DEHub/Research Themes/Research methods in distance education and knowledge transfer

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Research themes
1. Theories and models
2. Globalisation of education and cross-cultural aspects
3. Access, equity, social inclusion and ethics
4. Professional Development & Faculty Support
5. Learner support and development approaches
6. Curriculum design
7. Interaction and communication in learning communities
8. Distance teaching systems and institutions)
9. Research methods in distance education and knowledge transfer
10. Quality assurance
11. Innovation and change
12. Costs and benefits
13. Management and organization
14. Educational technology
15. Learner characteristics
16. Open Education Resources (OERs)

Research methods in distance education and knowledge transfer

This research area covers methodological considerations and their impact on distance education research and writing. The role of the academy and professional associations in improving practice will be investigated. Literature reviews and works of history about distance education are incorporated in this topic.

Guiding question

What are the key research priorities for distance learning and what existing and emerging methodologies can best support research in these areas? Undertake a large scale distance education review of the research trends, methods, authorship and identification of gaps in methodology.

Research Questions

  • What is the impact of DE research and scholarship on practice and the role of professional associations in improving practice?
  • How does business / industry perceive the importance of a degree? Is it important to have a general or a specialist degree? Is this discipline specific?
  • What research methodologies are appropriate for distance learning investigations

Highly Recommended Priority Links

International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning

Journals for Computer-Mediated Learning: Publications of Value for the Online Educator, by Matt Elbeck and B. Jean Mandernach, Volume 10, Number 3, 2009.
The purpose of this study is to determine a comprehensive listing and relative value ranking of scholarly journals whose content informs online educators and motivates scholarship. After defining the scope of investigation to target peer-reviewed, scholarly journals with an explicit focus on computer-mediated learning (e.g., virtual, electronic, distance, distributive, mobile, and blended learning), 46 scholarly journals were identified as advancing the knowledge base in computer-mediated learning.

Australasian Journal of Educational Technology

Using activity theory and its principle of contradictions to guide research in educational technology, 2008, 24(4), 442-457. Quoting from the abstract:

This paper describes how activity theory (AT) and its principle of contradictions may be relied on to guide research in educational technology. The paper begins with a theoretical overview of AT and of its principle of contradictions. It follows with a synthesis of studies that have used AT as a lens to study information and communication technologies (ICTs) in educational contexts. We analyse educational technology studies that have focused on contradictions in terms of their underlying assumptions, research questions, approaches to analysis, findings, and implications. The lens of AT and contradictions provides a versatile tool to inquire into various aspects of educational technology use, taking into account individual and institutional perspectives as well as evolution over time. AT and its principle of contradictions provide insights into how transformation may occur with use of ICTs in educational contexts.

Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology

Editorial: Special Issue on e-Learning in Canada, Volume 32(3) Fall / automne 2006. Quoting from the editors Introduction:

The review presents findings from an up-to-date, comprehensive examination of e-learning with a special emphasis on Canadian research. Over 700 documents, from research articles to public policy documents to popular public media, are included in this comprehensive and current review of e-Learning in Canada. The review provides a foundation for a debate that includes commentary from four top Canadian researchers, Terry Anderson, Margaret Haughey, Heather Kanuka and Rick Schwier. Implications for K-12, Post-secondary and Policy makers are discussed. While definitive answers about ELearning still remain just out of reach, several key questions provoke extensive discussion in this issue, and also provide a good roadmap for ongoing research in the field.

Digital Curation Centre (DCC)

Curation of Research Data This site provides 7 case studies on the curation processes for research data. The case studies cover the dicipline areas of:

  • Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Social Studies
  • Life Sciences
  • Home to Health Centre
  • Atmospheric Sciences
  • Psychiatric Research

AU Press

Current State of Mobile Learning, 2007 by John Traxler. Originally published in the International Review on Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL) 8, no 2.In exploring mobile learning John Traxler examines the state of evaluation of mobile learning and argues that:
There is a need for a more comprehensive, eclectic, and structured approach to evaluation based on sound and transparent principles. The section briefl y elucidates these principles and shows how they can be used to underpin evaluation methodologies appropriate to mobile education.
This chaper is from the book Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training, 2009 by Mohamed Ally. There are 13 chapters grouped under the following Parts:
  • PART ONE: Advances in Mobile Learning
  • PART TWO: Research on Mobile Learning
  • PART THREE: Applications of Mobile Learning

Australasian Journal of Educational Technology

A review of research methodologies used in studies on mobile handheld devices in K-12 and higher education settings, 2009, 25(2), 153-183 by Wing Sum Cheung and Khe Foon Hew. Quoting from the Abstract:
In this paper, we undertook a review of empirical based articles to summarise the current research regarding the use of mobile handheld devices (personal digital assistants/PDAs, palmtops, and mobile phones) in K-12 and higher education settings. This review was guided by the following four questions: (a) How are mobile handheld devices such as PDAs, palmtops, and mobile phones used by students and teachers? (b) What types of research methods have been applied using such devices? (c) What data collection methods are used in the research? and (d) What research topics have been conducted on these handheld devices in education settings, as well as their related findings? We summarise and discuss some major findings from the research, as well as several limitations of previous empirical studies. We conclude by providing some recommendations for future research related to mobile handheld devices in education settings.

Centre for Higher Education Research and Information (CHERI)

Reconnecting the research-policy-practice nexus in higher education: ‘Evidence-based policy’ in practice in national and international contexts, in Higher Education Policy, 22(2), pp. 119–140 2009 by William Locke.
It is often claimed that research on higher education has had little or no impact on HE policy-making, which is regarded as being largely driven by political ideology and the media and reinforced by little more than management consultancy. Recent higher education policy, it has been argued, is 'a research-free zone' or at best 'policy based evidence'. Yet, 'evidence-based policy' remains a key term in government rhetoric, and education ministries and higher education policy bodies continue to commission research of various kinds. This paper argues that dichotomous approaches to the research–policy–practice nexus may have adopted an unnecessarily restrictive conception of 'research' and an idealized view of policy-making and implementation as a rational and linear process. It argues that new approaches to building relations between the three domains are needed if the various communities are to develop a forward-looking perspective on the needs for research on higher education in the next 10–20 years.

The full text is available by requested to the author. There is a designated request button on the site.


Meta-Analysis: The preferred method of choice for the assessment of distance learning quality factors, Vol 9, No 3 (2008) by Mickey Shachar.
Current comparative research literature, although abundant in scope, is inconclusive in its findings, as to the quality and effectiveness of distance education versus face-to-face methods of delivery. Educational research produces contradictory results due to differences among studies in treatments, settings, measurement instruments, and research methods. The purpose of this paper is to advocate the use of a meta-analytic approach by researchers, in which they synthesize the singular results of these comparative studies, by introducing the reader to the concept, procedures, and issues underlying this method.


The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 . This study: a longitudinal extension of the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 studies. It is based on quantitative data from a spring 2009 survey of 30,616 freshmen and seniors at 103 four-year institutions and students at 12 two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 62 students at 4 institutions; and review of qualitative data from written responses to open-ended questions. In addition to studying student ownership, experience, behaviors, preferences, and skills with respect to information technologies, the 2009 study also includes a special focus on student ownership and use of Internet-capable handheld devices.

Enhancing Student Learning in a Graduate Research and Statistics Course with Clickers, EDUCAUSE Quarterly Magazine, Volume 32, Number 4, 2009 by Lydia Kyei-Blankson. This is:

A quasi-experimental study investigated the influence on student engagement and performance, as well as student perceptions, of using clickers as an educational tool in a graduate-level research and statistics course.

US Department of Education

Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, 2009.

A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning. Analysts screened these studies to find those that (a) contrasted an online to a face-to-face condition, (b) measured student learning outcomes, (c) used a rigorous research design, and (d) provided adequate information to calculate an effect size. As a result of this screening, 51 independent effects were identified that could be subjected to meta-analysis. The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.

Other sites to explore


World Wide Web of Humanities This project established a framework for e‐Humanities (also called digital humanities) research using available open source tools and technologies and archived web content. The project created novel research interfaces to the first of many scholarly e‐Humanities web collections.

Study of effective evaluation models & practices for technology supported physical learning spaces.
In summary, the study identified a need for the educational sector as a whole to reconsider how to evaluate physical learning spaces, so as to more clearly assess how they satisfy design intentions and teaching and learning needs. As a step towards addressing this issue, we have proposed a conceptual Framework for Evaluating Learning Spaces (FELS).
Page 19 of the report describes the FELS framework.

Thomas C. Reeves

Chapter 10 Established and Emerging Evaluation Paradigms for Instructional Design This chapter by Thomas C. Reeves puts the case for a "mixed methods" paradigm for evaluation in education. The chapter outline the three major paradigms:

  • the empirical-analytic;
  • the hermeneutic;
  • the critical theory or praxis

and the mixed-methods paradigm, which seeks to integrate selected aaspects of the other three inquiry paradigms.

The chapter comes from the 1997 text Instructional design paradigms by Charles R. Dills and Alexander J. Romiszowski, editors.

Research in Distance Education (RIDE)

Chapter 12 Research issues arising from doctoral education at a distance, 2004 by Terry Evans, Christopher Hickey & Heather Davis. This chapter is from the RIDE 2004 conference publication. The authors examine the historical state of doctoral studies by distance education across the word with particular focus on Australia.

First Monday

Signs of epistemic disruption: Transformations in the knowledge system of the academic journal, Volume 14, Number 4 - 6 April 2009 by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis.

This article is an overview of the current state of scholarly journals, not (just) as an activity to be described in terms of its changing processes, but more fundamentally as a pivot point in a broader knowledge system.

Journal of the Association for Institutional Research

A Note on the Calculation and Interpretation of the Delta-p Statistic for Categorical Independent Variables, April 2009 by Ty M. Cruce. Quoting from the Abstract:

This methodological note illustrates how a commonly used calculation of the Delta-p statistic is inappropriate for categorical independent variables, and this note provides users of logistic regression with a revised calculation of the Delta-p statistic that is more meaningful when studying the differences in the predicted probability of an outcome between two or more groups.

Bringing the Classroom to the Web: Effects of Using New Technologies to Capture and Deliver Lectures, January 2009 by Eric L. Dey1 , Helen E. Burn and David Gerdes. This paper investigates the application of of cognitive theory from the field of multimedia learning to research on web-based education. The paper oulines the conceptual framework, methods, data quality, the limitations, results, Importance of Professor’s Image, Analysis of Transfer and Retention Questions, Regression Results and discussion.

This study is an initial exploration of applying Mayer’s (2001) design principles to a more authentic setting and one that closely aligns with typical practice within postsecondary settings. Without a control group for presentation mode (e.g., before and after enhancement of the presentation using Mayer’s principles), these results are at most suggestive that Mayer’s design principles may be useful in the creation of high quality multimedia presentations.


More related sites can be found at the DE Hub Delicious site.