Online Distance Education- Towards a Research Agenda

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Online Distance Education - Towards a Research Agenda Terry Anderson (Athabasca University, Canada) Olaf Zawacki-Richter (University of Oldenburg, Germany)

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Can you name one important research result that has effected your online learning practice?

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Image from Alan Lavine Why don’t they (we) look at the research literature?

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Mobilizing Knowledge Image source

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Mobilizing Knowledge Image source

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What are the most important unresolved questions in Online Distance Education?

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Presentation Overview Part I: A research based review of the DE Research Empirical study of major journals Delphi Study about research areas in DE Part II: A response Towards a Research Agenda

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8 Hierarchy of terms (based on Brown, 2004)

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9 Towards a research agenda Why is a research agenda important? to embedd research activities in a holistic structure to agree on gaps and priority research areas to support cooperations to communicate a clear research profile

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10 Quantify prior research Review that research Describe new research needs Prioritize the research needs Perform and eval. new research Redefine the research agenda Structure of research areas Context Towards a research agenda

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11 Towards a research agenda Quantify prior research Review that research Describe new research needs Prioritize the research needs Perform and eval. new research Redefine the research agenda Structure of research areas

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12 Part I: Research based view of DE research Research into academic journals to explore the scientific network of online distance education (ODE) Development of a validated structure of research areas for ODE Review of research between 2000 and 2011 ? Basic research to prepare a research agenda

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13 Journals as Scientific Knowledge Networks Journals as important carriers of knowledge in a discipline Research builds upon and refers to previous research Previous research is acknowledged by citations Social Network Analysis (SNA): The nodes are journals and the ties in the network are citations. The journal network reveals relationships and patterns of scientific information exchange, the "intellectual structure" of a discipline (Liu, 2007).

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14 Distance Education Journals What are the major journals in the field and how do the journals relate to each other in a network of giving and receiving citations? What are the most central and prestigious journals in the network?

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15 Selected Journals for SNA

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16 Journal Citation Network Mean citation rate across all journals: 22 ("tie density") Standardized mean citation rate: 0.23 cites/paper

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17 UCINET 6 (Borgatti, Everett & Freeman, 2002)

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18 A map of DE journals Young, F. W. (1985). Multidimensional scaling. In Kotz-Johnson (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences.  

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19 A map of DE journals

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20 MDS Map of Distance Education Journals

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21 Research Areas in ODE What are the most important research areas in ODE and how can they be categorized? What are the most neglected research areas?

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22 Research Areas: Delphi Study Expert panel: 25 individuals from 11 countries (average of 27 years of professional experience in distance education) 1. round: Experts were asked to list 10 important research areas 2. round: Experts were asked to rate research areas on a scale of importance; What are the most neglected research areas?

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23 Classification of Research Areas Three broad research perspectives or levels with 15 research areas: Macro level: Distance education systems and theories > global system level: 5 research areas Meso level: Management, organisation and technology > institutional level: 7 research areas Micro level: Teaching and learning in distance education > individual level: 3 research areas

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24 Classification of Research Areas

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25 Publication and Authorship Patterns What are the topics with the highest and lowest number of papers? What are the most neglected research areas? Who are the leading authors and where do they come from?

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26 Literature Review Review of articles that were published in 5 prominent DE journals 12 years: 2000 to 2011 N= 1.020 (988 English, 32 French) Journals: Open Learning (UK) Distance Education (Australia) American Journal of Distance Education (USA) Journal of Distance Education (Canada) IRRODL (Canada)

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27 N=1,020

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29 Authorship Patterns: Leading Contributors 1,684 different authors contributed to the 1,020 articles 45 authors who published at least 4 articles: Canada (14) USA (9) UK (8) Australia (5) China (3) Israel (2) Germany (1) Japan (1) New Zealand (1)

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32 So, quo vadis? Quantify prior research Review that research Describe new research needs Prioritize the research needs Perform and eval. new research Redefine the research agenda Structure of research areas

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Online Distance Education – Towards a research agenda edited by Olaf Zawacki-Richter and Terry Anderson Open Access or Purchase at

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Internationalisation, social justice and open, distance and e-learning: what is to be done? Access, equity and ethics: the democratization of access to distance education afforded by new media … to those who have limited resources and poor infrastructure. Issues that refer to the (sustainable) provision of distance education Is online education inherently a social justice agenda? What is the impact of distance education (e.g. via mobile learning) on narrowing (or broadening) the digital divide and what is the role of ICT (information and communication technologies) and/or OER (open educational resources) in terms of access to education? Jennifer O'Rourke Alan Tait

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Globalization and cross-cultural aspects aspects that refer to the global external environment and drivers, the development of the global distance education market, teaching and learning in mediated and multi-cultural environments and the implications for professional development and curriculum development. Charlotte Nirmalani (Lani) Gunawardena,

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Distance teaching systems and institutions: Distance education delivery systems, the role of institutional partnerships in developing transnational programmes and the impact of ICT on the convergence of conventional education and distance education institutions (hybrid or mixed-mode). Sarah Guri-Rosenblit,

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Theories and models Theoretical frameworks for and foundations of distance education, e.g. the theoretical basis of instructional models, knowledge construction, interaction between learners and the impact of social constructivism, connectivism and new learning theories on distance education practice. Terry Evans Margaret Haughey

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Research methods in distance education and knowledge transfer Methodological considerations, the impact of distance education research and writing on practice and the role of professional associations and higher education institutions in improving practice. Literature reviews and works on the history of distance education are also subsumed within this area. Farhad Saba

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Management and Organization Strategies, administration and organizational infrastructures and frameworks for the development, implementation and sustainable delivery of distance education programmes. What is required for successful leadership in distance education? Distance education and policies relating to continuing education, lifelong learning and the impact of online learning on institutional policies, as well as legal issues (copyright and intellectual property). Ross Paul

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Costs and benefits: Aspects that refer to financial management, costing, pricing and business models in distance education. Efficiency: What is the return on investment or impact of distance education programmes? What is the impact of ICT on the costing models and the scalability of distance education delivery? How can cost effective but meaningful learner support be provided? Greville Rumble

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Educational technology New trends in educational technology for distance education (e.g. Web 2.0 applications or mobile learning) and the benefits and challenges of using OERs, media selection (e.g. synchronous vs. asynchronous media), technical infrastructure and equipment for online learning environments, and their affordances for teaching and learning. Grainne Canole

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Innovation and change Issues that refer to educational innovation with new media and measures to support and facilitate change in institutions (e.g. incentive systems for faculty, aspects referring to staff workloads, promotion and tenure). Jon Dron

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Professional development and faculty support Professional development and faculty support services as a prerequisite for innovation and change. What are the competencies of online teachers, counselors and support service staff and how can they be developed? Margaret Hicks

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Learner support services The infrastructure for and organisation of learner support systems (from information and counseling for prospective students to library services and technical support, to career services and alumni networks). Jane Brindley

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Quality assurance Issues that refer to accreditation and quality standards in distance education. The impact of quality assurance requirements and regulation and the impact of quality learner support on enrolments and drop-out/ retention, as well as reputation and acceptance of distance education as a valid form of educational provision Colin Latchem

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Instructional or learning design Issues that refer to the stages of the instructional design process for curriculum and course development. Special emphasis is placed on pedagogical approaches for tutoring online (scaffolding), the design of (culturally appropriate) study material, opportunities provided by new developments in educational technology for teaching and learning (e.g. Web 2.0 applications and mobile devices), as well as assessment practices in distance education. Richard Schwier Katy Campbell

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Interaction and communication in learning communities (Qualitative) Closely related to instructional design considerations is course design that fosters (online) articulation, interaction, reflection and collaboration throughout the learning and teaching process. Special areas include the development of online communities, gender differences and cross-cultural aspects in online communication. Dianne Conrad

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Quantitative Analysis of Interaction Patterns in Online Distance Education Interaction and communication, as structures, are necessary, positive, and valuable to our well-being and health as learners, this chapter will elaborate on the nature of the related concepts of interaction and communication, the hallmarks of learning communities, outlining their historical evolution and their contribution to our current understanding and practice of online distance learning. Allan Jeong,

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Learner characteristics The aims and goals of adult and younger students studying at a distance, the socio-economic background of distance education students, their different approaches to learning, critical thinking dispositions, media literacies and special needs. How do students learn online (learner behavior patterns, learning styles) and what competencies are needed for distance learning (e.g. ‘digital literacy’)? Christine von Prummer Mark Bullen Joachim Stoter Olaf Zawacki-Richter

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Student Dropout Ormond Simpson Alan Woodley The conversation exposes us to the brutal facts (hidden as they often are by reluctant institutions), reasons for the regrettable complacency of all actors - including students themselves. The chapter ends with suggestions for interventions – some of which have been tried, but none of which has resulted in the completion rates commonly achieved with campus based teaching and learning

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Online Distance Education – Towards a research agenda edited by Olaf Zawacki-Richter and Terry Anderson Open Access or Purchase at

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Issues in DE Series - AUPress

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Slides at slideshare Terry Anderson [email protected] Your comments and questions most welcomed! Olaf Zawacki-Richter [email protected]