Evidence-based practice increases success
in online education
January issue of Sloan Consortium’s Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks features findings contributed by faculty researchers at six top institutions and solutions from Sloan-C’s collection of effective practices.
As online education becomes pervasive, emerging research guides rapidly developing practice in online teaching and learning. The new issue of the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Volume 16.1, focuses on factors that increase student and faculty success online. Contributors to the issue include faculty researchers from Cabrini College, Drexel University, the Pennsylvania State University, Rowan University, Texas Tech University, the University of Memphis and hundreds of institutions who have contributed to the Sloan Consortium’s collection of effective practices.
Positive perceptions of learning online are essential to student success, thus researchers seek evidence for practices that enhance perceptions. Katrina Meyers and Stephanie Jones examine student perspectives in "Graduate Students Rate Institutional Websites: The Must Have, Nice to Have, and Delighted to Have Services." In this study, students reveal what services they really want and use; what they want is not always what websites typically provide. "Thought-leaders in Asynchronous Learning Environments," by Jim Waters, details the factors that affect how students view each other and themselves as leaders, via analysis of their contributions to online discussions. His insights explain how thought-leaders influence classmates and guide continuous course improvement. Instructors also can motivate more proactive learning, according to Scott Warnock, Kenneth Bingham, Dan Driscoll, Jennifer Fromal, and Nicholas Rouse; “Early Participation in Asynchronous Writing Environments and Course Success,” shows that posting early in an online course is a “key behavior that allows students to be more engaged in the course material with a concomitant rise in their performance.” "Reading Between the Lines of Online Course Evaluations: Predictable Actions that Improve Student Perceptions of Teaching Effectiveness and Course Value," by Stephanie Jones, identifies specific factors that improve student perceptions of teaching effectiveness and value.
Evidence-based practice is also evolving for faculty and for institutions. Authors Paula Mae Bigatel, Lawrence C. Ragan, Shannon Kennan, Janet May, and Brian F. Redmond present phase one of a multi-phase research project: "The Identification of Competencies for Online Teaching Success" compares and evaluates factors for effective faculty professional development. In a large scale study with data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey, “Enrollment in Distance Education Classes in 2008 is Associated with Fewer Enrollment Gaps Among Independent Undergraduate Students in the US," Manuel Cosmas Pontes and Nancy Marie Hurley Pontes confirm that “enrollment in distance education classes in 2008 is significantly related to a decreased likelihood of an enrollment gap among independent students but not among dependent students.” Institutions can do more to help the growing population of independent students succeed when they acknowledge the time- and place-restrictions that lead students to choose online education. Janet C. Moore's "Synthesis of Sloan-C Effective Practices" provides solutions contributed by hundreds of institutions that are advancing education. The synthesis links directly to replicable practices that are based on Sloan-C's Five Pillars of Quality: learning effectiveness, scale, access, faculty satisfaction, and student satisfaction
Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN), published by the Sloan Consortium, is a major source of knowledge about online education. The aim of the JALN is to describe original work in asynchronous learning networks (ALN), including experimental results. It is available online and in print. For more information, visit http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/jaln_main.
The Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C) is an institutional and professional leadership organization dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education, helping institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of education. For more information, visit www.sloanconsortium.org.