So, how perfect that the work in EDET 636 focuses on identifying patterns in the literature I'm encountering in my research. Perhaps it's the season; maybe it's the fact that I see patterns everywhere this time of year; most likely it's because I've had "patterns" on the brain as this late assignment has loomed heavy as a winter storm cloud over my every thought. The ten texts I included in my lit review wove themselves together beautifully in the course of an evening of looking for patterns and themes. While there were a few quiet themes that arose in isolated articles, four primary patterns revealed themselves in multiple texts:
- Best practice recommendations in managing and teaching online are prolific in the literature. For the researcher, reader, educator, or learner who wants to learn how to build and support successful online instructional experiences for students, there is plenty to guide decision making in development of truly excellent and effective online learning for students (Stodel et. al., 2006; Hawkins et. al., 2011; Malinovski et. al., 2014; Hawkins, 2011; Hardre et. al., 2008; Currie-Rubin & Smith, 2014; Barbour et. al., 2012; Kaler, 2011).
- Communication and relationship building in online learning environments is critically important to student success and satisfaction. Regardless of whether a student is taking a synchronous or asynchronous online course, there is a plethora or research supporting the importance of frequent, personalized, high-quality communication between and among participants in an online class. An even more significant theme, from my perspective, is the value of meaningful attention to students by teachers and the importance of quality interaction between teacher and students. (Stodel et. al., 2006; Kaler, 2011; Hawkins et. al., 2011; Currie-Rubin & Smith, 2014; Barbour et. al., 2012).
- Motivational factors play a role in student success in online learning. Patterns related to discussion of motivational factors was an unexpected discovery in my literature review. A few studies provided interesting findings related to what motivates students to take online classes, and how those motivations impact student learning and success. An implication of this theme is to build in an interview or survey asking and addressing students' motivations prior to begin an online class. This information could be invaluable for teachers and site-based adult staff who are providing academic and motivational support for an online learner. (Malinovski et. al., 2014; Kaler, 2011; Harvey et. al., 2014).
- Synchronous and asynchronous online learning are approached by students differently and require different instructional considerations. When I began my initial note-taking of themes in the various texts, I expected to articulate a pattern that had something to do with the similarities and differences between online classrooms and traditional f2f classrooms. Instead, the theme that emerged was related to the differences between synchronous and asynchronous online learning experiences. "Online Learning" is a broad category used as a catch-all to describe any class taken via a computer. The importance of this theme in the literature lies in implications for design, student engagement, support needs, and instructors' approaches to facilitating a meaningful course for students. The research reveals a significant difference between students' perceptions and behaviors in synchronous and asynchronous online learning environments. The lessons are profound for instructors and support personnel. (Stodel et. al., 2006; Malinovski et. al., 2014; Barbour & Hill, 2011).
These themes inform my project in significant ways, with the most significant being that they have helped me to narrow and identify a more focused, concise, meaningful research question! In addition, the themes inform my daily work in a school district that is working to expand online learning opportunities for students within the boundaries of our school district as well as students statewide. While we may have some things "figured out," there is much in the research that can help us to improve our efforts, to help students be more successful, and for online learning to rival and surpass the effectiveness and engagement of a dwindling number of f2f classes available in our small schools. There is a great deal of overlap in themes with some of my colleagues in EDET 636, and it is exciting to contribute and have access to a body of knowledge that will help all of us refine our research, our practice, and education for students in Alaska's schools.
Barbour, M., & Hill, J. (2011). What are They Doing and How are They Doing It? Rural Student Experiences in Virtual Schooling. Journal Of Distance Education, 25(1), 1-14.
Barbour, M., Siko, J., Sumara, J., & Simuel-Everage, K. (2012). Narratives from the Online Frontier: A K-12 Student's Experience in an Online Learning Environment. The Qualitative Report, 17(20), 1-19.
Corry, M., & Stella, J. (2012). Developing a Framework for Research in Online K-12 Distance Education. Quarterly Review Of Distance Education, 13(3), 133-151.
Currie-Rubin, R., & Smith, S. J. (2014). Understanding the Roles of Families in Virtual Learning. Teaching Exceptional Children, 46(5), 117-126. doi:10.1177/0040059914530101
Hardre, P. L., Sullivan, D. W., & Roberts, N. (2008). Rural Teachers' Best Motivating Strategies: A Blending of Teachers' and Students' Perspectives.Rural Educator, 30(1), 19-31.
Harvey, D., Greer, D., Basham, J., & Hu, B. (2014). From the Student Perspective: Experiences of Middle and High School Students in Online Learning. American Journal Of Distance Education, 28(1), 14-26.
Hawkins, A., Barbour, M., & Graham, C. (2011). Strictly Business: Teacher Perceptions of Interaction in Virtual Schooling. Journal Of Distance Education, 25(2), 1-13.
Kaler, Collier. (2011). A Model of Successful Adaptation to Online Learning for College-Bound Native American HIgh School Students. University of Montana ScholarWorks. Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers. Paper 272.
Malinovski, T., Vasileva, M., Vasileva-Stojanovska, T., & Trajkovik, V. (2014). Considering high school students’ experience in asynchronous and synchronous distance learning environments: QoE prediction model. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 15(4). Retrieved fromhttp://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1808/3050
Stodel, E. J., Thompson, T., & MacDonald, C. J. (2006). Learners' Perspectives on What is Missing from Online Learning: Interpretations through the Community of Inquiry Framework.International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning,7(3), 1-24.