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This study had three purposes: Firstly, to develop a categorization of research areas in distance education; secondly, to identify the most important research areas in distance education; and thirdly, to identify the most neglected research areas in distance education. Based on a literature review and a Delphi study, three broad levels or perspectives with 15 research areas were derived to organize the body of knowledge in distance education. Prospective researchers can use the results to identify gaps and priority areas and to explore potential research directions.
In contrast with traditional academic disciplines, online educators do not have a generally accepted list of scholarly journals, which is in part a result of the multidisciplinary nature of the field, the relative infancy of online learning, and the view of online pedagogy as an instructional modality rather than a discrete academic discipline. The purpose of this study is to determine a comprehensive listing and relative value ranking of scholarly journals whose content informs online educators and motivates scholarship. After defining the scope of investigation to target peer-reviewed, scholarly journals with an explicit focus on computer-mediated learning (e.g., virtual, electronic, distance, distributive, mobile, and blended learning), 46 scholarly journals were identified as advancing the knowledge base in computer-mediated learning. Popularity, importance, prestige, and overall rankings for each journal are presented. The results inform online educators about the range of scholarly journals available and provide insight into the relative value of journals devoted to computer-mediated learning.
Adult learners value the flexibility and convenience offered to them as online learners, and many learners are required to absent themselves from their online classes during courses in order to accommodate demanding schedules. What factors and tensions contribute to learners’ decision-making at these times? This qualitative study considered the planned absences of learners engaged in an online graduate course at a large university. Working within the framework provided by cognitive, instructional, and social presences, findings showed the following: (1) learners understood and accommodated the relationship and importance of the affective domain to their cognitive successes in learning, (2) successful learners demonstrated insightful self-knowledge in using meta-cognitive strategies, and (3) learners’ external support systems were fundamental to their ability to continue to learn when absences occurred. The study’s findings corroborate other recent research that similarly stresses the complexity and interrelated nature of the adult learning process.
There is considerable evidence that well-designed multimedia resources can enhance learning outcomes, yet there is little information on the role of multimedia in influencing essential motivational variables, such as student engagement. The current study examines the impact of instructor-personalized multimedia supplements on student engagement in an introductory, college-level online course. A comparison of student engagement between courses that feature increasing numbers of instructor-personalized multimedia components reveals conflicting evidence. While qualitative student feedback indicates enhanced engagement as a function of instructor-generated multimedia supplements, quantitative data reports no significant differences in engagement or learning between the various levels of multimedia inclusion. Findings highlight the complexity surrounding the appropriate use of multimedia within an online course. University policy-makers and instructors are cautioned to examine carefully the cost-benefit ratio of multimedia inclusion for online learning environments.
This research study is a collaborative project between faculty in social foundations, special education, and instructional technology in which we analyze student data from six undergraduate and graduate courses related to the use of a virtual classroom space. Transactional distance theory (Moore & Kearsley, 1996) operates as our theoretical framework as we explore the role of a virtual classroom in distance education and analyze the ways in which a synchronous learning environment affects students’ learning experiences. Elluminate Live! was the software employed in the virtual classroom. In this analysis, particular themes emerged related to dialogue, structure, and learner autonomy. In addition, students rated convenience, technical issues, and pedagogical preferences as important elements in their learning experiences. The article discusses these themes as a contribution to reducing the “distance” that students experience in online learning and to developing quality distance education experiences for students in higher education.
The purpose of this study was to assess the pedagogical equivalence, as determined by knowledge gains, and the pedagogical effectiveness of certain components in a video-driven multimedia, web-based professional development training program as compared to a traditional, face-to-face program under real-world constraints of time and limited economic resources. The study focused on the use of video-driven multimedia, web-based instruction in the corporate environment to determine if the quality of the learning experience and the knowledge gained from the instruction were the same as with traditional methods. This experimental study assigned business professionals quasi-randomly to either a control group or an experimental group, where they attended either a live-instructed professional development program or a video-driven multimedia, web-based professional development program. Overall, results indicated that the video-driven multimedia, web-based instruction was not only pedagogically equivalent in terms of knowledge gains to the live instruction but that the knowledge gains were slightly higher among the web-based participants. Further, certain components in the web-based environment contributed more than components in the live environment to pedagogical effectiveness.
This paper reports on a study that uses cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) to make sense of e-teachers’ activity in a context of high-school distance education. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews with 13 e-teachers as well as seven management and support personnel in an organization responsible for the design and delivery of high-school distance education in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. As well, the authors conducted a second round of interviews with 12 of the 13 teachers. Findings revealed that the traditional metaphor of teacher as ‘sage on the stage’ ceased to have a reference point in the distributed online classroom. The e-teachers were widening the object of their activity to include less teacher-centered forms of learning that involved more student independence.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the following question: What is the potential of social networking within cooperative online education? Social networking does not necessarily involve communication, dialogue, or collaboration. Instead, the authors argue that transparency is a unique feature of social networking services. Transparency gives students insight into each other’s actions. Cooperative learning seeks to develop virtual learning environments that allow students to have optimal individual freedom within online learning communities. This article demonstrates how cooperative learning can be supported by transparency. To illustrate this with current examples, the article presents NKI Distance Education’s surveys and experiences with cooperative learning. The article discusses by which means social networking and transparency may be utilized within cooperative online education. In conclusion, the article argues that the pedagogical potential of social networking lies within transparency and the ability to create awareness among students.
The western Canadian province of Alberta has used some of the proceeds from exploitation of its extraordinary natural resources to make available a range of post-secondary training and education opportunities to residents. While these provisions appear comprehensive, this study examined how well they actually suit the express needs of the residents of remote, Northern areas of the province, many of them Aboriginal. The literature shows that while Aboriginal people are underrepresented in Canada in university enrollments, they are no longer underrepresented in college or other institutions, suggesting that gains have been made for some residents of rural and remote parts of Canada. Further, when Northern residents (especially Aboriginal males) complete advanced training, Statistics Canada reports they are highly successful in employment and income. Access is the pivotal issue, however: leaving the local community to attend training programs elsewhere is often disruptive and unsuccessful. As will be seen, the issue of access arose in this study’s findings with direct implications for distance delivery and support. This study was conducted as part of Athabasca University’s Learning Communities Project (LCP), which sought information about the views and experiences of a broad range of northern Alberta residents concerning their present post-secondary training and education opportunities. The study addresses an acknowledged gap in such information in relation to Canada in comparison with other OECD countries. Results are based on input from 165 individuals, obtained through written surveys (some completed by the researchers in face-to-face exchanges with the respondents), interviews, discussions, and observations, conducted with full-time or part-time residents of the study communities during 2007 and 2008. The four northern Alberta communities studied were Wabasca, Fox Lake, Ft. McKay (sometimes MacKay), and Ft. Chipewyan, totaling just over 6,000 residents. While respondents had varied backgrounds in relation to training and education, consensus emerged on several points: training in the studied communities must be flexible to be realistic; the negative emotional and economic impacts on families and individuals when they are forced to leave the local community to take training can be enormous; alternatives such as distance education may now be acceptable to and technologically feasible for many; and certain subjects (especially business-related courses, pre-employment preparation, such as safety and computer skills, trades training, and basic skills upgrading programs in essential skills such as math, English, writing, and life skills) were of broad interest to these residents. The LCP was cautioned that future programming inspired by this research should avoid mistakes made by others in relation to northern learners and their local realities: not considering students’ preferences for programming; employing inappropriate technologies; failing to provide adequate orientation and support to the learning system; and failure to use existing, proven delivery models.
Upon completion of a graduate level course at the Open University of Israel, one instructor received very high student ratings while the other received very low ratings. We utilized this exceptional situation to perform ad hoc analyses of their course forums. The objective of this study was to map the dialogic behavior that occurred and to create suggestions for best practice and for worst practice in terms of active and passive participation, instructor response time, and the extent of teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence.
Collaborative learning in an online classroom can take the form of discussion among the whole class or within smaller groups. This paper addresses the latter, examining first whether assessment makes a difference to the level of learner participation and then considering other factors involved in creating effective collaborative learning groups. Data collected over a three year period (15 cohorts) from the Foundations course in the Master of Distance Education (MDE) program offered jointly by University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and the University of Oldenburg does not support the authors’ original hypothesis that assessment makes a significant difference to learner participation levels in small group learning projects and leads them to question how much emphasis should be placed on grading work completed in study groups to the exclusion of other strategies. Drawing on observations of two MDE courses, including the Foundations course, their extensive online teaching experience, and a review of the literature, the authors identify factors other than grading that contribute positively to the effectiveness of small collaborative learning groups in the online environment. In particular, the paper focuses on specific instructional strategies that facilitate learner participation in small group projects, which result in an enhanced sense of community, increased skill acquisition, and better learning outcomes.
Swedish universities frequently offer campus-based education as well as online courses, a system commonly referred to as dual mode. This paper analyses some challenging pedagogical aspects of a master’s programme in engineering developed and delivered simultaneously online and on campus. Course evaluations, questionnaires, and interviews with the programme teachers were the main instruments used in this study. Activity theory was used as a theoretical framework for data collection and analysis. The study evidences the nature of problems experienced by on-campus and distance students as well as conflicts of interest and expectations existing between these two student groups. Teaching simultaneously in two modes demands extra effort from the course teachers, who are aware of the problems related to pedagogical communication needed by both groups. Though teaching in the dual mode offers economic benefits for the department, the simultaneous mode of teaching is experienced as problematical by both groups of students, with distance students appearing to be more disadvantaged in the programme.
This paper reviews past research that focused on questions of culture in distance learning. Of specific interest are the studies that examined the influence of culture on students’ learning and engagement in asynchronous learning networks (ALNs). The purpose of this review is three-fold: to present the state of knowledge concerning the questions of culture in distance learning, to highlight important methodological issues that past research has left unresolved, and to provide practical insights into teaching culturally and linguistically diverse online communities of learners. For these purposes, 27 studies are examined and the findings are reported under the following categories: What do studies focusing on questions of culture in distance learning tell us? What implications do they suggest for practice and future research? Also, the paper provides methodological insights for researchers who wish to investigate the cultural dimensions of distance learning in future studies.
The study sought to determine factors that affect faculty decisions regarding their involvement in teaching online distance education courses. A survey was administered to online distance education faculty across the United States to determine those factors that encourage or discourage them from continuing to teach online courses. The factors were examined and reported from the standpoint of each of four faculty groups: (1) tenured, (2) tenure-track, (3) full-time non-tenured/fixed term, and (4) part-time/adjunct. From the survey responses (N = 135), a list of retention strategies that university administrators may use for retention of online distance education faculty are offered.
Recent educational projects in the Philippines and Mongolia have revealed effective educational delivery methods as well as necessary changes to ensure DE access for as many learners as possible. A project initiated by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has stressed the value of DE delivery through cellular phone technology. As the cell phone becomes increasingly available in Mongolia and the Philippines, its use to deliver education promises to compensate for the relative lack of Internet access in these countries. The IDRC project illustrates how appropriate distance education methods in Asian countries will assist in economic and social development.
In the last decade, China and India have seen large increases in their literacy and graduation rates and an increasing emphasis on distance education and training initiatives. They are examples of nations in which economic and technological initiatives have been aligned in order to produce outcomes that ensure the population will thrive in the 21st century. However, no country can simply equip its distance education system with updated technologies and expect to be fully prepared for 21st century economic challenges. This report outlines the consonances and dissonances of distance education (DE) in China and India and the policy alignments required for its stable development.