Fall 2009 Research Development Portfolio (RDP)

The following is my semester long project: Research Development Portfolio. This project is part of my CEP 900 Prosem course as an introductory course to my Ph.D Program.  This project has been an ongoing project that I have been working on all semester long.  As I have progressed through this project it has been very inspiring, has been providing me with very valuable lessons in educational research, and sparked my interest in several areas of online learning that I will continue to pursue in my doctoral program.  Traditionally this project is printed and a physical copy is turned in, however, an online option was available for those students who could submit electronically.  The entire portfolio is contained within this section, you may skim through the contents or use the index to jump to the desired section.

RDP Table of Contents:

Initial Statement of Interest

Annotated References

Meeting Notes

Annotated List of Major Publications

Annotated List of Scholars

Annotated Glossary

Historical View of Interest Area

Contemporary Issues of Policy and Practice

End-of-Semester Statement of Interest

Initial Statement of Interest:

In the realm of educational technology there lies many issues that would be worthy of researching.  After reviewing several areas of interest, I have become particularly interested in investigating the effectiveness of online education.  It does not appear to be a secret that the use of online education is on the rise in all levels of education, although it may appear to be more prominent in higher education than other areas.  With the increase of online education I would expect there to be an equally growing need to provide quality education to those who engage in online education.

There are several questions surrounding the issue of online education, such as whether or not online education is an equal alternative to traditional face-to-face education.  Concerns of quality are another question that surrounds online education.  How does one define and measure the actual or perceived quality of online education and then compare that to the existing model of traditional education?  Another question to raise would be the effectiveness and penetration of education delivered via Internet technologies to areas around the word in which traditional methods are difficult to achieve?

My interest in the effectiveness of online education is not only significant to me as a professional in the industry of instructional design, but also to the rest of the world because the rise of online education seems to be showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon and will likely effect everyone involved with education at some level or another.  This rapid growth of online education, populations, and advancing developing nations are sure to have a significant impact on educational systems domestic and abroad.   As online education continues to be a common tool used to handle the growing demand for education I would argue that it shall be crucial to study the effectiveness so the findings can be used to better tailor the development and implementation of new and existing online educational programs to increase the overall success and effectiveness of online education.

Annotated References:

Return to Table of Contents

Adler, R. P.,  Brown, J. S.  (2008).  Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0.  EDUCAUSE Review, 43(1), 16-32.

Overview: This article focuses on the issues that there are an exceeding growing number of people in this world that are under the age of 20.  And that number will continue to rise at an alarming rate.  The authors quoted Sir John Daniel as saying that it will take a new University to be built every week to meet the need of the growing number of college aged kids.  The authors continue to go on and talk about 3 main topic points.  The first is Open Education.  They describe the beginning of this with the Hewlett foundation and MIT’s Open Course Ware Initiative.  Then the article focused on the graphical tail of learning chart and how that is impacted by online or e-commerce.  The article finishes by looking at the tool set that is available under the heading of web 2.0 technology and the role that it will play in serving as the vehicle in which all of the Open education and learning come together to create the “perfect storm of opportunity”.

Reaction:  I think that this article raises several key points that aught not be ignored.  The first being the seemingly unstoppable tidal wave of new learners that will be overwhelming and flooding the current educational systems.  This growth is not only connected to developed nations like the US and Western Europe, but to developing nations that are now putting more kids into education and post-secondary schools than ever before.  At the rate this is increasing the traditional model for brick and mortar schools will not be able to continue, so new ways of teaching and learning need to be developed.  With the rise of use and awareness of OER’s the world stands to gain a valuable commodity by which information can be shared from one community to another.  The use of current and the development of future web technologies will play a crucial role in how this information is created, shared and consumed.

Cavanaugh, J. (2005).  Teaching Online – A Time Comparison.  Online Journal of Distance Learning and Administration, 8(1), 1-9.

Overview: This article focuses on the issues of time required to teach both an online class and the same class in a traditional face-to-face offering.  The courses that were used in this study were the same first level economics course EC201 taught by the same faculty member who had taught the face-to-face class for ten years prior and has also previously taught the online section for three years prior to the study.  The online section of the course was taught using WebCT 3.6 as the courseware system.  Each course was taught using the same materials such as textbook, resources and instructional presentations.  The face-to-face section was limited to forty students and the online section limited to fifteen, both sections were filled to capacity.  The study then revolved around a survey of the time taken to actually teach the courses, the time measured class preparation, teaching, office hours, and final tasks.  The resulting hour totals convey that there is a nearly 2-1 ratio of instructional time from online courses to traditional courses.  The study concluded with 62 hours of time being reported for the face-to-face section and 155 hours for the online section.  Broken down on a per student rate, the hours spent on each student for face-to-face and online sections was .71 hours and 6.77 hours respectively.  With the ratio of time per student nearing an 8:1 ratio, the study claims that it is massively more time intensive for instructors to teach online courses than face-to-face.  The article concludes that the large time disparity for the two sections is the time required to prepare for the class and the time spent communicating with the students.  The time required to interact with the students of the online class were far greater than that of the students in the traditional course.

Reaction: I think that this study is important to understanding several factors regarding to online education quality.  This article points out some of the challenges faculty face when teaching online classes and the amount of time it may take to actually “teach” the course.  However, I would challenge the case study in the respect that although their online student required more one on one interaction, this may be a direct result of poor instructional design, lack of clarity on tasks and assignments and perhaps poor organization of course materials in the courseware platform.  This confusion, I would argue would increase the distance felt by the students and also increase their uncertainty of where they stand in the course.  I would then further argue that this may be a major component into the reason behind the increased personal communication required to teach the online section.  This article does not focus on any other factors other than just a raw tabulation of time spent on teaching online and face-to-face  and it is only conducted by one class, and one instructor and the skill level and instructional design expertise of the instructor are unknown.

Bolliger, D. U., Wasilik, O. (2009).  Factors Influencing Faculty Satisfaction with Online Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.  Distance Education, 30(1), 103-116.

Overview: The main purpose of this article is to highlight the importance of instructor satisfaction on the quality of online education.  The article goes in depth on the study to collect and analyze the satisfaction of faculty members teaching online classes at a public research university.  The study points out that 3 of the 5 pillars of online education are student satisfaction, instructor satisfaction and institution-related factors (Sloan-C, 2002).  The study was comprised of a questionnaire that was sent to online faculty who taught in either fall 2007 or spring of 2008.  The sample was comprised of 102 respondents (82%) from a small public research university with an enrollment over 11,600. The study contained 28 questions on a 4 point Likert Scale based on the Online Faculty Satisfaction Survey (OFSS).  The questionnaire was divided into categories to reflect the Sloan-C (2002) study with instructor, student and institutional factors.  The results that came back indicated that all three areas are important but instructor satisfaction was most influenced by the student factor.  It is reported then, that this result indicates that online instruction is then inherently student centric. The article concludes that online teaching is a complex task that involves many factors that can effect the satisfaction of the instructor, which then will affect the quality of online education.  It is also concluded that since there are so many factors that can determine the overall instructor satisfaction and that it is one of the five pillars of online education that it needs to be continually addressed and studied further.

Reaction: This article makes a good attempt at shedding some light on one of the key factors of online education, the instructor.  If the instructor is unhappy it is then more likely to lead to poor course development and thus poor online education.  While this study proved to be valuable in highlighting the student factor as being one of the leading factors of instructor satisfaction, the study did little to inquire as how to increase the satisfaction of instructors.  To gain a better understanding of this I would suggest that a study be performed to evaluate to things, one, what would improve the satisfaction of instructors, and how proficient are they in online education delivery systems?  While student factors remain at the top of the list as far as factors contributing to the instructor satisfaction, I would argue that the vehicle used to deliver the class could indirectly shape the student factor.  More specifically, the poor design or organization of the course may create a negative experience for the students which in turn creates a negative effect on the instructor creating a downward spiral of experiences in that course and perhaps future courses taught by the same faculty.

McCallister, T., Pollacia, L. (2009).  Using Web 2.0 Technologies to Meet Quality Matters ™ (QM) Requirements. Journal ofInformation Systems Education, 20(2), 155-165.

Overview: The authors in this article McCallister and Pollacia write up an overview of the Quality Matters rubric for creating successful online courses.  The authors then share the various Web 2.0 technologies used to meet the requirements of the Quality Matters.  McCallister (et al, 2009) go through the eight major categories of the quality matters rubric and then provide an example of the Web 2.0 technology that they used in the development of a new online course.  The new course was designed as a new class to be part of a new minor at university.  This course was initially designed with the Quality Matters rubric to ensure that it would pass (85%) the Quality review.

Response: While this article is rather shallow in offering many insights or new ideas as to the quality of online education, it does provide valuable information in the use of a widely accepted peer-reviewed quality standards rubric and the use of recently developed web based tools to meet those criteria.  The article only points to a few specific details in the use of the Web 2.0 tool suite almost as if the authors of the article had little understanding of what the tool did, or how it was better to use than an existing, more traditional method.  Again, this article not being very deep in the affect of Quality Matters, it would have been nice to see a survey of some sort to inquire the students as to the perceived value of the course, and the tools and processes used through the use of Web 2.0 to see if the students did indeed feel the course was “quality”.

Davis, C. K., Dykman, C. A. (2008).  Online Education Forum – Part Three A Quality Online Educational Experience. Journal of Information Systems Education, 19(3), 281-289.

Overview: This paper is a literature review style paper that does not focus on any specific research or study, rather a complied list of seemingly best practices gathered by the authors.  This paper raises the question as to how can one set out to ensure a student receives a “quality” educational experience online.  The authors then propose a set of “best practices” in which they break the online educational experience into the following main points: Educational software, standardized approaches to course design, planning perspectives, clearly defining learning objectives, consistent interactions, clear expectations for learners, and significance of class size.  The authors further explore each topic area with several sub topics relating to methods and examples of how one could use the ideas in the main points to structure the course.  The article concludes that the majority of all the “best practices” are centered on motivating the students to succeed in an online environment.  The conclusion also links the attributes of having consistent interactions, steady participation and clear requirements and expectations to the success of the perceived quality of an online course.

Reaction: I thought that this paper hit the nail on the head so to speak.  I agree with the authors that there are several factors that contribute to the perceived quality of the online education.  Besides the actual material or the instructor’s ability to actually “teach” the subject, it is vital to the success of online courses that the vehicle (the total delivery of the course) not just the CMS is crucial to the planning and delivery of the course.  I would summarize slightly by stating that the quality of the course will depend greatly on the overall organization and structure of the course.  Online courses due to their inherent “distancing” of participants need to be well thought out and planned prior to the actual execution of the course.  I would also take this a step further by saying that one of the worst ways to teach an online course would be in an ad hoc manor, one in which the course is flown by the “seat of the pants” and the expectations are unclear and the students feel lost and subsequently remove themselves from the course, and slide by with putting forth the bare minimum effort to complete the course.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., Jones, K. (2009).  Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies.  U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Policy and Program Studies Service, 1-55.  Retrieved from http:// www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/opepd/ppss/reports.html

Overview: This report conducted by the US Department of Education takes a new approach to determining the effectiveness of online education compared to traditional face-to-face instruction.  The study was conducted by performing a systematic search through literature from 1996 to present date. The articles were screened based on whether the study tested the effect of online versus face to face which provided some form of quantitative result that could be used in a meta-analysis.  The main research questions for this study was in four parts:

1.     How does the effectiveness of online learning compare to that of face-to-face instruction?

2.     Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning?

3.     What practices are associated with more effective online learning?

4.     What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?

To test and explore the research questions, a meta-analysis was preformed on all of the collected studies.  The meta-analysis is a technique used for combining the results of multiple experiments or quasi experiments to obtain a composite estimate of the size of the effect.  The results of the study conclude that based on the meta-analysis, that students who took all or part of their classes online performed better on average than those who took the same course in a traditional face-to-face setting with no elements taught online.

Reaction: When reviewing this study I found that it was an interesting result that I think many people might have hoped for but not necessarily expected.  It seems prior to this study there was a general acceptance that previous studies had only shown that online learning was only equitable to face-to-face instruction rather than superior.  I thought that the research approached the literature review in an aggressive manor that helped to isolate the research to recent studies and ones that have an experiment of some type that actually points to a measurable result.  Also, online learning is a continuously developing and advancing field in its current form.  Technology is enhancing the technical capabilities at a fierce rate; it is also my belief that the quality of online instructors and instructional designers are increasing in step with the technical tools available.  With this in mind, I think that this study shows what I believe to be a growing trend in online learning, that the average performance levels will continue to rise.

Herrington, A., Herrington, J., Oliver, R., Stoney, S., Willis, J. (2001). Quality guidelines for online courses: The development of an instrument to audit online units.  Meeting at the crossroads: Proceedings of ASCILITE 2001, 263-270.

Overview: This article is slightly older than the ones I have been looking at (2001).  However it does go into detail on what is considered quality, and how it might be determined and or scored.  The authors identify the growing need for online education and the push for more developed online learning offerings around the world.  The article focuses on four main questions: is online learning as effective as face-to-face, are online courses as good as they could be, what is the best way to deliver online courses, and by what means can we measure quality in online learning?  The article identifies the multifaceted rubric for which an online class could be measured.  The authors summarize all of these items into a checklist that is split into a framework that contains 3 main portions: pedagogies, resources, and delivery strategy.  The first framework piece, pedagogies focuses on the actual learning structure of the course including the tasks, collaborations, learner-centered environments, engaging the students, and meaningful assessments of the work done by students.   The second framework, resources, focuses on the resources available to the student such as the accessibility of the material, currency (as it pertains to how current the material is to the work that needs to be done), the richness of the material, purposeful use of the media, and the inclusivity of the material.  The final framework portion is the delivery strategy.  This portion sets up the vehicle for delivery, or how the course is actually presented to the students.  In the framework it identifies the following items as crucial for determining the quality of the course: reliable and robust interface, clear goals and directions, communication, appropriate bandwidth demands, equity and accessibility, and appropriate development style.  The authors conclude that in order to test for and assess quality they will use this framework to create a checklist that they will then use on their existing courses to see how they fare, then use the results to help them guide a new format for creating new courses.

Reaction: When reading this, I thought that the material was slightly dated, but the overall concept was still valid.  The issue of identifying what is quality has been an issue that has not yet been fully explored or a clear answer identified.  I feel as though this checklist that has been developed works well as a precursor to the Quality Matters group, it still only address some of the logistics of online learning.  This checklist, if followed, would ensure that you have a clear, organized course but it still fails to identify if that is “quality”.  This checklist takes a heavy instructional design approach, which I feel is necessary, and a very important part of developing an online course, but it is not the entire process.  By simply following this checklist I do not believe you will be sure to have a quality course that will require the culmination of more assets.  In addition to having a well-built course, the content also has to be delivered in such a way to engage the students learning.

DeBord, K. A., Aruguete, M. S., Huhlig, J. (2004). Are Computer Assisted Teaching Methods Effective?. Teaching of Psychology, 31(1), 65-68.

Overview: This article was released as a comparison of two studies that were conducted that look at the effectiveness of computer aided teaching methods (CA) used on undergraduate students in a small (~3,500 students) university that is historically predominately populated by black students.  The article focuses on two separate studies, both of which are setup to try and test the effectiveness of computer aided teaching methods on the assessment scores of the students at the end of the course.  For both studies the the courses, content, assignments and exams were all kept the same, the only difference was one section was taught with the use of computer aided technology.  The first study uses two sections of the same course in which the control group was taught with traditional overhead transparencies and the CA group was taught using PowerPoint slides which included additional video and audio but the same content.  The second study was a similar setup as study 1 except that the CA group was allowed access to a course based webpage that had the course materials available.  In the end, the American College Test (ACT) scores for both groups were not statistically different enough to suggest any real difference between the two.  This was the result for both Study 1 and 2.  In the end of the article the authors conclude that while students reported that they liked the use of the computer aided teaching methods they were not significant enough to actually improve performance and thus, they cautioned a warning to institutions spending money on such equipment that they do an in-depth cost to benefit analysis before spending the money.

Reaction: I thought this article was fairly intuitive and informative from what the authors found in their studies.  In the beginning of the article they talk about the latency of scholarly work to empirically study the effectiveness of computer aided teaching methods.  I found this interesting because even though this article was published in 2004, the computer-aided methods they were describing were rather out dated.  The use of PowerPoint versus overhead transparencies, I think that this does not really represent an adequate difference in the use of technology to render an effect.  In the case of the first study with the presentations, the power point slides do not allow the students any more learning experiences or enhancements, its just a digital representation of an analog medium.  In this case it is not surprising at all that the students performed the same on their assessments as the only difference in teaching methods was the wrapper in which the content was delivered.  I think that for a true test of the effectiveness the technology-aided teaching has to be done in such a way to take advantage of the technology to offer a value that is not present in the old analog traditional method.  For example sending the students the files may have been a better way to test, cause then the students would have access to the information in a more readily accessible format than what they were able to write down form the course notes.

Huang, W. D., Yoo, S. J., Choi, J. (2008). Correlating College Students’ Learning Styles and how they use Web 2.0 Applications. In Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2008, 2752-2759.

Overview: This article is the report of a study that was conducted at a large mid-west university (presumably University of Illinois) in which students were surveyed to indentify both their learning style and their use of Web 2.0 tools.  The main goal of the study was to try and answer or investigate three research questions: Do students with different learning styles prefer different Web 2.0 applications? Are there different attitudes towards using Web 2.0 applications based on their learning styles?  What is the empirical relationship between learning styles and the use of Web 2.0 applications?  The authors conducted a study in which they surveyed 107 volunteers.  They received 88 useful surveys and compiled the results.  They determined that students that fell into the category of Concrete-Sequential learners were the least intimidated by Web 2.0 applications and spent the most time using them.  They also determined that all groups used social networking sites such as Facebook heavily, and online social environments like SecondLife were the least used by all learning groups.  The authors expressed caution when using the results of this survey to generalize to larger populations given the small sample size and the internal factors based on other criteria.

Reaction: This survey is interesting to me in the way that it helps paint a picture of what Web 2.0 tools undergraduate students are using in their daily routines.  Although this sample size is small and would be better represented with a larger sample size, I think the findings would be fairly similar.  Looking at theses results I think it would be very helpful for instructors and institutions that are developing online classes as they can get a feel for the type of things students do on their own, and are comfortable doing.  As a result, you could tailor the learning experiences in a similar fashion or design them in such a way that they incorporate the technology they are used to using.

Herman, T., Banister, S. (2007). Face-to-face versus online coursework: A comparison of costs and learning outcomes. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 7(4), 318-326. Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol7/iss4/currentpractice/article1.cfm

Overview: This article showcased a fairly recent study that compared the traditional face-to-face course coursework to that of a newly redesigned online offering of the same course.  The course was a large enrollment (est. 300) for graduate students at a large university.  The university received a grant from the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) to help develop the course.  The goal of the course redesign was to offer the students the highest possible quality online experience while lowering the per student cost of offering the course.  After the completion of the course the performances and scores of the students were compared to that of the traditional face-to-face offerings and there was no discernable difference between the two.   The authors did however see an effect on the perceived quality of the course.  The students rated that the clear expectations and instructions lowered anxiety and confusion, weekly patterns allowed for better self regulation, timely feedback allowed the students to keep focus on current progress, and the use of rich media allowed them access to emerging topics the weekly discussions allowed for better understanding and conversations on the material that was being learned.  Overall, the authors point out that while the students did not necessarily learn more, or perform better in their assessments the online offering did allow them to offer the course to more students at a lower cost to the university, which they proclaim is a win-win-win situation.

Reaction:  This article points out some familiar results that I experience on a routine basis myself in the realm of online education.  This article supports the idea that online education results in better or worse performance, that rather it changes the way people engage in and participate in learning.  If the material covered in both online and face-to-face course is the same, one might argue that the students will always score relatively the same on assessments baring any significant impediment to the information.  I think that one of the biggest strengths with this article is that it point out that if you can keep the performance at least equal with that of a satisfactory traditional class all the while reducing the cost of operation and increasing the enrollment opportunities to the community then that itself becomes the main benefit in the use of this type of educational technology.  This article also does  a nice job of highlighting several areas that indicate what constitutes a “quality” course.  Stating that the following items were key factors in the quality:

Clear expectations and instructions Lessened anxiety; increased student sense of self efficacy Weekly patterns of assignments and activities (and assessment of these) Supported self-regulation and ability to consistently complete course assignments Timely feedback Maintained focus and minimized confusion Quality materials (text, online readings, multimedia modules) Introduced to challenging and provocative discourse Weekly small group discussion forums Clarified content, generated practical connections, built community

So overall the article points out several key factors that makeup the foundation of a “quality” course and that the use of those design elements can produce a course that can provide the same (statistically) student performance while offering the course to more people and with a lower per student cost associated with offering the course.

Burd, S., Seazzu, A., Conway, C. (2009).  Virtual Computing Laboratories: A Case Study with Comparisons to Physical Computing Laboratories. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 8, 1-24.

Overview:  This case study was focused on a computer lab environment; the study was designed to test the effectiveness and adoption likelihood of virtual based computer labs in a university setting.  The authors of the study set out to replicate the traditional computer labs that currently exist on the campus.  To replicate the labs, they implemented a virtual network and large hosts for virtual machines that students then access via Internet connections to the main lab server, in which they gain access to the virtual machines through a virtual desktop application.  The virtual desktop application allows users to interface virtually with physical hardware that is contained on campus, this access is allowed 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  After the virtual lab was implemented and students allowed access, the authors set out to inquire as to the student perception of the virtual lab (vLAB) by way of surveying students who have used the new vLAB.  The key findings of the study demonstrate that although a large amount of the students found the use of the virtual machines to be difficult and at times slow, they overwhelmingly reported that they found this service to be a powerful option that allowed them greater access and ability to complete their school assignments.

Reaction: While this study does not directly engage the conversation of quality in online learning it does so indirectly by exploring the perceived quality of online learning environments that would be used in an online or blended course offering.  I agree with some of the background information the authors brought attention to in regards to the current state and need of traditional computer labs.  Although the general use is perhaps shrinking due to the high penetration of personal laptops and other portable computers, their still remains a need to offer a resource of controlled, standardized computer labs that can provide the raw power, applications and network bandwidth required for various school related projects and assignments.  In the end of the case study the authors note the reaction of the students is mainly geared toward the availability and convenience of having the labs virtually rather than traditional physical labs.  I think the important factor to take away from this case study is the effect of flexible always-available resource that the students can access anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection capable of meeting the bandwidth needs.  This factor is crucial to the perceived quality of their courses as this ability to access labs virtually allows the students to better adjust their workload and demands on their time to better suit the individuals.

Rose, K. (2009).  Student Perceptions of the Use of Instructor-Made Videos in Online and Face-to-Face Classes. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5(3), 487-496.

Overview: In this study, the author investigates the reaction to the use of instructor created videos for use in both traditional face-to-face classes and fully online courses.  The methodology of this study was a survey given to students after a semester of both online and face-to-face courses all taught by the same instructor at a mid sized public university in the south.  The students were surveyed on if they like the videos, how many times they watched them, and whether or not they perceived that the use of the videos made any difference in how well they learned.  The results of the surveys showed that overwhelmingly all students in both fully online and blended face-to-face classes watched all the videos, with many students reporting that they watched the videos multiple times.  The conclusions drawn by the author and primary investigator are that the majority of the students reported that the use of the videos was positive and well received.  The use of the video in the fully online courses seemed to elicit a better response or a greater perceived increase in value, most likely stemming from the lack of actual face time with the instructor.

Reaction: This study is a good example of what is perceived as “quality” in online learning.  The use of video may not actually increase the performance of assessments compared to those without, but it does raise the perceived level of quality for the students, which in turn, the students themselves have reported that they feel it helps them learn the material better. I think that in addition to this survey that was conducted it would have been very interesting to gather the empirical data on the student performance of those in classes where instructor made videos were used to those of a control group consisting of the same course offering but without the videos and see if there is any statistical evidence that the videos indeed have a correlated effect that increases the performance levels of students in the respective courses.

Lee, K. (2009).  Listening to Students: Investigating the Effectiveness of an Online Graduate Teaching Strategies Course. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 5 (1), 72-87.

Overview: This study focuses on the effectiveness of a fully online course in teaching strategies to transfer teaching techniques to be used in a face-to-face setting.  The study was aimed at investigating three research questions; how effective were the online instructional activities in learning secondary teaching strategies, what were the graduate students’ perceptions of their ability to transfer the learned instructional strategies to a face-to-face classroom setting, and what were the characteristics of the graduate students enrolled in this online course?  The sample was a cohort of the online class, the students were sent a web-based survey to fill out and return.  In the survey the students were asked to respond to and rank their like and or dislike with certain aspects of the course, as well as to inquire about the perceived quality and perceived ability to use what they learned in the course to real world teaching environment.  The results of the surveys indicated that the students thought the course was well designed and effective.  The students reported that they thought the highest rated portion of the course was the activities portion, while the weekly summaries and reflections were rated the lowest.  The author attributes the success of the course to the instructional design and the use of a content expert to design the activities and course material.  The author concludes that the carful design of the course was key to the ease of knowledge transfer or perceived ease of transfer from the fully online course, to the real applicable use.

Reaction: The value in this study was the investigation as to what made this course effective from the students’ point of view.  Although this is a small study fairly limited generalizability, it offers some great evidence that the design of a course utilizing the student centric approach and applying various forms of “best practices” can be very powerful and the students will rate them as being quality courses.  This study does investigate the responses of the students and their perceived idea of ease of knowledge transfer, it would be interesting to see as a measure of further study to simultaneously investigate and compare the student assessments and to see if the use of the student-centric deigned course can produce any statistical evidence to support that this method is not only perceived as having high quality, but also increases student performance.

Khan, M. (2009).  Effects of Information Technology Usage on Student Learning – An Empirical Study in the United States. International Journal of Management, 26(3), 345-487.

Overview: The focus of this article was the result of an empirical study conducted after the completion of courses at two large community colleges in the southern California area.  The study focused on the self reported answers to a web based questionnaire that assessed the students’ use of technology in relation to their schoolwork and their perceived perception of how that computer based technology helped or hurt their engagement in education.  The results of the study indicate that the students felt the use of Internet and communication technologies (ICT’s) was very effective in promoting student learning and engagement in their learning.  In addition to this, the study also found that the use of computer technology is on the rise, and it speculated that this trend will not only continue but increase in the future.  Along with the results that point to the effectiveness of ICT’s there is also a result that indicates that these technologies are not inexpensive and may be harder to obtain and gain access to in areas with lower income levels and financial access to purchase such equipment as laptop or home computers.  The author warns that the sample was not necessarily diverse enough to widely generalize the results, due to the economic status and geographical dispersion of the sample being located in large metropolitan locations.

Reaction: While this study is very useful in understanding what it is the students think helps them engage in their learning, it would also be valuable to couple this study with an empirical study of the actual performance of the students.  When looking into determining the quality of online education, these types of surveys can help researchers identify the key factors reported by the students themselves as to what constitutes “quality” in online education.  I agree with the authors findings that the use of ICT’s is on the rise, which makes the research into what constitutes a quality course all the more important if high quality online educational experiences are going to be developed and offered.

Cao, Q., Griffin, T., Bai, X. (2009). The Importance of Synchronous Interaction for Student Satisfaction with Course Websites. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20 (3), 331-339.

Overview: This study takes a slightly different approach to determining the quality of online technology based in the use of synchronous communication in a predominantly asynchronous course website.  The author used a survey approach to asses the scale of like or dislike using a Likert scale based on questions related to the type of communications used in the course.  The author describes synchronous communication as live chat rooms, instant messaging and instant feedback on tests or quizzes.  The results indicate that there is a direct impact of the use of synchronous communication with the performance of students in an online course.

Reaction: This study focuses on the use of synchronous communications in a time where most of the communications in online type classes are asynchronous.  The author goes to some length to express the desire to show that synchronous communication can increase the satisfaction of online courses.  The results of the study seem to indicate that the students do indeed benefit from the use of such immediate response.  In my opinion, the use of synchronous communication is crucial in courses where one of the main design elements is to try and emulate the face-to-face experience.  I also agree with the authors suggestion that this study should be followed up by further study that also compares the qualitative results of the students self reported perception of how the synchronous communication either increased or decreased their learning experience.

Choi, H. J., Johnson, S. J. (2005). The Effect of Context-Based Video Instruction on Learning and Motivation in Online Courses. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(4), 215-227.

Overview: This study on the effectiveness of using video in an online course was setup to determin if in fact the use of such video increase the understand, retention and provided better relevance, confidence and satisfaction in the lecture material.  The study had two main research questions, the first being “Does perceived learning (i.e., understanding and retention) in video-based instruction involving contextual examples and nonexamples differ from that in traditional text-based instruction?”  The Second, “Does learner motivation (i.e., attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction) in video-based instruction differ from that in traditional text-based instruction?”.  The study used two Likert questionnaires and an open-ended questionnaire at the end of each learning module in which some were text based and others the video based.  The end result showed that there was no significant statistical difference between the two methods of instruction.

Reaction: This study provides some good contextual information related to the satisfaction of students and how they perceive their learning experience in this online course used for the study.  While the statistical results show no actual difference between the understanding and retention of the information, the authors do note a significant difference in the motivation and satisfaction of the learners in the study.  The open-ended questionnaire reveals that the majority of the students felt as though the videos made it easier for them to understand or pay attention to the material.  While this study might suggest there is no “real” payoff for using videos in the course, one cannot ignore the high level of satisfaction and perceived level of learning that the students felt when viewing the video based content.

Neal, L. (2006, June 26). Five questions... for john Seely Brown. eLearn Magazine, 6, Retrieved from http://elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=articles&article=37-1

Overview: This article was a short interview with Lisa Neal Editor-in Chief of eLearn Magazine and former Chief Scientist of Xerox John Seely Brown.  The interview included five questions that were aimed at getting Brown’s opinion on various aspects of technology as it relates to learning.

Reaction: John Seely Brown has been a very influential individual in the realm of information technology and how those technologies can be used to increase learning.  One of the interview questions asked Brown his thoughts on the idea that the web will transform the way children learn.  Brown responded by pointing out that children will have new ways of accessing information and interacting with each other, that not only will they be able to learn in ways of the past, they will also have the ability to create, share and build on others creations.  It is this type of “new” learning that is helping to shape and contribute to student-based satisfaction in online learning environments.   Brown also commented on the use of blogs, wikis, and video-casting in educational settings and stated that it their use would “amplify the social life of learning” This statement reflects the idea that it is not the technology itself that will revolutionize the educational industry, but rather these technologies will be the tools used to do so.  This idea is constant with other ideas in the field of educational technology that the technology itself is just a vehicle for new ideas and new ways of communicating to be accomplished.

Brown, J. S., Thomas, D. (2006, April). You Play World of Warcraft? You're Hired! Wired Magazine, 14(4), Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.04/learn.html

Overview: This article in Wired Magazine was written about a prospective employee for Yahoo! named Stephen Gillett who was previously in charge of CNET’s backend.  During his interview for the job his prospective employer discovered the facet that he was not only qualified for the job, but he was a high ranking member of the popular online gamming community of World of Warcraft.  This experience gave Gillet the competitive advantage and was hired as a senior director of engineering operations.  Brown writes that it is not the game experience itself that gives the advantage, but rather the amount of accidental learning that occurs during game play that allows for individuals to learn about new things in new ways.

Reaction: I feel this article is important because the way it highlights the benefit of being exposed to accidental learning.  While accidental learning may not always be a reliable way to structure the intended learning objectives for a student in an online class, it would provide a way for those students to engage in a form of learning that ads to the structured traditional learning opportunity.  Brown comments on the advantages of accidental learning as providing opportunities to expand a persons flexibility of thinking, allowing them to think and learn in new ways that will offer new insights or ideas to solve problems or reach achievements.

Picciano, A. G. (2002).  Beyond Student Perceptions: Issues of Interaction, Presence, and Performance in an Online Course. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 6(1), 21-40.

Overview: In this article the author investigates the issues related to presence and the resulting performance of students in a fully online course.  This study focuses on the relationship between the perceived learning and interactions from the students and their performance in that online course.  In this article the author goes through a rather extensive literature review pointing out that previous research indicates that the presence felt in a course whether it is online or face-to-face is a commonality amongst the satisfaction of those courses.  Also, the author explores the fact that interaction in an online course is a separate factor form presence felt in such courses and that requiring students to interact will not necessarily create a feeling of belonging to the course.  This study collects survey results from the students at the completion of the course based on a questionnaire combined with student performances on the course.  This study concludes that there is a large correlation to the student-student and student-teacher interactions and student satisfaction and perceived quality of learning.  However, this study also found no direct relation to the satisfaction of the student and perceived learning to their actual performance when compared to their exam performance.

Reaction: This study shows some interesting results to the question on satisfaction and presence with performance.  As predicted by the author the increased use of interactions for students and instructor created a very high feeling of belonging to the course, or presence.  This increased feeling of presence also was identified as fostering the students self reported increase in both quality and amount of learning that was accomplished during the class.  However, this is not consistent to the actual performance on the course examinations.  As indicated by the author, the student satisfaction was increased dramatically by the increased use of interactions but this factor alone did not account for any actual measurable increase in student performance.  Therefore, the question that is raised becomes what determines a successful course?  Is it the increased academic performance alone, or does the increased student satisfaction count equally, lesser, or the same?  I agree with the author that more study is needed to determine ways in which increased interactions and presence can transform into increased performance.

Fredericksen, E., Pickett, A., Shea, P., Pelz, W., Swan, K. (1999).  Student Satisfaction and Perceived Learning with Online Courses: Principles and Examples from SUNY Learning Network. Online Education, 1, 7-41.

Overview: This paper focuses on the development of the SUNY web based course system to meet the growing needs and demands for high quality online courses.  The authors of this paper go into detail on the ways in which students perceive quality and learning within an online course and then outline a method for both course design and structure to better meet the needs of those students to offer the best experience possible.  The Authors conducted a study on the effectiveness of their new course design on perceived student satisfaction.  According to their results the methods they used to control the design of the course were successful in that the survey administered to the students at the end of the course suggested that most of the students reported that the course “excellent” and that the completion rate of this online course was actually higher than a similar course offered in a traditional face-to-face style.  The authors argue that by controlling the experience of the user-centric online course they can create a better perceived student satisfaction that will result in the students wanting to participate more, and thus be more engaged in the course and subsequently perform better.

Reaction: The authors do a good job of setting up a study in which they put to use the “developed” course structure that in their opinion was created to increase student satisfaction.  Since the authors state that the perceived satisfaction of the course is crucial to the success of the course both on an academic basis and one of personal satisfaction they wanted to show that the development of the course can be altered to cater to the students satisfaction.  The authors used several methods to increase student satisfaction and perceived learning by using standardized navigation, having areas for student-student interaction and student-instructor interactions.  This study shows that the use of their course design methods seems to indicate a higher result in student satisfaction, their still would be a need to correlate that higher level of satisfaction with their actual grade performance on the course. This is another study that shows that while the actual performance level may not be statistically improved, the perception that students learn better with better satisfaction may be enough to continue to encourage the students to become more actively involved in their learning.

Allen, I. E., Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008. The Sloan Consortium, 1-25. Retrived from http://www.sloan-c.org.

Overview: This annual report covers several questions regarding the current state of online learning and education in the United States.  This survey provides information on how many students are engaging in online learning, the economic impact of online enrollments, the faculty and academic leaders view on online learning, the strategic methods of online learning, and what disciplines are best represented online.  This report gives valuable information for each of these topic areas in the way of statistics and survey results.

Reaction: This survey is a great resource for anyone interested in any aspect of online learning as the data gives you hard statistical evidence to use when making comparisons or suggesting new results or studies.  Some of the more striking statistics show the massive growth of online learning at 3.9 million students in 2007, a 13% growth as compared to only a 1.2% growth in higher education.  It also states that there is an expected higher rise in online enrollments due to the economy and the result of higher fuel prices and the increased offerings of online courses will contribute to climbing enrollments.

Swan, K. (2001). Virtual Interaction: Design Factors Affecting Student Satisfaction and Perceived Learning in Asynchronous Online Courses . Distance Education, 22(2), 306-331.

Overview: In this article the author discusses the three proposed factors that influence the students perceived learning and satisfaction.  These factors are identified as the interactions between students and course content, other students, and instructors.  The author argues that simply having information available to students does not constitute learning, and that the three interactions must be used in conjunction with each other to create a total package or course that offers the student the chance to feel as though they belong to the course.  The author also highlights the statements made by other researchers that the success of students enrolled in open educational programs is largely dependant on the ability for those students to feel as though they are a part of the class, not just an outsider.  This article focuses on a large online survey conducted at the end of a semester to which just over 1400 students responded.  The survey revealed that the students responded to a clear connection with the course design and their perceived learning.  The study reports that students indicated three main factors that were consistent with the author’s assumptions.  The survey reports that students found that clear course structure, an instructor who interacts consistently, and dynamic discussions all contribute to their success in an online course.

Reaction: This article does a good job of pointing to the importance of the presence in a course.  I agree with what the author said about information, just having it available does not mean that it is learning.  Rather, that information has to be delivered to the students in a vehicle that supports the highest level of interaction, with students, instructor and content alike.  Although the survey results do show that the students agree with this based on their responses, it would be valuable in my opinion to see a correlation of these findings with the students’ actual performance.  It would be beneficial to see a study that compares the students’ performance and see if a better designed course with greater presence really does increase the students actual performance in the course.

Meeting Notes:

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September 21, 2009. Meeting/interview with Dr. Patrick Dickson – virtual meeting.

I first met with Patrick in regards to the RDP project to get his guidance as I focus my research question to a more specific or narrowed questions.  I indicated to Patrick that I thought about pursuing a research question regarding online learning or e-learning but at the time I had a few different directions I was interested in pursuing.  Patrick advised me to spend some time going over some research articles in current publication to get a feel for which interest may provide me with the greatest opportunity to select a research question with an adequate scope (not too broad and too narrow).  During this meeting I also inquired as to the 4 top research publications in the field of online learning and educational technology.  Patrick supplied me with the following list of publications listed in no particular order:

  1. EDUCAUSE Review from EDUCAUSE, published bi-monthly.
  2. SLOAN-C – JALN (Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks)
  3. American Education Research Association AERA – Educational Researcher
  4. ISTE International Society for Technology in Education – Learning and Leading with Technology.

October 14th, 2009.  2nd Meeting with Dr. Patrick Dickson – in Person @ his office

In this meeting I updated Patrick on my progress in the course and what I have been doing on my RDP thus far.  I spoke with him specifically on the narrowed topic I have chosen to focus on so far: Quality in Online Education.  We discussed this issue for a while in which Patrick helped me further narrow down my topic to relates more specifically to online learning in higher education, and to also think about investigating the time associated with implementing “quality” measures.  We talked about the fact that a lot of studies point to the differences, similarities, performance and measurements of students engaged in online learning, and whether one method is better than another, but what many of these studies seem to lack is the cost factor of both time and money.  After having this discussion, I intend to sharpen the point of my focus on the implied cost (both time and money) to the implementation of quality online learning and what that might mean for online learning as a whole for higher education.  At the conclusion of the meeting Patrick suggested that I read a specific report that was just released in September 2009 conducted by the US Department of Education regarding the comparison of Online and traditional face-to-face instruction where according to the report, concluded that students who engage in some form of online learning perform better, on average, than students who do not participate in online learning.

October 20th, 2009. 3rd Meeting with Dr. Patrick Dickson – in Person @ his office

In this third meeting with my advisor I mentioned my progress in my RDP and related that I have further focused my point of interest to that of the student perspective of what quality online learning is.  We discussed several issue pertaining to the factors of what constitutes quality from a students perspective and Patrick was able to give me some real life examples of how certain type of technology such as video’s had fallen short of what the original imagined intent was on their usefulness in the classroom.   After this meeting, I have begun to think of the various aspects of student perspectives on learning including the student-to-student interactions, student to teacher interactions, activities, assessments, course organization and course presence.  While student perspectives are not limited to the indicators I came up with, I do believe that those indicators represent a large portion of the factors that shape a students perceived experience with online learning.  I am planning on looking into more scholarly articles in which the focus is surrounding some of those issues.

Annotated Publications and Conferences:

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Journal of Online Learning and Technology (JOLT) http://jolt.merlot.org/

This journal is a peer reviewed online publication that is open to the public for scholarly use.  This publication is published quarterly in March, June, September and December of each year.  JOLT accepts paper topics from all aspects of online teaching and learning, everything from technology to initiatives for learning.  JOLT is part of the MERLOT network, which consists of over 77,600 members around the world.  JOLT has served as a great resource for discovering contemporary issues in online technology.  I have used this journal to source many articles and will continue to browse this publication for new publications.

International Journal on E-Learning (IJEL) – Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education. http://www.aace.org/pubs/IJEL/

IJEL is a peer reviewed journal that is led by an Editorial Review Board that is made up of leaders in the field of e-learning. This publication is formerly known as the International Journal of Educational Telecommunications and the WebNet Journal.  This journal has been in existence for just over 25 years and continues to publish articles targeted at researchers, developers and practitioners in the e-learning industry for corporate, government, healthcare and higher education.

Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE) http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss3/

CITE is an online peer reviewed journal that was established in 2000 and jointly sponsored by several organizations (AMTE, ASTE, NCSS-CUFA, CEE, and SITE).  CITE’s online medium allows for great flexibility to authors who can choose to publish as they are afforded the use of web technology to show examples or to demonstrate a new use or technology the authors are not limited to paper print.  As the name suggests this journal provides contemporary articles that deal with the use of technology in online environments.

The Journal of Information Technology Education (JITE) http://jite.org/

JITE is a peer-reviewed journal that is published in print annually.  The mission for this publication is to improve the IT education around the world by publishing high quality, best practice articles and other topics that increase the understanding of IT in education.

EDUCAUSE Review http://www.educause.edu/er

The EDUCAUSE Review is a peer reviewed publication that is printed by monthly and also published online.  Currently the publication is sent to over 22,000 subscribers.  This publication has won several awards for various editorial and design achievements.  ER has positioned itself as one of the premier publications for higher education IT issues.  This journal source has an abundance of articles that cover a very wide range of IT issues including many that are based on online learning.

Journal for Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN) http://www.sloan-c.org/publications/jaln/index.asp

JALN is a peer reviewed journal that is sponsored by the SLOAN-C consortium.  The aim of this publication is to publish original work for the scholarly use of practitioners and researchers in the area of online learning.  This journal is published both in print and in an online version.

Educational Researcher http://www.aera.net/publications/Default.aspx?menu_id=38&id=317

Educational Researcher is a peer-reviewed publication that focuses on scholarly articles that are of general significance to the educational research community.  These articles cover a large range and are not limited to online technology but all of education.  This journal is published 9 times per year and has a mixture of feature articles, reviews/essays and briefs.


SLOAN-C http://www.sloan-c.org/

The Sloan Consortium is an institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education.

EDUCAUSE http://www.educause.edu/

EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.

Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) http://www.aace.org/

AACE is an international, not-for-profit, educational organization with the mission of advancing Information Technology in Education and E-Learning research, development, learning, and its practical application.

Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) http://site.aace.org/

SITE is an international, educational, and professional organization dedicated to the advancement of the knowledge, theory and quality of learning and teaching at all levels with information technology.


SLOAN-C International Conference in Online Learning http://www.sloanconsortium.org/aln

This conference, which will provide the latest information on asynchronous learning programs, processes, packages, and protocols, is geared to both experienced professionals and interested newcomers to online learning who hail from a variety of work sectors, including higher education, continuing education, business, government, health care, professional associations, and nonprofit organizations.

EDUCAUSE Annual Conference http://net.educause.edu/content.asp?page_id=1352&bhcp=1

As the premier information technology gathering for higher education, this event draws attendees from all professional levels, from all sizes and types of institutions, and from across the United States and around the world.

SLOAN-C International Symposium on Emerging Technology Applications for Online Learning. http://www.emergingonlinelearningtechnology.org/

The Sloan-C International Symposium on Emerging Technology Applications for Online Learning is designed to bring together individuals interested in the technological aspects of online learning. Experts, intermediate users and novices are welcome to participate in Symposium activities that will include face-to-face and virtual components.

Annotated List of Scholars:

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John Seely Brown

John Seely Brown is a former Chief Scientist for Xerox Corporation, a visiting scholar at USC and a self proclaimed Chief of Confusion.  Brown’s work is diverse yet all areas of domains have a common thread, how people interact with technology.  Brown has published many scholarly works that highlight the way people use technology to learn and how the learning might shape the way technology is created.

Doris U. Bolliger, Ed.D

Doris is a faculty member at the University of Wyoming and has been researching online learning and teaching environments as well as satisfaction of students and faculty with online learning.  Bolliger’s research has been valuable to my studies because she has focused several studies on the investigation of satisfaction for both students and faculty for online learning.

Barbara Means, Ph.D

Dr. Means directs the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, an independent nonprofit research organization based in Menlo Park, CA.  Dr. Means’ research focuses on the interplay between technology and educational reform.  Means work was valuable to my own research and literature review as one of the key individuals who prepared the recently (2009) released US Department of Education meta-analysis study on the effectiveness of online learning.  This work pointed to the fact that it now appears that online learning on average, increases the learning experience for students.

Yong Zhao, Ph.D

Yong Zhao is University Distinguished Professor at the College of Education, Michigan State University, where he also serves as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology, executive director of the Confucius Institute, as well as the US-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence.  Zhao’s work is relative to my research exploration in the investigation as to the effectiveness of distance-based education.  Looking at both traditional educational systems and distance based education and the issues that arise for both.

Marianne Bakia, Ph.D

Marianne has led several evaluations of education technology projects in the United States and abroad, in both K12 and higher education settings. Her work at the Federation of American Scientists focused on edtech research and development policy, and she worked with national edtech leaders to encourage educational innovation.  Some of the research publications that Bakia has produced look at the costs and use of technology in online learning environments.  This research has been valuable to my own research as it helps support the ideas of the true costs to developing affective online learning experiences.

Terry Herman, Ph.D

Dr. Terry L. Herman is an Assistant Professor in the Visual Communication and Technology Education program at Bowling Green State University's College of Technology.  Herman’s research contains published articles that look at the difference between face-to-face and online learning comparisons.  Dr. Herman does not just investigate the general differences but looks into the costs both in academic outcomes and financial implications associated with the two types of courses offered.

Karen Swan, Ph.D

Dr. Karen Swan is an associate professor of Instructional Technology and Director of the Learning Technologies Laboratory and the Summer Technology Institute in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice.  Dr. Swan’s research is very relevant to my RDP since she has been focusing her research lately in the area of asynchronous online learning.  Swan has published several papers focused on studies on the perceived student satisfaction of online courses, and what factors most affect the students in their perceived learning.  This information has been very helpful in my own RDP as I investigate ways to enhance the student perspective of quality in online learning.

Annotated Glossary:

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Blog: Is a short hand term for a web –log, which is a web based article log that stores a series of articles or “blog posts” , typically in reverse chronological order.

Computer Mediated Communication: or CMC is the term used to describe the technology used to facilitate communication between two or more individuals using a computer related application or device.  An example is instant messenger chats, email, Skype or any other VIOIP communications.

Course Management Systems: or CMS is a term used to describe a software system (typically web based) that host the online learning environment.  These normally consist of a university or college level system that has many individual course or programs held within it.  (popular CMS’s include Blackboard, ANGEL, Moodle, Wordpress, Drupal, and Sakai).

e-Learning: a term to describe a learning environment, class or instruction that takes primarily (80% or more) online or with the use of Internet technologies.

ICT (Internet Communication Technology): This term is a general descriptor for any technology that is used in conjunction with the Internet (web pages, Web 2.0 tools, Social Networking, etc.) or communication technology such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) email, instant messaging, video messaging, etc.

Instructional Design: the process of maximizing the effectiveness, appeal and efficiency of instruction and learning experiences.  This process is heavily involved with matching the current state of students and their needs to the goals of their intended instruction.

Information Technology: Known more simply as IT information technology encompasses a large variety of technology related systems and functions.  These range from designing and developing complex databases, applications, computer networks as well as hardware and software design, installation and management.

Social Networking Sites: A website devoted to creating online communities.  Generally you publish a profile that you then share with other people you meet online and or in person.  These sites then allow for various ways for you to communicate to your network of people.  (Popular sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, flickr)

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol): VoIP is a telecommunications technology that replaces the old telephony system of analog switches and electrical devises to a digital protocol in which your voice communications are carried over the Internet instead of the old fashioned phone lines.  VoIP has the ability to not only carry communication between computer-to-computer but can also go from computer-to-phone and vise versa.  In many cases VoIP simply requires a small conversion box that sits between your normal phone and Internet connection.

Web 2.0: A term referencing web development and web-based tools that are interactive, interoperable and are user centric in nature.  (some examples include, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, mashups and folksonomies).

Wiki: A wiki is a user centered website created using a wiki software allowing the easy creation and editing of interlinked webpages.  Wiki’s generally use simplified WYSIWYG editors.  Wiki’s are generally used to create collaborative web pages for individual use, corporate intranets and shared knowledge management.

WYSIWYG: An acronym (pronounced Wiz-ee-wig) for the term What You See Is What You Get, usually describing an html editor known as an WYSIWYG editor in which the user enters plain text and can perform a host of formatting options to the page and text without any knowledge or use of html or any other web programming language.

Historical View of Interest:

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The history of online education, and online learning is rather unique in that it is a continuously changing and rapidly evolving field.  While online learning, or eLearning is relatively new, the concept of distance based education is not, long before the advent and public commoditization of the Internet, people have been engaging in forms of distance based education from sending course material over postal mail, to video conferencing lectures from one location to another.  Not long after the Internet became readily available to large universities and the general public (those who could afford the connections) the use of eLearning and online-based education was put into gear.  The online learning environments in existence today barely resemble the bare, predominantly text only courses of the past.  There have been many developments in the realm of online learning perhaps most notable is the shift from being considered a supplementary educational experience to that of a common cornerstone of today’s higher education, offering an educational experience that is equal if not superior to the traditional face-to-face methods.

Today, there is a general understanding that online learning is no longer an experimental quest in new educational paradigms, but rather a common option for many higher education and k-12 schools.  Online learning or eLearning as it is sometimes referred has been growing rapidly in both popularity and demand for several years.  Many higher educational institutions have been creating new online courses, programs, and entire degrees to meet the needs of students from all ages, locations, and income levels.  According to a 2003 study by the Sloan Consortium over 1.6 million students took an online class in 2002, with over a third of those students reporting that they took all of their classes online (Allen & Seaman, 2003, pp.21-22).  Currently, the evidence of this understanding is even more apparent it would be a difficult task to find any higher educational institution that is not currently offering, or developing online learning opportunities.  In addition to the rise and popularity of online learning, there has been an increase in the acceptance in the quality of education delivered by online courses.  It has recently been shown through research from the Sloan Consortium (Allen & Seaman, 1990, pp.1-24) and the US Department of Education (Means et al, 2009, pp1-53) that online learning is just as effective as traditional face-to-face courses in educating students and in some cases even more so.

Although it is now commonly accepted that online learning is a viable and readily available resource for higher education institutions, this was not always the case.  Online learning and education really started to come into its own during the technological advancement of computer-mediated communication and the Internet in the early 1990’s (Harasim, 2000, p.45).  When online learning first started to gain traction due to the new advancements in web development, multimedia, email, instant messaging it was fast replacing the older traditional models of distance based education such as video correspondences, and email only courses.  During this time online learning was viewed as a new and exciting pedagogical tool, but one that was not well studied or proven effective, so it was viewed as a supplemental educational experience to be offered to non-traditional students.  In the early years of online learning one of the more critical views on the new educational opportunity was that it would not be equitable to in-person courses because an online version would seem “cold” or “inhuman” (Harasim, 2000, p.48).  Even though there was a lot speculation as to the viable use of online learning early on, that view would soon change due to several factors over the next fifteen years or so.

Over the last fifteen years or so there have been many changes and shifts in the general understanding of the use and usefulness of online learning in higher education.  These changes have altered the view of online learning from a less than equal supplemental experience, to an expected opportunity that is highly demanded and created with the same high quality as traditional face-to-face courses.  In the beginning, online learning classes were few and rather far between, only certain departments or colleges had the technical, financial resources and instructor expertise to deliver an online course.  Many of these courses were designed to give students an opportunity to take a course on their own time, rather than a scheduled course that meets in a physical location on a regular time.  This model rapidly evolved with the advent of technology and soon online courses began to appear everywhere, and soon following the wave of online courses were the rise of entire online degrees and accredited universities.  During this time online learning was in a very experimental stage.  One of the challenges that faced the online learning community was that the scholarly research desired to investigate the effectiveness of online learning had a lagging effect due to the time needed to prepare and execute the study and then publish the findings.  This delay in time from study to publication was a key factor in the slowly evolving understanding of online learning, as the publications could not seem to keep pace with the rapid innovations in technology and online learning. Overtime, the focus of the instructional design shifted from a self supported study from home model, to a more immersive and rich learning experience that was not only part of, but crucial to many degree programs.  The ability for institutions to offer online classes increased the flexibility in which students could take classes, and in many cases allowed for new students to participate in these new educational experiences that would not otherwise have the ability due to geographical, personal, or career impediments. With this shift, there has also been a growing number of traditional undergraduate students who elect to take online courses while living on or near campus.

Perhaps one of the most visible changes in online learning is the technology that is used to both develop and deliver eLearning experiences and environments.  In the beginning online education consisted of very basic static web pages with limited use of imagery or audio.  As web technology evolved and became more widely available to the masses, higher quality designs and more rich media began to crop up.  With the advent of Flash new multimedia experiences began to arise and offer for the first time rich media for consumption via the Web.  In addition to new media technology also came the development of learning management systems or LMS’s.  Theses LMS’s allowed for centralized course offerings and hosting.  The deployment of LMS’s offered institutions the ability to offer consistently developed courses that would exist in a familiar environment that were stable and provided both the instructor and student alike with tools for communicating and interacting with each other though a virtual space.  Most recently the biggest advancement in eLearning centers around the development of Web 2.0 a complete paradigm shift that occurred that focused on user centric content development and sharing as opposed to the previous long standing method of singularly developed content created by one consumed by many, instead you had content being created by many and consumed by many.   The use of Web 2.0 tools allowed for many huge advancements in online learning, the users or learners were now easily able to create, share and consume content and learning experiences.  The adoption of Web 2.0 increased the rapid use of new user centric web technologies as blog’s wiki’s and mashups.  These new technologies allowed students to communicate and share in ways that were previously unavailable due to the technical difficulties of facilitating such interactions.


Allen, E., I., Seaman, J. (2003). Sizing the Opportunity: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2002 and 2003.  The Sloan Consortium, 1-24.  Retrieved from http://sloan-c.org

Harasim, L. (2000). Shift happens Online education as a new paradigm in learning.  Internet and Higher Education, (3), 41-61.doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2003.10.071

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., Jones, K. (2009).  Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: AMeta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies.  U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Policy and Program Studies Service, 1-55.  Retrieved from http:// www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/opepd/ppss/reports.html

Contemporary Issues:

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Online learning has a unique quality in that it is such a broad field that encompasses all forms of education.  While I have been focusing my research development portfolio (RDP) on online learning in higher education, online learning is not limited to higher education.  Online learning is represented in k-12 education, government, military, healthcare and corporate enterprises.  One of the biggest issues of practice that is present in online learning is the issue of educational equality across the traditional face-to-face offerings with fully online or blended-mode courses.  In the past it was a rather accepted idea that online courses were inferior to that of fully online classes, or at the very best they were equal.  While this debate is far from over, it is no question that practitioners of online learning are striving to create new learning opportunities to create the best online education possible.  The results of this effort can be seen in the recent US Department of Education report (2009) on the effectiveness of online education.  This meta-analysis discusses the increased role of online education and even supports the position that students can do better in asynchronous courses than synchronous when they have some form of online learning mixed into their education (Means et al, 2009, 52).

Another issue that is present in respect to online learning is the use of technology to meet the pedagogical needs of an online environment.  Fortunately since the dissemination of Web 2.0 tools, it has become much easier to implement web-based tools in online education. An added benefit of using Web 2.0 tools is that the nature of Web 2.0 tools allows for the focus of user centric content.  This is evident in the 2009 article by Lissa Pollacia and Terrie McCallister where they examine the Quality Matters rubric and provide examples of how those rubrics of a “quality” course can be met by the use of specific Web 2.0 tools.  With the rapid pace at which Internet technologies are developed and implemented it is becoming possible to put content online in ways that have been previously challenging due to technical issues.  Now with advent of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wiki’s and social media sites like YouTube and flickr instructors can use these tools to enhance the online learning experience.

Online learning environments are broad in scope, yet rapidly evolving, which allows for great opportunities for new developments.  With this rapid expansion and new development  also comes the inherent possibility that new issues will arise in both practice and policy that affect online learning.


McCallister, T., Pollacia, L. (2009).  Using Web 2.0 Technologies to Meet Quality Matters ™ (QM) Requirements. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 155-165.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., Jones, K. (2009).  Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies.  U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Policy and Program Studies Service, 1-55.  Retrieved from http:// www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/opepd/ppss/reports.html

End of Semester Statement of Interest:

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In the beginning of this semester we were asked to think of a topic to investigate for our semester long research development portfolio (RDP).  Now that the semester has come to an end I can look back and see the journey that my RDP took as I learned more about my research topic and shifted my initial interest to my current area of investigation.  When we first undertook this assignment I knew I wanted to focus on some area of online learning and development.  I selected the topic of quality in online learning that had a broad focus on the comparison of face-to-face courses versus online courses and the ongoing debate of whether online learning was or could be equal or better than the traditional face-to-face methods.  As I started to read articles and papers written on the subject of quality, I found a lot of information about different aspects of online learning related to quality.  One such article entitled Factors Influencing Faculty Satisfaction with Online Teaching and Learning in Higher Education by Bolliger and Wasilik (2009) started to shift my thinking of quality in online learning.  The Bolliger and Wasilik (2009) article got me thinking about the effect of different components of an online course, and how each component had the ability to change the outcome of the course.

While the Bolliger article focused on the instructor or faculty satisfaction, it caused me to start thinking about all of the factors that influence the satisfaction of an online course.  As my thinking about the quality of online learning began to shift, I started thinking about the relationship of the perceived satisfaction of an online course and what implications that has on the quality of a course.  Since “quality” is such a subjective measure, it is difficult to specify what exactly constitutes a quality course.  However, many studies have reviewed what their authors believe as quality courses, and there are many components and items that are shared amongst these “quality” courses, this is supported by Davis and Dykman (2008) in their article on the best practices of online education that leads to quality courses.  This article really influenced another shift in my thinking in regards to quality in online learning.  Their article talked about the fact that there are many aspects of a course that influence the perceived quality, from the student, instructor and institutional perspective.  As I dug deeper into what constitutes a “quality” course, I found that my personal experience in online learning development aligned with the article by Davis and Dykman (2008) in that the perceived satisfaction and subsequent perceived quality of a course is reliant not solely on one or two items, but rather a combination of many factors of the course.  It was after reading this article that I began to think of quality not as a single point of measure, but rather a liquid value that changes and shifts in reaction to the development and execution of course elements.  Elements such as student-to-student communication, student-to-instructor communication, course design, clarity of tasks and assignments, the presence the course has, and the time and effort of the instructor in the development and implementation of the course.  After reading through dozens more articles and papers on related topics, I decided to alter the scope of my RDP and focus more on one particular aspect of quality, the factors that influence the students perception of quality in an online learning environment.

When I began looking at quality courses related to the student perspective, there were still several factors that influence their satisfaction.  After researching more articles and papers I decided to narrow my investigation down to the aspects of a course that contributes to the presence of a course.  While I believe that all the factors that constitute the perceived value of a course are important, I chose to investigate presence because I think this aspect is the most widely interpreted and hardest to actually obtain.  The presence of a course as I state it, is referring to the feeling that the course is “real” that it is not a static cold object that is only there to state assignments and facts, rather, it is a living object that changes as adapts as needed to accommodate the students and instructor to create the most interactive and student centric course possible.

This now brings us to my current statement of interest.  Currently my interest lies in the use of technology to create a sense of presence in online learning environments.  Currently I have been investigating the use of video in online education as a way of increasing the presence of a course.  I think that video can be used in a multitude of ways from instructor lead introductions, feedback, and prompts for discussion.  One interesting issue that has been raised in this area is the appropriate use of technology to achieve the goal of instructors.  McCallister and Pollacia (2009) published an article that compares the Quality Maters rubric of a quality online course and provide examples of how various Web 2.0 technologies could be used to satisfy each category.  While this is helpful at giving instructors ideas to use in their online courses, I feel that there is a rush to force the adoption of new web based tools to the will of academic use.  In many cases the use of such technology can greatly enhance the experience of an online class, but only if used appropriately.  Back when Web 2.0 really started becoming a buzzword, I routinely dealt with faculty that wanted a blog or wiki in their course just because they heard they were cool, and had no pedagogical plan for their use.  I believe that this is an issue with online education and online course development, as new technology comes about I think it is important for faculty and instructional designers to understand the technology first, and then find applicable ways in which it can be deployed in online learning environments appropriately.

Looking forward with my interest of using technology to increase the feeling of presence in online learning environments there is a growing challenge that cannot be ignored.  That challenge is that there is an increasing number of online courses and programs being developed and launched at an alarming rate, in which the quality of said courses might be sacrificed to meet the volume of courses desired.  According to the SLOAN-C report, over 3.9 million students reported taking at least one online class during the 2007 fall semester, a statist showing a nearly thirteen percent increase which far exceeds the 1.2 percent increase in general higher education (Allen and Seaman, 2008, 5).  The fact that more and more online courses are being created to satisfy this growing demand of online students presents a clear challenge to creating quality courses.  In the coming years it will be imperative that faculty and instructional designers alike focus on developing quality courses, and not just crank out generic courses that offer little to enhance the learning of their students.  This of course is challenging since so many institutions seem to be demanding more output with fewer and fewer resources and or expertise to create the courses and programs that are becoming so high in demand.


Allen, I. E., Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008, The Sloan Consortium. (1-25) retrieved from http://www.sloan-c.org.

Bolliger, D. U., Wasilik, O. (2009).  Factors Influencing Faculty Satisfaction with Online Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.  Distance Education, 30, 1, 103-116.

Davis, C. K., Dykman, C. A. (2008).  Online Education Forum – Part Three A Quality Online Educational Experience. Journal of Information Systems Education, 19, 3, 281-289.