Saturday, 20 May 2017

A Research Agenda for Online & Blended Learning

With Communities of Online Learning coming closer on the horizon NOW is a good time to determine a research agenda that will inform regulations for CoOLs and best practice for online learning in NZ. There is a body of local research I have written about previously here, and some of this research goes back two decades and is still relevant today. A thorough literature review and scope of the current educational landscape would help identify gaps and needs and raise key research questions.

I recently read an excellent paper by Cathy Cavanaugh that provides a good insight into how research for online & blended learning should be undertaken.
"To truly understand K-12 online and blended learning research, you have to dig deeper
into the components that make up K-12 online and blended learning. In other words, there are so many variations in design, instruction, facilitation, purpose, and content, no single study will answer everything we need to know about K-12 online learning. It is more important to explore the components and the research surrounding those components.
In addition to digging deeper, there are at least five key areas that any K-12 online and
blended learning educator should consider. They include:1) asking the right question; 2) answering the critics; 3) appreciating the complexity; 4) understanding resources; and 5) exploring current research."
The right question is NOT Is face to face learning or online learning better? The answer to this is "K-12 online and blended education is as good as, and is sometimes better and sometimes worse
than face-to-face education." It doesn't really tell us anything. We need to finding out under what conditions does online and blended learning work well.
Cathy gives some examples of findings such as - we know that successful online students are self-directed and motivated; Colleges of Ed are not preparing teachers to teach online; successful programmes not only train their teachers to teach online, they also train their students to learn online; high quality programmes push the boundaries and are underpinned by good data.

Learning Spanish online - VLN Primary School 
Answering the Critics - this resonates with me because of the huge criticism of online learning that resounded when CoOLs was announced, from people who had no knowledge of this area of education. These critics don't understand that online learning "is a multi-faceted process that involves such things as high quality and interactive content, teachers with strong and specific pedagogical skills, training for parents and students, and strong mentoring and scaffolding opportunities."
Instead they "see online and blended education as replacing all teachers with machines or they picture a student sitting alone watching videos for 8 hours a day. As a matter of fact, one of the most raised concerns, particularly related to online education, is that online students get no social interaction. Many of these ‘critics’ do not realize that online students often spend more time interacting with their peers and teachers than face-to-face students do. They don’t understand that online classes often require students to leave the computer to exercise (i.e., PE class), to go visit a pond (i.e., science experiment), or to go to a museum (i.e., history or social studies)."

Make sure you read the whole paper here.

I am really looking forward to being part of the development of Communities of Online Learning  and ensuring we have high quality online learning opportunities for our children.
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