PhD in Public Policy

Paul Cochrane '20

Career

Current position: Executive Director of Digital Learning Strategy, University of Southern Maine

Position during PhD studies: Director of Online Teaching and Learning

Paul currently serves as the Executive Director of Digital Learning Strategy at the University of Southern Maine. In that role, he oversees the Center for Technology Enhanced Learning, a unit that provides learning design consulting and faculty development for the University’s online and blended programs. Prior to joining USM, Paul oversaw the instructional design, faculty training, and student technical support operations for the online programs at Saint Joseph’s College Online. During his tenure at Saint Joseph's College he also taught online courses in writing, Early American literature, and business communication. Paul has also been a member of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) for most of his career. He has served in various capacities for UPCEA, including as the regional representative to UPCEA’s Board of Directors from 2012-13, and as Chair of the New England Region in 2011.

Dissertation

Title: Crafting the Experience of Online Education: Student and Faculty Perceptions of Quality

Abstract: Online education today is on the front lines of the massive changes in society brought on by the rise of the Internet and its impact on how knowledge is constructed, who controls it, and how these changes affect higher education. For students and educators, developing a more robust definition of quality in online education is a potential tool to help educators increase access and equity as well as respond to a rapidly changing Internet-based society. The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to examine student and faculty perceptions of the quality of online learning, and it focused specifically on those elements of the experience of online education that students found to be engaging, motivational, and transformative. This study employed an explanatory sequential design approach, a two-phase mixed methods design. The first phase began with quantitative data collection using a survey instrument to map constructivist features of learning environments. The second phase of the study employed individual interviews to explore the specific online learning experiences of twelve students and the online teaching experiences of nine faculty members. The findings from the study identified a number of areas relating to course design and teaching practice that differentiated low engagement from high engagement online courses. Seven guiding practices for instruction emerged from the study: (1) develop the guiding vision; (2) set clear expectations; (3) make clear the purpose of the learning; (4) build the learning culture; (5) empower students with choice; (6) incorporate active experimentation and feedback loops; and (7) connect the learning.