Key Research Questions and Variables Generated at Summit

By: National DETA Research Center | February 27, 2015

During our collaboration sessions at the DETA Summit, we posed two questions:

(1) What are the Research Questions that will assist us in identifying key factors impacting desired outcomes to best enhance the understanding of distance education across institutions and populations?

(2) What Variables should be included in the framework of inquiry to help us answer these questions surrounding distance education and technological advancements?

Based on our discussions, the following are the research questions and variables the key stakeholders came up with.  Part of the exercise was to have everyone vote for their top 10 research questions and variables.  The “No. Votes” column indicates how many votes each research question and variable received.

Table Name Research Questions No. Votes
Rochambo What characteristics are most critical for “good” online instruction? 1
What are the different design components (content, interactivity, assessments) that impact student learning? 29
What support structures are critical to providing quality access to online instruction? 22
What are the students’ user experiences in their online course? 3
Three Lions What variables are institutions looking at and using to define student success? 18
Who is looking at institutional success data? 2
What methods/measurements are being utilized at our institutions to assess student success? (e.g. PAR, NSSE, etc.) 3
What data is accessible at your institution? 2
What are the small number of definable, measurable characteristics that make research rich for student success in distance education? 8
What is the currency of student learning and success? Time? Demonstration of Skills/Knowledge? 14
Comet Look at bridging the pre-college and college. Students’ expectations of college: Do they align with institutions expectations? 12
Influence on student readiness and providing support? 1
How can we build on existing knowledge looking at desired outcomes? 0
Can we benchmark at state (larger-level?) looking at systematic differences in online and in-person students? 7
Lakefront What is the currency of student learning beyond the existing credit hours? 22
How can policy and research be linked? 3
How can tech-based assessment truly assess learning and skills? 5
How can open educational resources lead to affordability and accessibility? 7
How can we develop student-driven metrics of success? 18
Hollander What are the key components that promote a sustainable and an effective teaching and learning ecosystem? 21
What differences are there between subgroups of online learners? Including PIRS 17
What are the institutional drivers? 4
What types of faculty preparedness lead to positive student outcomes? 14
Benelux How can we define and measure student success beyond traditional outcomes? 25
What was good about the old academy, and what is good in this new digital environment? 7
How can we democratize and increase access to digital higher education? 8
How can we re-design the professoriate/academic career? 1
Wicked Hop What are the definitions of success from students’ perspective? 33
What are the definitions of success for programs/university/faculty? 3
What are the variables that will impact the definition of success? 10
Safe House What are the social and institutional support factors across student segments? 11
What is the impact of different practices on institutional outcomes looking downstream (post-course, post-program)? 6
How can student voice/perspective impact effective design? 4
What patterns of behaviors lead to increased student learning for different population? 26
Table Name Main Variables Sub-category Variables Number of Votes
Comet Student Variables 19
student preparedness
student disability
student demographics
“see PAR dataset” 4
course information
Faculty Variables 19
faculty support (institutional policy for online learning)
learning design (previous framework?) 2
Institutional Variables 19
part/full time
developmental placement rates
math remidiation rates
strategic planning
entrance criteria
Safe House flexibility of instructional activities 1
Instructor Variables 2
Student Outcomes (beyond grades) 18
Student Purpose or Intention 20
Measuring student-centered or active learning 8
Full “DETA” Fields and Minimum “DETA” fields 1
Benelux Cognitive 3
Affective 2
Behavioral 3
problem solving
media literacy
critical thinking 5
collaborative thinking 2
information fluency 1
curiousity 4
creative thinking 2
Wicked Hop Variable associated with student success as defined by students 23
Course Effectiveness Variables 0
Course Modality Definition (are these standardized across institutions?) 16
fully online vs. blended vs. flipped
Qualitative projects to better surface appropriate variables related to student success 7
Rochambo Programatic 7
CBE vs traditional
program path (fixed v. multiple)
data driven guidance on courses (recommend, “you also might like”)
Course Level 11
types of content
types of interactivity
frequency/rigor of assessments
variety of communication channels
personalized path
Hollander Communication 5
quality of instructional process
Insitutional Level – sustainability strategy? 11
financial resources
institutional support
revenue plan
communication plan
Course Level 8
differences by discipline
pedogogically-driven approach
online lab courses
Student At-Risk Characteristics in post-secondary institutional sysrating tem (PIR) 8
percent on Pell
family income
labor-market success
Learner & Institutional Success 10
time to degree
demonstrated competency
skill development
Learner & Institutional Motivation for Online Learning 7
Lakefront Student Goals & Achievement 1
intent on enrollment
perceptions of degree
Learner Characteristics 9
learning sequencing
Course Content 11
assessments (competencies; measures of critical thinking)
institution type
frequency & immediacy of instructor response
spectrum of interactivity
Meeting Learned Goals 11
civic engagement
learner goals
Three Lions access to student support & use 0
Data Points for Student Success 1
who sees this?
what do you know?
learner readiness, orientation, preparation 1
Existing Framework 21
learning design (e.g. PAR, QM)
student success (e.g. DQP)
online consortium score card (Sloan-C)
Current Data Sources 4
Stakeholders for Online Learning 2
profession associations 1
organizations that guide online learning
Program-level Curriculum Design 1
Partnerships Between Academic & Student Affairs 0
student information system data 1
learning management system data 3

Citation: National DETA Research Center, February 9, 2015, “Key Research Questions”, Retrieved from: