Relying on data from an in-depth study of 15 community colleges, this article explores online education through the lens of institutional theory. This theoretical perspective highlights the colleges' environmental contexts and offers a critical examination ofthe ways that the institutional contexts have structured the colleges' approaches to online education.
At the core of this analysis is the contention that community colleges are interpreting and responding to a set of taken-for-granted ideas about online education. These ideas have taken on the status of myth and have played a powerful role in guiding and legitimating colleges' online activity.
This analysis provides a research-based foundation for understanding online activity at the community college level and for carefully addressing the challenges associated with its adoption.
This article was published in Teachers College Record, vol. 107 2005.