Cross-institutional studies in distance education

DETA is currently conducting cross-institutional data collection with 2-year and 4-year Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) with the goal of fostering student access and success through evidence-based distance education learning practices and technologies, including competency-based education. Specifically, DETA is working to identify and evaluate effective instructional and institutional practices for underrepresented students.  The three primary goals are: 1) understand distance education outcomes; 2) identify practices that can potentially impact those outcomes; and 3) conduct rigorous, interdisciplinary, and standardized research to identify significant influences on student success.

Studies on blended and online learning

To address the DETA Research Questions as determined by the DETA National Summit held at the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting in 2015 in Anaheim, CA, DETA is conducting the following cross-institutional studies on blended and online learning.  We look to determine:

What are the different design components (content, interactivity, assessments) that impact student learning?

What patterns of behaviors lead to increased student learning for different populations?

These studies examine variables or factors that may increase student success in institutions of higher education, in particular for underrepresented students.  Student success in this study is indicated grade in a course and course completion. Moreover, they examine students’ perceptions of learning, performance, and satisfaction.  These measures are determined through survey and institutionally warehouse student data.  By identifying these factors, we can guide instructional and institutional practices on our campuses.

Study 1: Cross-institutional analysis of the relationship between instructional characteristics and student success among underrepresented students in blended and online courses.

This study examines course level variables (input) that may impact student success (output) in institutions of higher education, in particular for underrepresented students.  Specifically, the study examines the structure of a course and the influence on student outcomes.

This study examines whether certain instructional characteristics will be related to student success.  We hypothesize that instructional characteristics, referred to as quality in instructional design and delivery, of a distance education course will significantly influence student success.  Instructional characteristics include student perceptions of learner support, design and organization, content design and delivery, interactivity, and assessment and evaluation.  Therefore, the design of distance education courses or characteristics of the instruction of a course will improve student outcomes.  By understanding this relationship, we can better design courses for student success.

STUDY ONE   ||   Which design components (learner support, content, interactivity, assessment and evaluation) typically used by online course quality rubrics and as reported by students increase student success?

H1: Student success (grade in a course, course completion, and students’ perceptions of learning, performance, and satisfaction) will be increased by students’ perceptions of the instructional characteristics, typically referred to as instructional design and delivery, of a distance education course (student perceptions of learner support, content, interactivity, and assessment and evaluation).

Study 2: Cross-institutional analysis of the relationship between learner characteristics and student success among underrepresented students in blended and online courses.

This study examines student or learner level variables (input) that may influence student success (outcome) in institutions of higher education, in particular for underrepresented students.  The study predicts that certain student or learner characteristics will significantly affect student success.  Learner or student characteristics that may influence student success from the literature include perceptions of readiness and preparedness. Specifically, the study examines experience in distance education, access to technology and environment, online skill proficiency, technology familiarity, organization, online learning efficacy, self-directedness, experimentation and growth, achievement, and socialization.  Learners have certain characteristics that are likely to influence their outcomes in the course.  The findings will assist in providing instructional and institutional services and support to better preparing students to be ready to succeed in distance education courses.

STUDY TWO   ||   Which learner characteristics (preparedness and readiness) can increase student success in an online course?  Which learner characteristics of underrepresented student populations can increase success in an online course?

H2: Student success (grade in a course, course completion, and students’ perceptions of learning, performance, and satisfaction) will be increased by a student’s characteristics, specifically readiness and preparedness (experience in distance education, access to technology and environment, online skill proficiency, technology familiarity, organization, online learning efficacy, self-directedness, experimentation and growth, achievement, and socialization).

Study 3: Cross-institutional analysis of the relationship between student perceptions of social and academic interactions and student success for underrepresented students.

This study predicts that student perceptions of social and academic interactions will increase student success.  Social and academic interactions are often referred to in the literature as course activity challenge, interactivity, active learning, social presence, learning community, and engagement.  Through our exploratory research early in 2016, we have developed a new instrument that measures students’ perception of these social and academic interactions.  These interactions have shown to positively influence student success.  As we continue the research, this study predicts that students’ perceptions of social and academic interactions will significantly predict student outcomes.

STUDY THREE    ||   Which social and academic interactions can increase student success in an online course?  Which social and academic interactions of underrepresented student populations can increase success in an online course?

H3: Student success (grade in a course, course completion, and students’ perceptions of learning, performance, and satisfaction) will be increased by a student’s perception of social interaction and academic challenge in the classroom, specifically course activity challenge, interactivity, communication, media richness, social presence, learning community, and engagement, in an online course.

 

Studies on competency-based education

Competency-based Education (CBE) Study 1

Relationship between perceptions of support provided by coaches and student success in competency-based education programs: A cross-institutional study conducted by the National Research Center on Distance Education and Technological Advancements

The present study will investigate the relationship between student perceptions of the support they receive from coaches and student success in CBE. Specifically, we will examine three types of support that many coaches provide to their students: support for academic planning, the learning process, and accessing institutional resources. Each of these areas will be briefly described below.

Support for academic planning typically consists of creating and monitoring an academic plan that takes into consideration a student’s time and availability, place or physical location, and skills and motivations for studying. With respect to supporting the learning process, coaches may provide assistance with accessing course content, comprehending the material, completing assessments, and interpreting assessment feedback. Coaches may also support students by offering guidance with identifying and accessing various institutional resources (e.g., technical support, library, and career services).

In this study, student success will be indicated by students’ perceptions of learning, performance, and satisfaction. Also, student success will include documented academic performance measures and will include a number of measures, such as grades, level of mastery, progress or percentage of mastery, and/or completion. The conclusive list of measures for academic performance will be determined after the cross-institutional partners are identified.

RQ1: What is the relationship between student success and CBE students’ perceptions of the support provided by coaches for academic planning, the learning process, and accessing institutional services?

Competency-based Education (CBE) Study 2:

Relationship between instructional characteristics and student success in competency-based education programs: A cross-institutional study conducted by the National Research Center on Distance Education and Technological Advancements

CBE Study 2 aligns with Online and Blended Study 1 (see above).  This study specifically examines the relationship between student perceptions of instructional characteristics of a course, course equivalent, or competency set and student success in CBE. These instructional characteristics are related to instructional and course design and include student perceptions of learner support, course design and organization, content design and delivery, course interactivity, and assessment and evaluation design. In this study, student success is indicated by different performance measures, such as grades, level of mastery, progress or percentage of mastery, and/or completion at the level of course, course-equivalency, or competency set. The exact measures for performance will be determined once the cross-institutional partners are identified. Also, additional success measures will include the students’ perceptions of learning, performance, and satisfaction. These measures are determined from student survey responses and institutionally warehoused student data.

RQ1: What is the relationship between student perceptions of instructional characteristics in the areas of learner support, course design and organization, content design and delivery, course interactivity, and assessment and evaluation and student success in competency-based education?

For CBE Study 1 and 2, The DETA Research Center is looking to identify data collection sites or CBE programs that have students enrolled and progressing to participate in the survey studies.

Competency-based Education (CBE) Study 3

Who are academic coaches? A qualitative exploration of the professional profiles and practices of academic coaches in competency-based education conducted by the National Research Center on Distance Education and Technological Advancements

This study specifically examines the professional profiles and practices of coaches, academic coaches, academic success coaches, other similar support staff, in competency-based education utilizing qualitative methodology.

Who are academic coaches? What practices do academic coaches engage in to encourage student success? What is student success?

The DETA Research Center is looking to identify participants who will be coaches working in a competency-based education program in the fall of 2016.

An interview schedule has been developed that can be delivered to the academic coach via a survey tool, telephone interview, or f2f interview.