Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, Assistant Director, Ecampus Research Unit

Online Learning Efficacy Research Database

Person looking at the research database on a computer screen

Despite the prevalence of online and hybrid or blended courses in higher education, there is still skepticism among faculty and administrators about the effectiveness of online learning compared to traditional classroom learning. While some individuals may have a basic awareness of the published research on online learning, some want to know about the research findings in their own home discipline. The Ecampus Research Unit has developed the Online Learning Efficacy Research Database, a tool to help address these needs and concerns. This searchable database contains research published in academic journals from the past 20 years that compare student outcomes in online, hybrid/blended, and face-to-face courses.

Using the Database

Screenshot of Research Database

The database currently includes 206 research citations across 73 discrete disciplines from 153 different journals. The database allows users to find discipline-specific research that compares two or more modalities (e.g. online versus hybrid). Users can search the database by keyword, discipline, modality, sample size, education level, date range, and journal name. The database also includes the ability to filter results by discipline, modality, sample size, and peer review status.

This new database improves upon other older searchable databases by adding the capability to search by specific disciplines. On a monthly basis, the database is updated with the latest published research. To learn more about scope of the database, sign up for monthly database updates, or to suggest a publication for inclusion in the database, see our FAQ page.

The database is also a valuable tool for those who are interested in or are currently engaging in research on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. It will provide users with an efficient way to find gaps in discipline specific literature and pursue research to fill those gaps.

Term Paper

Those two words can be the cause of stress and anxiety for some but it doesn’t have to be that way. The creation of staged assignments can help!

For students, the looming deadline of a paper near the end of the term can be complicated by poor planning and/or leaving inadequate time to complete the assignment. This procrastination means an assignment gets done all at once and possibly poorly.

For faculty, papers done in a rush at the end not only require attention on a shorter time frame but the quality is often poor and grading can be arduous.

What is “staging”?

5 Steps of a staged Assignment as listed in the article text

Staging is the sequencing assignments and activities to allow ample time to develop ideas and make revisions.

To do this, look at the large assignment in your class. Think about how it could be divided up and assigned throughout the term to allow for greater success (and less procrastination).

You’ll likely find some breaking points that students could do in smaller assessments. This will build in structure that doesn’t allow them to procrastinate as much and give you more opportunities to provide feedback.

How do I stage an assignment?

Let’s take a research term paper and break it down.

The expectation is that the paper has a title, an abstract, the body of the paper with organized content, and references in order to have a complete paper and for it to be free of grammatical errors. How can we stage this assignment?

  • Week 2: Article Abstracts – Find articles that relate to what your project might be, cite, and provide a summary.
  • Week 4: Project Proposal – Based upon your articles and feedback from your instructor, create a proposal
  • Week 6: Outline of Paper including references
  • Week 8: Rough Draft of entire paper to be instructor and peer reviewed
  • End of term: Final paper with revisions based upon peer and instructor feedback.

With this staging, both you and the student will know the paper is on track and will have both have had the time to head off problems before the final submission. It’s a win-win!

 

Read more: Queen’s University: Formative Feedback & Multi-Stage Assignments

Icons made by three from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY
We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve. - Bill Gates
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

In online education courses, providing effective feedback is essential. It’s can be easy to provide students with a number or letter grade on their assignments, but it is the additional feedback where the opportunity for student growth occurs. While there are many forms of effective feedback, there are 5 elements that can help you provide more meaningful and effective feedback regardless of the method of delivery.

  1. Give Timely Feedback
    • Timely feedback to students sends the message that you are engaged in the course and the student’s work. Having just finished an assignment, the student is also going to be more open to the feedback you provide because their work is still fresh in their mind. They have the opportunity to immediately incorporate your feedback into the next assignment, improving their overall performance going forward. Students in a master’s degree program were more likely to ignore feedback comments on their written work that were not provided promptly. (Draft & Lengel, 1986) Including a statement in the syllabus about your expected time of feedback on assignments, and sticking to it, helps students understand your timeline and will reduce questions to you later on.
  2. Start with a positive message
    • Creating a feedback sandwich (compliment, suggestions for correction, compliment) for your student pairs together both specific positive feedback and any elements the students should work on. The positive feedback encourages the student and prepares them with a positive outlook when hearing about areas that need improvement. Finishing again with positive feedback such as “I look forward to seeing your next assignment” tells the student that even though they have corrections to make, their work is still valued and that they can improve on future assignments.
  3. Use Rubrics
    • One of the best tools that can be used are rubrics. A detailed rubric sets clear expectations of the student for that particular assignment. While completing their assignment they can constantly check their work against what you expect to see in their finished work. Another benefit to creating the rubric is that you can use it to analyze their papers with that same criteria. Some instructors have found that by using a rubric, it helps to be more consistent and fair with grading. No matter if it is the first paper, the last paper, or if you might be having a good or bad day, the rubric helps.
  4. Give personal feedback and help the students make the connection between the content and their lives
    • Connection is key. Providing personal feedback to your students while helping them see the connection between the content and their lives will show that you have taken time to personally respond to them instead of using “canned responses.” Students who don’t feel as if the content in the class will ever relate to their lives now, or in their careers later on, will often lose interest in  assignments in general as well as feedback because they don’t see the connection. Getting to know your students at the beginning of the term assists in giving good personal feedback while helping them see the connection between the content and their life.
  5. Consider using alternative formats of feedback
    • Students are used to getting feedback in written form and while that format can be very effective, using an alternative way to provide feedback can be equally or more effective. They enjoy the personal connections that can be created through audio and/or video feedback. Students appreciate receiving specific feedback relating to the grade, rubric, and overall assessment. In fact, some students say that: “..video encouraged more supportive and conversational communication.” (Borup, West, Thomas, 2015) Give it a try!

By employing these strategies, your students will be appreciative of the feedback you provide and you might just get some fantastic feedback yourself. In one case, an instructor shared a great comment from one of their students comparing past courses to the instructor’s:

…I never received personal feedback [in some other courses]. Your course however has been wonderful. Thank you for putting so much time into each of your comments on my writing. I can tell you really made personal feedback a priority. You don’t know how nice it was to really know that my professor is reading my work.” The student goes further to say; “Thank you for taking your teaching seriously and caring about your students. It shows.

Getting personal and effective feedback like this should inspire you to begin or continue that great feedback!

 

References:

Borup, J., West, R.E., Thomas, R. (2015) The impact of text versus video communication on instructor feedback in blended courses Education Tech Research Dev 63:161-184 doi: 10.1004/s11426-015-9367-8

Draft, R.L. & Lengel, R.H. (1986. Organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32(5), 554-571

Getting to know your students

Each term brings upon us an entirely new group of students. Getting to know your students in an online class takes work. An introduction discussion board is used and students are asked to tell us who they are, where they came from, why they are taking this class, and to maybe upload a picture.

Why not take it further? You can bring in critical thinking skills and have the students learn about one another in a different fashion. A class here at Ecampus that has chosen to do just that. ANTH 332: Archeological Inference. came up with a creative way to not only introduce the students to one another but to bring in skills that will be used later in the class.

The exercise goes as follows:

  • Part 1 – gather at least 10 personal possessions that reflects activities, interests, or personal biography. Students are reminded that even the most mundane objects are perfect because it’s those everyday things that archeologists often find. Describe the items in detail and give a context as to where the items are kept. For example, a backpack or a purse with these items in it, and where in it, would work well.
  • Part 2 – students examine the descriptions that others have given and try to come to a reasonable conclusion about their activities and interests, where they might be from, what age they might be, etc. to post as a response.
  • Part 3 – the original poster then gets a chance to “correct” the record and provide additional details if they so desire.

This activity is well received by students, and with an average of 3 significant posts per student in this discussion activity and is deemed a success.

Many thanks to Jeremias Pink and Brenda Kellar for their inspiring discussion activity!

You send out announcements but do your students actually get them? You might wonder if you are doing something incorrectly or if they just aren’t reading them, but, you’ll be interested to know that Canvas allows notification preferences to be modified by the individual user.

Notification preferance list in Canvas
Click to enlarge

Each user has the ability to alter their notifications from Canvas and choose how, when, and with what frequency they want to be notified of several different activities. They even have the option to receive the notifications via text or a different email address that they might check more frequently! What these individual settings mean is that if they select that they don’t want any notifications at all, they aren’t getting news of announcement postings, posted grades, due date reminders, or discussion board posts.

In order to encourage your students to receive notifications, you might think about sending a start of term email with an example of the notification preferences you would suggest based upon your class and explain to them why these specific notifications will help them as the term goes on. In that same email, you can also direct them to the Canvas Guides with step-by-step instructions on how to set up notifications in Canvas You send out announcements but do your students actually get them? You might wonder if you are doing something incorrectly or if they just aren’t reading them, but, you’ll be interested to know that Canvas allows notification preferences to be modified by the individual user.

Each user has the ability to alter their notifications from Canvas and choose how, when, and with what frequency they want to be notified of several different activities. They even have the option to receive the notifications via text or a different email address that they might check more frequently! What these individual settings mean is that if they select that they don’t want any notifications at all, they aren’t getting news of announcement postings, posted grades, due date reminders, or discussion board posts.

In order to encourage your students to receive notifications, you might think about sending a start of term email with an example of the notification preferences you would suggest based upon your class and explain to them why these specific notifications will help them as the term goes on. In that same email, you can also direct them to the Canvas Guides with step-by-step instructions on how to set up notifications in Canvas

How can we encourage online students to engage with the world? A few Ecampus instructors have found a great way to get their students to go out in their communities, observe, and report back information to the class. How? Field notes. 

What is a field note?  Field notes can contain a variety of information but typically field notes are written out in the field or immediately after stopping the experience.  They contain detailed observations including the dates, times, sights, sounds, smells, weather conditions, who was with you, feelings, drawings, questions that have risen from the experience as well as any other observations.

How did they do it? Lets dive into two different class examples.

Bruce Shindler, a forestry professor here at Oregon State University teaches a course about Managing at the Wildlife-Urban Interface.  Students watch videos from the field and take notes on what they see/hear and begin to answer questions about what they would do, what they think should be done, and what is currently done to manage the Wildlife-Urban Interface.  These experiences are done online, but the field notes from the videos are a great way to have students pay a great deal of attention to the video rather than only listening.

Stephanie Jenkins, a philosophy professor here at Oregon State University teaches a course that requires students to experience a Phish concert either in person or via a live webcast.  Students are required to take field notes for the concerts either while watching online or immediately after a live, in person concert.  Data can include any of the above mentioned items and students are then asked to identify a theme, idea, event, or improvisation that they saw in the concert and found interesting and use that in a written response.  In that response, they are to incorporate the readings from the class and the field notes from their experience.

As you can see, these are two different classes in two different fields that both used the concept of field notes in their courses.  You too can choose the idea of field notes and bring it into your course.  A little bit of innovation and the willingness to try something new is all it takes.

Enjoy and have fun!

You can create an easy study tool that students can take with them on their smartphones, use on the computer, and easily engage with as they study for your class.

Cram is a free flash card creation tool that allows instructors and students to develop a study tool for their students.  You can create study aids without an account .  Cards can be shared publicly or be made available only to those who have a link.  Instructors and students can create these study aids.  Imagine creating a short tool for students and then creating an assignment in which they create flashcards for the entire class to use!

Cool features:cram logo

  • Import information from Google Docs
  • Copy and paste from Microsoft Word
  • Create study aids in a vast number of different languages
  • Create 3-sided cards
  • Add images

As students study with the cards, they have three options to work with:

  1. Study like a regular set of cards
  2. Self-test, telling the program if they got it right or not to keep score and to allow them to review in the next round only the cards they got wrong
  3. Test themselves using a one of 4 testing options. (Matching, Written, Multiple Choice, and True/False)

See a six-card sample to try it for yourself!

Do you find yourself typing the same thing over and over?


Do those fingers and wrists hurt after typing the same comment on every student paper?


I’ve got a solution for you!  It doesn’t matter if you are a Mac or a PC, you can find a program to create shorter statements for you to type and have your computer input the entire comment for you.

aText logo
aText logo

For Mac users, aText ($5 after free trial) allows you to create a typed code of your choice in order to input a longer statement.  For example, you choose to type “zzchoice” and the program would put in “I like your choice of voice here.  I can hear that you have thought about the content and used the knowledge in order to form your response.”  This allows you to give expanded feedback to students in their papers without typing that same statement 30 times.  This program runs in all applications as well, making email responses quick as lightning too!

Just think of the possibilities for the time you can save with a text expander program!


Text expansion demo:  http://screencast.com/t/vaEiu5q7kEi

aText:  http://www.trankynam.com/atext/

For PC users, please see this previous post:

http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/inspire/2011/07/21/shortkeys/