Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy and Social Sciences


School of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Paul Newhouse


The Internet is influencing some would say revolutionizing most aspects of our society, including distance education (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek,2003). There has been a worldwide movement to implement online education technologies in Universities. In Australia, use of these technologies has coincided with the development of pedagogics to improve the merging of distance education and asynchronous, anywhere / anytime learning (Cashion & Palmieri, 2002; Harper, Hedberg, Bennett, & Lockyer, 2000). However, using technology to teach at a distance requires different capabilities than traditional face-to-face teaching. In the revolutionary situation which distance education finds itself, online tutors find themselves acting as pathfinders in uncharted territory finding their way through the ether in the hope of discovering what works in this new environment. The purpose of this study was to examine the online learning milieu to identify what capabilities are required of online tutors. To do this, it was necessary to determine what environmental factors affect online tutor capabilities and what the relationship was between the capabilities and the factors. This was accomplished by exploring the perceptions of online tutors, students and unit coordinators to discover what they felt are the capabilities possessed by effective online tutors. This study was grounded within text-based tertiary online learning environments at a public University in Australia. The research employed an ethnographic design with the major methods of data collection being interviews of online tutors, students and unit coordinators in addition to electronic and face-to-face observation. Data was analyzed using techniques of qualitative analysis

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