I lead the Digital Higher Education Consortium of Texas (DigiTex), which assists Texas public community colleges in providing learners an education without barriers through high quality digital educational opportunities, resources, and services. Founded in 1998 by the Texas Association of Community Colleges as the Virtual College of Texas (VCT), our organization historically focused primarily on facilitating inter-institutional course sharing statewide among our member colleges.
Although we continue to support course sharing, last year a strategic planning process led to new goals and new initiatives, including research. DigiTex already has conducted research on Open Educational Resources – supporting OER is one of our new initiatives – with plans for future studies. However, anecdotal reports from those consulted during the strategic planning process pointed toward a need to gain a better understanding of digital higher education in the state in order to inform future policy and strategies. And obviously with the disruptions from COVID-19, the stakes were never higher to find innovative, evidence-based, and data-driven ways to deliver effective courses and programs.
Before allocating resources (both human and financial) for this purpose, I thought it was imperative to conduct a more comprehensive study of existing data and research on digital higher education, broadly conceived, in Texas in order to assess the gaps in that information and determine how DigiTex might impactfully contribute to the body of knowledge in this area. The result is Digital Higher Education in Texas: A Meta-Analysis of Data and Research.
Released in June, this paper first gives an overview of national and statewide data and research available – including through the Online Learning Consortium – on digital higher education, with an analysis of common categories of the existing research. Then, an examination of existing sources of data and research focused on Texas suggests which categories may be missing from the body of state data and research.
Finally, the paper suggests directions for future research in order to gain a more comprehensive picture of the state of digital higher education in Texas. This meta-analysis supports the need for a study of the state of digital education in Texas, building on data collected by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and surveys conducted by its Learning Technology Advisory Committee. Relevant topics for future study include online program design, issues of equity, and impact and outcomes. I think that this research becomes even more urgent in a pandemic and post-pandemic world. Tech-assisted education, whether fully online, hybrid, hyflex, or some modality as yet undiscovered, likely is going to increase, even after the COVID-19 crisis.
This paper, along with our OER Landscape Analysis, represents the start of an ambitious research agenda to contribute to a better understanding of digital education in Texas and beyond. I hope that we can fulfill it! Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions about the paper or if you have ideas for collaborative research.
Dr. Judith Sebesta serves as the Executive Director of the Digital Higher Education Consortium of Texas. Prior to this position she worked in a number of capacities at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Before a career shift to the broader landscape of online learning, policy analysis, and innovation in postsecondary education, Sebesta was a professor and administrator at Lamar University, the University of Missouri, the University of Arizona, and the University of Evansville. firstname.lastname@example.org or @digihectex