Misunderstanding online education at Virginia Tech (letter)

Kenneth Palmer

To the Editor:

Actions of top quality in on the net education and learning have been developed by way of a long time of exploration in the field of instructional layout and technological innovation (IDT), informing most effective tactics in the style, development,
implementation and evaluation of present-day on-line programs and applications. Your latest report, “Online Classes Surge at Virginia Tech. But What About Outcomes?” by Susan D’Agostino, calls into question the excellent of the on the web programs featured in the piece.

Regretably, this post consists of notable misconceptions about online training in common as nicely as misunderstandings about strategies for measuring the effectiveness of these courses. It is hoped that the
chance to highlight these challenges and share applicable, evidence-based resources from the IDT knowledge base may notify upcoming publications which feature the matter of quality in on the net education.

First, the author labels the courses highlighted in this article “massive on the net courses,” conflating them with Massive On the internet Open up Programs (MOOCs). MOOCs are absolutely free or reduced-value studying alternatives available to
anyone and are rather distinct than the courses showcased in this article—large enrollment undergraduate courses for household pupils. This distinction is an vital 1. The students are unique, the designs of the discovering encounters are different, and, therefore, the actions of quality are essentially unique. 

Yet another crucial misunderstanding in this short article relates to a recommendation that VT should really identify the effectiveness of the featured online classes by evaluating pupil discovering outcomes in individuals lessons to their on-campus counterparts. This proposed observe fails to take into account decades of analysis that explicates why this sort of comparisons are not valid or meaningful. A wide variety of factors exist for staying away from the use of such comparisons. One fundamental problem is that this tactic presumes the experience-to-encounter classroom to be the gold standard against which good quality is calculated. These comparisons area credit history (or blame) for student accomplishment on the bodily learning ecosystem devoid of contemplating the a lot of variables that do impression scholar mastering, particularly the chosen training strategy and its alignment with targeted studying results.

As this kind of, the educational approach and the shipping and delivery manner are confounded, ensuing in outcomes that are meaningless. Media comparison scientific studies such as individuals proposed in the article are not handy sources of data about the effectiveness of any kind of instruction. 

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A further crucial oversight in the short article is the absence of details about the instructional style strategies employed in the featured programs. The school teaching these classes engaged in aware scheduling and
implementation efforts informed by the science of discovering and best tactics in on the web education and learning. For instance, Professor Greg Tew created open on the web textbooks for his Design and style Appreciation and Daily life in the Designed Surroundings courses using strategic opportunities to have interaction the learners in authentic applications of structure expertise and abilities.

Professor Stefan Duma organized in-man or woman lab classes to provide online college students collectively as element of his Concussion Views study course. Each individual of these school associates connect on a regular basis with their
pupils concerning class options, timelines, and anticipations, info that is made obtainable through their specific training course web-sites which serve as an organizational framework for these classes. Additionally, Professor Duma retains weekly in-individual place of work several hours as alternatives to engage with and guide his online students, in addition to furnishing support via e mail in an ongoing fashion. Professor Tew offers a single-on-one Zoom calls as necessary and individually responds to university student e-mails normally inside of minutes, seven days a week. These types of tutorial style and learner assistance tactics are the hallmarks of effective online and blended training and discovering, underpinned by many years of investigate by students in instructional design and technologies.

Last but not least, the article neglected to mention the crucial use of formative evaluation info in the implementation of the highlighted classes. The article’s essential dilemma of “What about outcomes?” is answered through ongoing evaluation of these courses to be certain they are facilitating the intended learning outcomes and meeting scholar needs using many formative analysis approaches. For illustration, the studying administration units that aid online (and in-particular person) courses at Virginia Tech permit instructors to keep an eye on college student development through the class, providing insights as to when college students may be having difficulties.

Furthermore, the normal engagement these college have with their on the internet college students, beyond what is attainable in a significant lecture hall, presents further formative comments which can be utilized to revise course plans and/or supply additional in-depth assistance or assistance for the total course. Formative evaluation data generates vital info which can be used to address emergent college student desires and facilitate a much more powerful understanding encounter more than all.

The possibility to share these issues and troubles contained in the short article “Online Lessons Surge at Virginia Tech. But What About Results?” is appreciated. Most likely better recognition of the concepts of
effective style and design, implementation, and analysis of on the internet training and learning, as well as the extensive research base on which most effective techniques for on line educating and mastering are created, can positively advise
composed explorations of these topics heading forward. 

–Barbara B. Lockee
Affiliate Vice Provost for School Affairs
Professor, Educational Layout and Technologies

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