A Contextual Perspective of Traditional Native American Distance Online Learning in a Tribal College
FIRE, NANCY H. A Contextual Perspective of Traditional Native American Distance Online Learning in a Tribal College. (Under the direction of Julia Storberg-Walker.)
When learning in natural settings, Native Americans for centuries have used their Native Ways of Knowing to access and process information. These Indigenous learners bring their social, cultural, and historical contexts with them to new learning situations. The process of learning through technology as told from the perspectives of Native American learners has been largely unknown (Tyro, 2004). Previous multi-cultural studies of online learning have found that online learning is not culturally neutral and often represents the worldview of the dominant culture and the instructional designer (Chen, Mashhadi, Ang, & Harkrider, 1999; Smith & Ayers, 2006).
This single-site descriptive case study conducted at one of the 34 U.S. Tribal colleges provides further understanding of distance online learning experiences of traditional Native American adult online learners as well as the experiences of the college in preparing and facilitating online learning for remote, rural Native learners. The study, conducted according to Indigenous research guidelines, found that Native American students learn effectively within online learning environments when they work with an instructor who models NWOK and courses that are designed to enable their Native Ways of Knowing. The study also found that success depends on adequate access to technology, computer literacy, an effective and user-friendly learning management system, support and mentoring.
The study raises new questions for additional research. This study indicated that the Native students experienced an emergence of empowerment and ability to express their own "voice" through participation in online coursework. Further, learning outside the walls of the classroom gave the learners the opportunity to integrate their learning with their heritage and day-to-day lives. Further research is required to fully understand these learner experiences.
This study provides evidence that distance online learning can increase access to education to a greater number of Native learners, therefore providing new educational paths towards economic recovery for Native communities and Tribes. There are implications for workforce development through online education for Native Americans living on remote reservations.
Advisor:Julia Storberg-Walker; Kenneth Hill Brinson, Jr.; Diane D. Chapman; Colleen Aalsburg Wiessner
School:North Carolina State University
School Location:USA - North Carolina
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:adult and community college education
Date of Publication:04/29/2009