learning equipment has improved the technological awareness of most learners. It is essential to realize that the computer is the technological artifact in the modern world, and computers are being applied in almost every profession. Thus, online education can enhance the knowledge of distance learners on the use of computers, and this knowledge will benefit many distance learners after the completion of their studies. Essentially, the approach adopted by many institutions has made distance education to be more attractive.

Urtel (2008) pointed out that has become “any formal approach to learning in which the majority of the instruction occurs while educator and learner are at a distance from each other” (p. 323). It is essential to realize that administrators of distance education are effective in improving the quality of education. As pointed out, “a management team, including system administrators, server/database programmers, and the Webmaster, are responsible for maintaining a learning environment that is effective and efficient. This includes a variety of activities such as making Web-based materials available to learners 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, the management team is responsible for security measures, thus providing an environment that reduces the potential for hackers to obtain confidential information” (Khan, 2004).

Tucker (2001) showed that online programs could develop a sense of a live classroom-teaching experience for online learners. As argued by the author, many students interviewed about their perceptions of online education compared with traditional education revealed that most of the online programs compared favorably with the classroom-based educational system. In addition, many supporters of distance education have argued that no evidence exists that online programs do not develop a sense of live classroom-teaching experience.

The present study will clarify whether online programs develop a sense of live classroom-teaching experience for online learners. The study attempts to explore the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education through distance learning. The next section reviews literature dealing with criticisms of online education.

Criticisms of Online Education

Despite various benefits derived from distance education, some scholars believe that distance learning is not advantageous compared with face-to-face education. Mancuso (2008) argued that barriers to Web-based courses serve as a block to Web learners. For example, the inability of learners to have face-to-face interactions with their instructors hampers their ability to have questions answered immediately. Unlike the traditional education system, where the instructors immediately answer questions, in distance education, learners have to wait, sometimes for hours, before an instructor answers their questions. For example, some students pursuing traditional on-campus learning commented on the frustration they face when in classes. Some students who provided their views asserted that the student’s interaction with the lecturers was not enough. They argued that the lecturers devoted more time to the students pursuing distance learning than the students pursuing traditional learning, making students pursuing face-to-face learning not have sufficient teaching. In addition, some students even complained that some lecturers devoted lesser time to the need of the traditional students. Some even complained that most lecturers did not reply to their emails on time because these lecturers have devoted more of their time to the need of the distance-learning students. Typically, with more institutions introducing distance learning in their curriculum, the need to maintain communication with the students has become a major challenge. (Popov, 2009).

Another barrier is the inability of some learners to understand the new technology. It is essential to realize that a majority of people participating in distance online education are adult learners. Many of them start handling computers only when they start online education, and this barrier results in a lack of understanding of Web-based courses (Mancuso, 2008).

As Edmonds (2009) pointed out, many online graduate learners are white, female, and married, with an average age of 40. The author demonstrated that these learners face “technology problems and the lack of technical support, adding to their frustration when learning online. Some studies found feelings of isolation, using new technologies, and restricted socializing online were barriers for online graduate learners” (p. 3). Thus, some students complain that the amount of time spent in online studies is unsatisfactory. Learners complain that some instructors possess poor online skills, fail to describe course expectations, and give tardy feedback.

Hines (2008) agreed with Edmonds, arguing that many instructors new to online graduate teaching lack awareness of the complexity and tasks of online learning before becoming involved with the programs. After the introduction of distance education, the instructors find themselves combining online instructor and administrative roles, and combining these tasks brings quality and productivity into question. For example, Mydakota and Duncan (2007) criticized distance education by arguing that learning outcomes in distance education do not give students satisfaction compared with face-to-face studies. The authors argued that the technicality of the new technology had become a barrier to some students. Despite the barriers enumerated by these scholars, it is interesting to note that the number of online learners is still increasing. Certificates from online programs provide opportunities to raise income and financial status, and there is increase gradual increase in momentum accorded to web-based learning.

Although some scholars have mixed beliefs about the students’ satisfaction with web-based learning, Glass & Sue (2008) argued that there are no clear-cut differences between students’ satisfaction with web-based learning or face-to-face studies. Typically, the author argued, some students prefer the mixed instructional strategies as the basis of learning. Evidence has shown that student’s satisfaction with online discussion is present, where student’s participation in meeting the course requirements has a positive impression.

Experiences of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education through Web-based learning

Music education has been late in adopting online education. While many colleges and universities have launched online learning in other programs such as business administration, social sciences, computer sciences, and engineering, very few have launched online master’s programs in music education. The lateness of music education in adopting online education has affected the quality of education the schools provide. This assertion is supported by the results of telephone interviews conducted by Walls (2008) of in-service music teachers. The results revealed that the teaching philosophies of online music education are always stated in vague terms. In addition, curriculum assessment and technological integration are widely affected in online music education programs.

Hebert (2007) argued that in-service teachers might face some challenges in pursuing online master’s programs in music education; nevertheless, many in-service teachers are ready to face the challenge. For example, at Boston University School of Music, nearly 600 graduate students seized the opportunity of online learning in music education in 2007.

Despite the benefits provided by online education to many learners, very little literature exists exploring the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees in music education through distance learning. For example, the study conducted by Montgomery (2000) explored only the experience of teachers studying through distance learning. In that study, no mention was made of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education. In addition, Daly et al. (2007), who centered their study on the experiences of teachers pursuing master’s programs through e-learning, also made no mention of the experience of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees in music education.

The only recent study exploring distance learning in graduate music teacher education was that by Walls (2008), who explored the satisfaction of music teachers in graduate programs; however, the study sampled the opinions of only a limited number of current and graduate students and did not reflect the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees in music education.

Theoretical Framework

This section focuses on the theoretical framework related to the study. Theories have been demonstrated in this paper. The study provides transactional distance theory (TDT), communication theory, theory of distance education, and Connectivism Learning theory to demonstrate the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degrees in music education through distance learning.

Hines (2008) provided the transactional distance theory (TDT), which examined the cognitive processes of reception, perception, and transmission. Typically, the separation of and transactions between instructor and student have an impact on teaching and learning. From Hines’ (2008) perspective, TDT indicated that learning autonomy involves three variables that pertain to the design and organization of the course and communications media. The dialogue in TDT involves real-time communication with students; however, if minimal dialogue occurs between instructor and students, this form of the instruction set is considered distance.

Smith (1998) also provided a communication theory involving verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. Typically, distance-learning education involves verbal and nonverbal communication, where transactions between instructor and students take place simultaneously at remote locations. Verbal communication may take the form of video conferencing, and nonverbal communication takes the form of interactions between instructor and students through internal mail.

However, Keegan, (1993) theory of distance education was more elaborate. The author highlighted the following criteria:

  1. There is permanent teacher-learner separation
  2. The use of two-way communication
  3. Permanent separation of learner from the learning group

However, there is criticism based on the theory of distance education because distance education should be based on learning theory and theory of organization conducted through modern communication media.

Kop (2008) pointed out that the older theories have been replaced by the Connectivism Learning theory because this is based on a theory of the digital age. The author argued that the theory of connectivism is centered on the acquisition of knowledge through information networks based on a variety of digital forms. Typically, connectivism theory is important in the development of e-learning because theory applies to a large learning environment where education is gradually becoming the network of digitally enabled communications.

Summary Framing the Current Study in the Existing Literature

This section provides a summary that frames the current study in the existing works of literature. The previous section provided an overview of the literature on online education and the benefits and barriers to Web-based learning. The literature mentions benefits such as the ability of learners to study courses that may not be available at their geographical locations and barriers faced by e-learners during their course studies.

Some experiences of in-service teachers pursuing masters’ degrees in music education through Web-based learning are also found in the literature. It is noted that music education is late in pursuing online graduate programs, and the experiences of some e-learners show that the teaching philosophy of master’s programs in online music education is always stated in vague terms. Moreover, curriculum assessment and technological integration are widely affected in online music education programs; nevertheless, many graduate students still enroll in online music education despite this assessment.

Finally, the transactional distance theory and communication theory provides a basis for distance learning; however, more data are needed to ascertain the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education by distance learning. Methodology refers to methods of data collection, which will be examined in the next section.

Methodology

Introduction

This chapter describes the methodology of the proposed study and provides a restatement of the purpose and the research questions. The chapter also presents an overview of the research design, including a justification for using qualitative methods. In addition, the chapter provides an identification of participants, which includes site selection and individual participants. Finally, the chapter presents sections on data collection, data analysis, and the trustworthiness and reliability of data.

Restatement of Purpose

The objective of this research is to describe the experiences and perceptions of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education through distance learning by applying phenomenology. The proposed study provides an opportunity to examine and assess the experiences of practicing teachers as students pursuing a master’s degree exclusively in the music education field.

Research evidence and personal experience suggest that distance education students face a greater risk of dropping out before completion of their studies. In that sense, as a distance-learning professor, the researcher has directly experienced the phenomenon to be explored. However, there is a lack of supporting research that provides a description of the experiences of actual in-service teachers as students pursuing a master’s degree in music education through distance learning. The proposed thesis will investigate the topic with a strong emphasis on students’ perceptions about the issues that online education in music education has. This, in order to contribute to the design and improvement of music education programs by distance learning.

Restatement of Research Questions

The proposed dissertation will employ qualitative techniques in order to gain insight into the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing a Master’s degree in music education through distance learning. The specific research questions to be addressed in this study are:

  1. What influences the decision of learners in a selected online Master of Education program to report the program provides the most valuable experience during their Studies?
  2. What influences the decision of learners in a selected online Master of Education program to report the program provides the least valuable experience during their studies?
  3. How do the student participants report using information from the online master’s program in their own teaching situations?
  4. What are the perceptions do students in a selected online Master of Education program report regarding online learning experience?
  5. What Challenges do online students encounter with their learning experiences in a selected online Master of Education?

This will be based primarily on the students’ feedback from in-depth interviews. In addition, an analysis of previous literature on online learners’ perception of distance learning will be conducted.

Overview of Research Design Including Justification for Using Qualitative Methods

A qualitative research design will be used to gather feedback from in-service teachers regarding their experiences pursuing a master’s degree in music education through distance learning. Typically, surveys and questionnaires are the most effective tools for determining participants’ perceptions (Danzinger, 2007). However, as this study expects to describe the meaning of experiences of a concept for several individuals, the beginning and end of this phenomenological research would be to examine the lived experience (Bresler, 1995). In that sense, the major instrument will be in-depth interviews, which could include reflective journals of the participants.

The rationale behind employing qualitative methods is based on the nature and knowledge of a particular subject. When there is insufficient literature and theory to justify a study, qualitative methods may be appropriate. The introduction of Web-based learning is a new phenomenon in the academic environment; thus, to understand the experience of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education through distance learning, qualitative methods are the most appropriate for data collection. As argued by Spevak (2004), qualitative methods are effective for collecting a large pool of data in order to provide validity, reliability, confirmability, and dependability for a study.

Qualitative research methods have become an increasingly popular method of inquiry for the social sciences and applied fields such as education (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). Unlike the quantitative technique, the qualitative technique employs phenomenological research to arrive at a logical conclusion.

Phenomenological research

The qualitative technique employs phenomenological research to arrive at logical conclusion. Phenomenological research is concerned with the personal perspective and interpretation of individual, which is powerful to understand the subjective experience. (Lester, 1999).Thus, the researcher intends to builds his life experience to understand the participants in the study. Typically, human experience is essential to understand phenomenon, and is the key to understand the participants in a study. (Nieswiadomy, 1993). The methodology employs with phenomenological approach is by utilizing semi-structured in-dept interview to explore the perception of individuals. With regard to qualitative approach, this study will employ phenomenological research using semi-structured in-dept interview to explore perception of in-service teachers pursuing master’s degree through distance education. Essentially, gathering and analyzing data through phenomenological research approach is the process in which the researcher imposes preconceived ideas in the research technique. Among the methods the phenomenological researcher employ are in-dept interview, narrative interview, and participant observation. (Finlay, 2008).

To explore their perception further, some artefact will be used to probe into the learning outcome or educational outcomes during their course of study in distance education. ( Burnard, 2008).

Hence, the use of qualitative methods in the proposed thesis will provide for the systematic analysis of data in order to produce the desired result.

Meanwhile, the qualitative study will employ critical analysis in the study.

Implementation of qualitative study towards critical analysis of the study

As being discussed in the previous section, the study employs qualitative technique. Typically, the study will employ critical analysis of a data collected using qualitative method. The study will critically analyze the literatures to ensure that it is relevant to the study, and there is need for comparison analysis to ensure that the study is relevant to the grounded theory.

To develop logical analytical study, the qualitative study will ensure that there is relation between data set and actual result delivered in order to ensure that the proposal is credible and believable. The creditability and validity of the proposal are essential n order to have long-lasting references in the academic circle. Essentially, credible result of a study is very important to the validity of a study. Thus, critical analysis will improve quality of the study in order to enhance its position in the academic circle. (Thorne, 2000).

Identification of Participants (Including Methods and Rationale)

This section describes the identification of participants for data collection. Identification of participants is essential to ensure that the most qualified participant is selected to take part in the interviewing process. The study will eliminate the participants who are not qualified. For example, the study will ensure that qualified participants are in-service teachers running master’s program. Additionally, the participants who have not experienced face-to-face study will be disqualified.

The proposal will collect data from large group of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education. The methods adopted will be in-depth interviews and reflective journals. These data collection methods are adopted in order to ensure the reliability of the data collected. The site selected for data collection will be the online environment.

Site Selection

The sites selected for data collection are online environments, and the researcher’s background will influence the particular online environments selected. The personal benefits derived from online programs, and the access this researcher has to in-service teachers pursuing Masters’ degrees in music education through distance learning at Cambridge College contributes to his interest in the proposed research.

The researcher is a lecturer at Cambridge College, where he lectures students pursuing a master’s degree in subjects such as Foundations of Music Education, Methods in Music Education, Selection and Performance of Music in the Schools, Music Form and Analysis, and Orchestration. Further, being a lecturer at Cambridge College for distance learning, the researcher will have access to in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree. Thus, the site selected will be Cambridge College.

Group Participants

Sampling method – Sampling is the process of selecting participants for the proposed thesis. This study will use criteria sampling methods, and the sample population will be selected through email and telephone conversations. The researcher will take special care to ensure that all the participants meet the criteria stipulated. Through sampling, qualified participants will be recruited to take part in the interviews.

  • Recruiting – Participants will consist of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education at Cambridge College.
  • Criteria for selection – To carry out effective sampling, all participants must meet the following criteria:

The participants must be enrolled in an online master’s degree program in music.

The participants must be practicing teachers.

The participants must have experience with traditional, face-to-face study.

Individual Participants

Apart from group participants, the proposed thesis will use individual participants for the interviews. The use of individual participants is essential to enhance the proposed study’s validity.

  • Sampling method – The sampling method for individual participants will also be criteria sampling. This is to ensure that all the individual participants meet the criteria laid down for the proposed thesis.
  • Recruiting – The proposed thesis will select 10 individual participants who have deep knowledge in both face-to-face and online studies. These individuals will be contacted through both telephone and email.
  • Criteria for selection – As indicated in the previous section, the proposed thesis will use criteria sampling. The criteria for the selection of individual participants will consist of the following:

The participants must be enrolled in an online master’s degree program in music.

Participants must have spent at least 3 or 4 years in traditional, face-to-face program at a college or university.

Participants must be in-service teachers.

Data Collection

Answering these research questions will lead to an understanding of the experience of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education through distance learning. The thesis will review several previous studies related to the projected study. However, to ascertain the validity of the literature reviewed, data collection is essential. The methods discussed below will be used to collect data.

The researcher will collect data from in-depth interviews and reflective journals methods. All the data from interviews will also be checked for accuracy. The researcher will check whether the answers correspond to the questions asked during the interviews and check for spelling mistakes.

As discussed in the previous section, the proposed thesis will use qualitative methods for data collection. The data collection will consist of in-depth interviews and reflective journals. These methods are effective for qualitative research. For example, interviews are effective for collecting the opinions of the interviewees on their experiences on online music educational programs. Essentially, interviews are effective for small groups of people. The important point is to describe the meaning of the phenomenon for a small number of individuals who have experienced it (Creswell, 2007).

As discussed in the previous section, the proposed thesis will use phenomenological research approach for data collection, which consists of in-dept interviews, and observation. These methods are effective for qualitative research. For example, interviews are effective for collecting the opinions of the interviewees on their experiences on online music educational programs. Essentially, in-dept interviews are effective for small groups of people. The proposed study will use telephone interviews and face-to-face interviews to collect data. As argued by Trochim and Donnelly (2007), interviews are effective for probing and asking follow-up questions. In addition, data collection through interview is also effective for collecting the respondents’ personal opinions. Apart from interviews, the proposed thesis will also use reflective journals and observations for data collection. Observation involves gathering the researcher’s perceptions during the interviews.

Interview protocol

This section describes the interview protocol that will be used to collect data for the study. To design the interview protocol, some criteria will be followed. First, there will be examination of essential criteria that will be related to instructional design principle for online learning. In addition, there will be further examination of existing literatures similar to the proposal. The researcher will conduct an initial pilot interview to at least three existing cohorts to test the reliability of the instrument and will inform them about the other data collection tools.

Interview Protocol

As indicated in the previous section, the proposal will employ interview to collect the opinion of in-service teacher pursuing master’s degree through distance learning. The opinion collected will help to ascertain their experience in distance education, and the interview protocol will employ semi-structured and face-to-face, and telephone interviews.

Typically, the interview protocol will employ two techniques to collect the opinion of the people. First, the interviewer will ask the interviewees to type their opinion on the interview paper provided. Moreover, there will face-to-face interview with the participants, which will be used for in-depth interview in order to collect the opinion of interviewees. The introduction of the phone interview will be as follows:

Introduction for the phone interview

Good morning, my name is Juan Carlos Vega-Martinez from Boston University and I am calling in regard to interview on online learning in music education, which you are currently pursuing. You accepted to participate in the phone interview from the invitation sent to you through email. Are you ready to answer few questions?

I will like to record this interview in the cassette tape for easy transcribing. Your anonymity and confidentiality will be preserved. Please, do you have any objections with regard to recording this interview?

Please, could you provide your names, gender, age, level of education and years of experience in teaching?

The interview questions will be as follows.

  1. Do you have experience in face-to-face study and which level?
  2. How do you access master’s program in music education through distance learning?
  3. Can you describe your overall experience in distance learning?
  4. Comparing distance learning with face-to-face education, which system of education is more rigorous, and why?
  5. What are the most valuable experiences in online studies in music education?
  6. What are the least valuable experiences in online studies in music education?
  7. What are the problems or barriers you have experienced in accessing educational instruction through distance learning?
  8. Comparing distance learning with face-to-face study, which system of education offers more qualitative education, and why?
  9. Provide detailed reasons about why you prefer to choose your master’s program in music education through distance learning.
  10. What are the perceptions of online learners regarding the differences between face-to face instruction and online learning?
  11. How would you assess the comfort level with Internet-based courses compare to face-to-face study?
  12. What kind of technical difficulties do you face in online learning?
  13. Do you think distance learning involves lot of technicality, and why?
  14. How do online program provide hands-on experience comparing to face-to-face studies?
  15. What learning approaches do you identify as important in a distance learning based course?

In addition, as being indicated in the previous section, the study will employ semi-structured interview to seek the opinion of the participants. The protocol for the semi-structured interview will be as follows:

Protocol for the semi-structured interview

To ensure that large participants participate in the interview, the semi-structured interview will be distributed by the email and the interviewee will asked some short question, which the respondents will be allowed to provide short answers.

Typically, interview aims to find out your experience in distance learning in master’s program in music education. The essentially reason for conducting semi-structured interview is to access the experience of in-service teachers pursing master’s degree in music education through online learning.

In the interview process, the opinion of the respondents is most important, and the respondents’ opinion is to test the experience of in-service teachers pursing master’s degree in music education through online learning.

Instruction of the semi- interview protocol

You should provide your name. We assure you that your name will not be shown to anyone or a third party.

Please, before you provide your opinion, please read the interview question very carefully, and provides the answer that reflects your opinion.

Thus, the list of the semi-structured interview questions will be as follows:

  1. Which method do you employ to access your study. Online or other methods?
  2. Which of the two types of learning is more rigorous. Online or face-to-face study?
  3. Is distance learning better than face-to-face study? Why do you say so?
  4. Face-to-face study is better than distance learning. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
  5. Which kind of technical difficulty do you encounter during online learning?
  6. Tell the level of comfortability that you experience in distance learning.
  7.  Which one is more comfortable for studying? Face-to-face study or distance learning, and why.
  8. Why do you belief that face-to-face study provides sense of live classroom than online learning?
  9. Which of the methods of course instruction is more rigourous? Distance learning or face-to-face study. Why do you belief?
  10. Why do you belief that distance learning is better than face-to-face study?
  11. Why do online learning provides sense of live classroom experience than face-to-face study?
  12. Distance learning is more rigorous than face-to-face study. Do you agree and why?
  13. Tell the reason why you belief that distance learning involves lot of technicality?
  14. Why do you agree that face-to face is better than distance learning?
  15. Why do you belief the quality of education in music master’s program is the same as face-to-face study?
  16. Traditional education is more quantitative than distance learning. Why do you agree with this statement ?
  17. Why do you belief that there is easy access to reach course instruction in online learning?
  18. Why do you agree that course instructors of distance learning are friendly and easily accessible?
  19. Thanks. Is there anything you will like to add? (See appendix 1)

Apart from interview process to collect, the research will employ document analysis as method of data collection. The data collection method will also be from reflective journals. Essentially, some of these journals will be collected from the electronic database such Emerald, Sage online database, and.ebscohost

Data Analysis

The second step is to enter the data into a computer for analysis; this is done to ensure a high level of accuracy. Typically, obtaining a high level of accuracy will involve checking data to clarify any problems or errors, as argued by Trochim and Donnelly (2007). The researcher will transcribe the interviews to highlight the most significant statements that could provide an understanding of how the participants have experienced the phenomenon. This step is called “horizonalization” (Moustakas, 1994).

Data analysis and representation is performed to create and organize files for data and to describe then the essence of the phenomenon. In analyzing the data, qualitative approaches are employed to ensure that the data are credible, descriptive and to generate findings. For data analysis, all the data will be collected for coding. For example, besides “horizonalization,” the researcher will develop what is called “cluster of meanings” in order to group significant statements into themes. The derived significant statements and themes will be then used to describe what the participants experienced. This is called “textural description” (Creswell, 2007).

This section provides detailed description of analysis, and reporting of data. Typically, the total proposed responses from the emails will be collected for analysis. For the interviews, all the answers collected will be coded and then described into a few words as a discussion to narrate the experiences. In addition, all the answers will be checked for suspected bias, and the suspected bias will be removed to contribute to the importance of the research. For data analysis, the researcher will assess the sincerity of the answers. For example, some questions will be asked twice and framed in different ways. This will help to remove bias from the overall findings. Data analysis, overall, is performed to ensure the importance of the thesis in establishing the validity, credibility, and reliability of the data (Cohen & Crabtree, 2008).

In addition, the researcher could also write about his own experiences with the phenomenon considering the context and circumstances that have influenced his experience (structural description). This kind of reflection could serve as a personal statement to discuss the role of the researcher during the study (Marshall and Rossman, 2006). Although, the researchers description could present the “essence” of the phenomenon, the study will be focused on describe the experiences of the participants. Thus, the researcher will be mindful about the way by which his personal experiences will be introduced in the study.

Reliability and Validity

To ensure the validity of data, the data must be reliable and validity. Thus, in qualitative research, researchers need to create some criteria for to enhance the quality. The proposed thesis will pass through two of the criteria proposed by Guba and Lincoln that involve qualitative research. For the reliability of the proposed research, the data should be dependable. In addition, for the validity of the proposed thesis, the researcher will ensure that the thesis is credible. Credibility involves establishing credible results with believable perspectives (Trochim, 2007). To ensure credibility, member checks, peer review, and external audit should be performed.

Member Checks, Peer Review, External Audit

For the proposal to be transferable, credible, dependable, and confirmable, member checks, peer review, and external audit should be performed. These procedures will ensure the reliability of the proposed study. Peer review and external audit by experts are essential to validate the quality of the study, and this will enhance the benefits it provides the field of study. Typically, peer review will strengthen the position of the proposed thesis at the time of defense. According to Faiola and MacDorman (2007), “all graduate students will be required to submit a paper for peer review to a conference or journal before graduation. In most cases, conferences are more lenient in evaluating exploratory research, which is often the situation with many graduate research projects. Journals, on the other hand, tend to give more rigorous reviews, while expected more fully elaborated research results.” (p. 4)

Display interview results

After the check, and external audit, the researcher will display the interview responses to present findings. The strategy to display results will be through report or discussion. To enhance the research findings, the report will include the major objective for conducting the interview, and overall breakdown of the findings will be included in the report. The implementation of the findings is essential, and to ensure that appropriate action is taken on the overall results, the researcher will transfer the findings to the appropriate people.(Surveypro, 2009).

To add to the visual impact of the findings, the proposal will also employ tables and figures to represent the experiences.

Delimitations

The findings of the study will only be applicable to the experience of in-service teacher pursuing master’s degree in music education in Cambridge College. However, the overall findings could provide results of experience of in-service teacher pursuing master’s degree in music education in other schools involved in distance education.

Reporting of Bias

The proposed thesis will report bias that may be present. The reporting of bias is essential to enhance its ethical position. Failure to report all bias that may be present in the proposed thesis can affect its quality and the appraisal given to it.

Conclusion

This section provides the summary of the paper, potential outcomes, and potential implication for the study. The study explores the experiences of in-service teachers’ pursuing a master degree in music education by distance learning. The study is conducted in online environment where 100% of the course content is delivered online.

Summary of the Proposal

The advance in Information Communication Technology has changed the methods of delivering education for graduate programs. With the use of software packages, video conference, computer conference, and computer course delivery system, many adult learners have taken these advantages to enhance their knowledge and skills by taking graduate degree program. The needs to be self motivated and self-directed, online courses are gradually eliminating face-to-face courses, where learners are able earn degree at any time and from anywhere.

Typically, the general problem is to explore the experiences of in-service teachers’ pursuing a master degree in music education by distance learning. Although, it is acceptable that graduate music education is late in implementing online distance learning. Typically, with the opportunities that online courses offer, many learners are enrolling for graduate program in music education. It should be noted that online education is for adult learners, who are generally more mature, self directed, and active in the achieving their educational goals. Thus, the positive results should be able to develop students with web browsing, operating system as well as internet connection (Kessler, 2007). Thus, the proposal will be a significant opportunity for learners, who are reluctant to enroll for online program to identify the experiences of in service teachers in the online degree master program in music education.

In addition, the study has provided review of literatures that offers overview of online education, the benefits and barriers of Web-based learning for learners. It is essential to realize that online program has offered the opportunities for learners as well as barriers. The barriers of online education are inability of the online learners to adapt to new technology. It is essential to realize that many of the distance learners are adults with average age of 40. Thus, many of them have family responsibility that may serve as barriers to complete their online education. As previously indicated, some of them might even drop out before completing their educations.

Despite some barriers that in-service teachers may be facing, the study reveals that the online education has come to stay because of the advantages that online learners are benefiting. Typically, it is possible to learn masters’ program in music education anywhere, anytime, and it is interesting to note that may people earn a master degree that is not available in their geographical locations through the benefits of distance learning. Apart from this, many people have been able to obtain certificates from Ivy Leagues universities such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale University. The presence of distance education helps people to achieve their educational dream.

While there may be barriers in online program, the benefits that learners are realizing from distance learning program surpass the barriers. Moreover, review of literatures reveals that graduate music education is late in embracing online distance learning, nevertheless, some university in United States have started the online master’s program in music education.

The methodology shows several methods that will be used to collect data in order to explore the experiences of in-service teacher offering online graduate program in music education. The data collection techniques will involve interviews, reflective journals and observations. Data collected will help the proposal answer the following research questions:

  1. What influence the decision of learners in a selected online Master of Education program to report the program provides most valuable experience during their studies?
  2. What influence the decision of learners in a selected online Master of Education program to report the program provides least valuable experience during their studies?
  3. How do the students participants report using information from the online master’s program in their own teaching situations?
  4. What are the perceptions do students in a selected online Master of Education program report regarding online learning experience?
  5. What Challenges do online students encounter with their learning experiences in a selected online Master of Education?

Data analysis is to ensure the reliability, and validity of the whole thesis. It is essential to realize that quality of research is essential for the trustworthiness, reliability, and acceptability of the whole thesis. Thus, through the peer review and external audits, the proposed study will control quality and ethical positions in the academic fields.

Potential Outcomes

The outcome will reveal several experiences of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education by distance learning. The experiences such as benefits of distance learning in master’s program in music education by distance learning. The potential outcome will provide some of the opportunities the master’s program in music education by distance learning will offer to in-service teachers.

The additional outcomes will enhance in-service teachers pursuing music master’s programs in distance learning to be able to handle new technology such as personal computers, the internet, and software packages that will enhance their means of achieving self-improvement in the new technology.

It is essential to realize some people are still skeptical about the benefits the distance learning in graduate music education. The study will be an opportunity to enhance the knowledge of potential learners about the several experiences of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education by distance learning.

Finally, the study will provide greater understandings of online education in master’s programs to the academic community, public, and schools administrators.

Potential Implications for this Study

This proposal will provide a greater understanding of the experiences of in-service teachers pursuing a master’s degree in music education by distance learning. Apart from enriching the knowledge of the academic community, the study will also provide clear pictures of the online program graduate program in music education.

Typically, exploring the experience of in-service teachers will reveal some barriers that in-service teachers are experiencing in graduate programs by distance learning. Thus, the proposal will provide greater opportunities for schools administrators to address the barriers facing in-service teachers. Meanwhile, it is essential to note that addressing these barriers will take a gradual process as people are now adapting to online distance education. Meanwhile, with rapid development in Information Communication Technology, the time will come when the benefits of distance education and face-to-face education will be equal.

Appendices

The appendices will show all the tables, figures, and charts in the proposal. In addition, appendices will contain summaries of the interviews and the questions.

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Teachers Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Music Education
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