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William Stewart

September 13 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm MDT

Dissertation Information

Title: The Expatriate and Transnational Distance Student Phenomenon: A Series of Investigations

Program: Doctor of Education in Educational Technology

Advisor: Dr. Young Baek, Educational Technology

Committee Members: Dr. Norm Friesen, Educational Technology, Dr. Patrick Lowenthal, Educational Technology


The scale and scope of distance education has changed significantly over the last 250 years. Technology, from the early days of correspondence courses to radio, television and satellite broadcasting, have continually increased the scope, scale, and access potential to education. However, despite enabling new forms of education, courses and programs were typically serving local, regional, or national communities. The Internet, by contrast, has transformed distance education by enabling access to education by virtually anyone, anywhere in the world. Students are no longer limited or constrained by geography or residency, yet how such potential students have been conceptualized, identified, and subsequently researched has been limited by homogenous frames of reference. The homogenization of student conceptualizations and classifications for distance students situated outside of a national context has resulted in both unclear discussions, as well as the omission of differing perspectives. This dissertation investigated the phenomenon of transnational distance education, and particularly the expatriate and transnational distance student perspective, from a vantage point in the Republic of Korea across three related studies. The first investigation, an exploratory study, proposed a framework that organized and defined four distinct types of student (national, international, expatriate, transnational) and subsequently collected demographic and program characteristics of expatriate and transnational distance students from 33 survey respondents. The second study utilized a multicase approach to collect data on the experiences of expatriate and transnational students and document their experiences, similarities, and differences by examining 8 cases. The third study, a grounded theory approach, explored the motivations and decision-making process of expatriate and transnational students and why/how they choose their education programs with a sample of 10 participants. Though the three samples were relatively homogenous compared to the actual proportions of foreign-residents in Korea, they provide additional perspectives to the distance, transnational, and international education literature, as well as scholarship on college-going. Key findings from study one suggested that students were disproportionately male, and most likely completing distance programs in their home countries. Findings from study two described how, as first-generation adult immigrants in Korea with limited workable industries, students were funneled into the same career path which prompted them seeking out further higher education opportunities to become qualified in their fields. Lastly, findings from the third study suggested that the concept of repatriation, whether realized or not, played a recurring role in their decisions to pursue higher education, and was similarly related to their reasons for choosing distance programs usually in their home countries. Moreover, these findings suggested an ecosystem effect as push-pull factors where various obstacles to entry in the local educational ecosystem pushed them to choose educational opportunities mostly in their home countries since their pre-existing educational ecosystem was the path of least resistance.