DETA, Online Learning, Research

Developing a Research Model for Online Learning: @UWMDETA Wants Your Feedback!

The National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA) has been busy since the DETA Summit at #ELI15. Besides building a framework for inquiry, formulating measures, #DETAToolkits, and establishing research designs and instrumentation, the DETA team has been working on developing a research model for online learning — and they WANT YOUR FEEDBACK!

The DETA team reminds us that the field of distance education research is not new, but we do need to come together to consider how we examine, support, and thrive in online learning:

In distance education, a common language or ground has not yet been established.  Although existing scholarship attempts to establish an identity for teaching and learning on the fringe or margins (see Moore, 2013), such as distance education, there is still much work to be done.  It is common in other disciplines to struggle with finding this common ground as well (e.g., Corman and Poole, 2000).  Yet, unlike many other disciplines that have models illustrative of the phenomenon of interest or research models that guide the design of research, distance education has seen little traction in this area.  A cohesive approach to researching distance education from a transdisciplinary lens is pertinent.        

The lack of common language and work being conducted in disciplinary silos has led to a disregard or lack of acknowledgment of previous developments in the field.  Furthermore, the disconnect many times between the fast moving development of practice and redundant research of already proven practices is less than helpful to developing distance education. 

The function of the proposed online learning research model is “to facilitate cross-institutional distance education research efforts as a strategy for ensuring quality in teaching and learning for all students.”

DETA Research Model (Proposed)

 

The research model document publically is available online the DETA website for you to view. Please take a gander and comment. Your input will not only help the DETA team, it will also support many of us who research, work, teach, learn, manage, and then some online in higher education. In the proposed research model for online learning four components include (1) inputs and outputs, (2) process, (3) context, and (4) interventions.  I was interested in the three facets that describe the relationship between and among the components of the research model, including:

  1. Cyclical: Learning is conducted in cycles. It might be in a semester system, a certificate program design, or through a series of short courses. In thinking about this, it will also be important to identify attributes of the student, instructor, course, and program that feed into this cycle of learning.
  2. Transactional: Both students and instructors engage and are a part of the learning exchange. The learning process requires efforts and contributions on both end, i.e. design of a course could influence completion rates, learning interactions, course dynamics, and the feedback loop for online learning.
  3. Structurational: As instructors and staff design, develop, and modify online learning the courses, instructional methods, and program characteristics are a direct result of human action, which in turn, facilitate and constrain student interactions in online learning.

For each of these areas, I have made a few notes and questions for the DETA team — but I don’t want to influence your  feedback before you provide your own comments/questions/suggestions  on this research model. Please take a moment to review the proposed research model and complete a very brief FEEDBACK form embedded into this website at the bottom of the page and/or address any questions you have to the DETA Team:

http://uwm.edu/deta/research-model/

 

References

 

Corman, S. R., & Poole, M. S. (2000). Perspectives on organizational communication: Finding common ground. Guilford Press.

Moore, M. G. (Ed.). (2013). Handbook of distance education. Routledge.

 

EdTech, Higher Education, Online Learning

Research Wanted: Distance Education & Technology in US Higher Ed #DETAsummit

Last week, I was invited to join a group of educators, researchers, practitioners, leaders, and more before #eli2015 to discuss the state of online and blended learning at the DETA Summit (#DETAsummit), hosted by the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA). With the primary role of the DETA Research Center “to promote student access and success through evidence-based online learning practices and learning technologies,” the morning’s agenda was full and the purpose of the DETA Summit meeting was to:

  • Gather key partners and research experts to generate of ideas
  • Brainstorm crucial issues in conducting research and developing coherency in the field of distance education
  • Discuss ideas relating to competency-based education, accessibility, and distance education support

The DETA Research center has desired outcomes that focus on access, satisfaction and learning/instructional effectiveness – read more about these from the grant HERE:

Desired Outcomes

At the #DETAsummit a wide variety of folks gathered with interest to discuss what research should look like for technology and distance education. Looking around the room, it was like a tweet up of all online learning  levels of support, instruction, development, planning, and research from around the US.  The focus of the meeting was to work on the DETA Yea 1 goal: Develop a research model.

Research Model

In facilitating one of the many round tables discussions, our group swapped ideas about potential research questions that should be asked, common definitions under the distance education umbrella, standard variables to measure, known frameworks for inquiry, and shared models being used for online/blended learning assessment. Although we were only given about 3 hours in total, I think the entire room was buzzing with ideas and wanted to continue talking. The conversations were driven to list our top choices on large post-its and vote on top our top choices after seeing what other groups discussed [See post-it voting from my Flickr album]. For the short amount of time, I think the #DETAsummit  was a very productive, and we managed to gain some broader insight into what a research model could look like. With a mixed participant list, there were insights and questions  from varying perspectives and it was rather REFRESHING.

Based on the small group discussions and voting process, the research questions selected are:

  • What are the definitions of success from student’s perspective? | 33 | Wicked Hop
  • What patterns of behavior lead to increased student learning for different populations? | 26 | Safehouse
  • What are the different design components (content, interactivity, assessments) that impact student learning? | 29 | Rochambo
  • How can we define and measure student success beyond traditional outcomes (learning and competency)? | 25 | Benelux

If you are interested in distance education research (e.g. online learning, blended learning, hybrid pedagogy, etc.) I would suggest digging into the conversation and resources from the #DETAsummit. The DETA group is very open and transparent with their development process, as you can find our discussion notes shared in Collaborative Google Docs, listen/view the G+ Hangout Recording, and check out the Presentation Slides that give an overview of the day.

Congratulations to the DETA Team (who I now call the #DETAdivas) on a successful start to the work you have ahead. I look forward to following along with your progress on the grant, learning how your group utilize these research questions, and, hopefully, contributing to a better way to measure/assess online and blended learning.

DETAdivas

Want to stay connected to the research?

EdTech, Higher Education, Online Learning

Online Education in the US [2014 Report]

As I am on my way to the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI & #eli2015), specifically to attend the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancement (DETA) Summit, I figured it was critical to review the 2014 Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States just released from the Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG):

“The study’s findings point to a competitive marketplace, in which traditional institutions are gaining ground on the for-profits in online and distance education,” said study co-author Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “While the rapid pace of online learning growth has moderated, it still accounts for nearly three-quarters of all US higher education’s enrollment increases last year.”

It is clear that online learning is on the rise in America – yet there is a vast difference between how administration and faculty view it. A majority of post-secondary education leaders (70.8%)  indicated that online learning is “critical to their long-term strategy;” however these leaders may struggle with online adoption as only 28% of their faculty find “value” and view online education as “legitimate.” A number of findings in this report show opposing views for online education. For example, these two factions of higher differ  by their awareness of open education resources (OER).

OER_FutureHE

There is much more of this narrative to tease out; and I would like to go through this report further (on the plane) and learn what others in the field have to say. For now I will leave you with some of the ‘quick facts’ shared, and encourage you to download and read through the FULL REPORT if you are in the online learning sphere:

Key report findings include:

  • The number of higher education students taking at least one distance education course in 2014 is up 3.7 %t from the previous year.
  • The year-to-year 3.7% increase in the number of distance education students is the lowest recorded over the 13 years of this report series.
  • Public and private nonprofit institutions recorded distance enrollment growth, but these were offset by a decrease among for-profit institutions.
  • The percent of academic leaders rating the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face remained unchanged at 74.1%.
  • The proportion of chief academic leaders reporting online learning is critical to their long-term strategy reached a new high of 70.8%.
  • Only 28.0% of academic leaders say that their faculty accept the “value and legitimacy of online education.”
  • The adoption of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) is reaching a plateau, only 8.0% of higher education institutions currently offer one, another 5.6% report MOOCs are in the planning stages.
  • The proportion of academic leaders who believe that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses dropped to 16.3%.

Update:

A couple areas to note, and for further discussion this week at #eli2015 and the #DETAsummit (Follow @UWMDETA):

Pgs. 43-44: Discuss the undercount and overcount of distance education, i.e. for “fully online” enrollments – this seems to be hazy, as it might be as learning design for enrollment varies by student population type and course design delivery.

Pg. 44 – “The definition of ‘distance education’ is causing confusion”

There was an interesting segment in this report that struggled with the term “distance education.” This report takes into account distance education, when looking at “fully online” higher education programs. This part of the report reminded me about the Twitter debate of online learning, online education, distance education, and then some when trying to name an update to an edited book. Check out “The State of ______ Learning” thread on Storify to learn what was discussed. What terminology is best? How can we describe/define education that is delivered from a distance/online/on the web/virtually? Please advise.