Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Elizabeth Bird, Ph.D.


Distance education, Online teaching, Educational technology, Online learning, Online course design


This dissertation reports on the key findings of an exploratory study of online education in anthropology. The study was designed to collect information on the extent and types of online offerings at four-year and above degree-granting public institutions in the US. It was also designed to report on the teaching strategies and methods that anthropologists employ online, and to inquire into the conditions and institutional structures that encourage or discourage the development of online education in anthropology. Recent growth in online education has been explosive in many disciplines, but little is known about anthropology's participation in the trend, or lack thereof. An exploratory research design was used to examine this little-understood topic. Because participation in online education relies upon collaboration within departments, the perspectives of both department chairs and online instructors were collected.

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used to gather these perspectives. In particular, an online survey of department chairs and semi-structured e-mail interviews with online instructors were conducted. The research findings indicate that the participation of anthropology departments in online education is fairly low, and plans for future growth are limited. The findings also show that the primary barrier to online education is a lack of faculty interest or technical expertise, although concerns surrounding the efficacy of online pedagogy and increased workloads appear to limit its growth as well.

Significant differences of opinion between online instructors and department chairs regarding the efficacy of online pedagogy were revealed, but there was general agreement that online education is an important educational resource for nontraditional students.The contrasting, and sometimes conflicting, perspectives that the research revealed point to a need for a conversation about online education in anthropology departments, whether or not they have plans to participate in the larger trend. In the concluding chapter, these divergent views inform a framework for conducting such a conversation. Finally, the research findings are applied to an outline for the development of a department-specific "best practices" guide to online teaching and course design in departments that wish to initiate or increase their participation in online education.