Expanding Scope to Serve the Digital Learning Landscape

Jill Buban | Senior Director of Research and Innovation, Online Learning Consortium

The EvoLLLution | Expanding Scope to Serve the Digital Learning Landscape
As digital education continues to grow in popularity and impact, it’s critical for research into digital learning practices and trends to keep up to facilitate the continued advance of the space—that’s where the OLC’s Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership comes in.

In early October, the Online Learning Consortium announced its launch of the Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership, which aims to advance digital teaching and learning through timely delivery of research. According to OLC CEO Kathleen Ives, the OLC Research Center will allow the association to continue their work in curating digital learning resources while also diving into the world of original research. In this interview, Jill Buban expands on some of the reasons behind launching the OLC Research Center and reflects on what it’s going to take to make it a long-term success.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why did the OLC decide to launch its new Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership?

Jill Buban (JB): In 2015, OLC recognized that there was a need for the field to have a centralized place for research and practitioner-based resources—a go-to location that would make research more accessible to the greater digital learning community. I was brought on board later that year to conceptualize and create the Research Center. The title, the OLC Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership recognizes the organization’s focus not only on digital learning but also recognizing the role of the leader in this field and the growing body of literature and research that focuses on this role, which often times faces unique challenges.

Prior to the launch of the Center, we recognized that the global landscape for digital learning research is vast and set forth a goal of centralizing resources for researchers and practitioners who seek information on topics related to digital learning trends, innovations, and effective practices in the field, as well as conducting new research and commissioned research. So not only providing curated resources but also original research.

Many people don’t realize that we’ve been a leader in this area for over 20 years with our peer-reviewed academic journal, Online Learning (formerly the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks). Moving forward, there is a unique opportunity for the Research Center and Online Learning to work collaboratively and to provide different ways for researchers and practitioners to present their research to the field.

Evo: What are some of the central focus areas the Center will look into?

JB: Our research studies, white papers, journal articles and other resources including webinars, podcasts and publications are categorized into five different focus areas: teaching & learning, instructional/learning design, leadership, digital learning, and annual reports. Later this fall, we will release the sixth area: quality.

In addition to these focus areas, we feature the AERA Online Teaching and Learning SIG newsletter which is made possible through a collaboration with AERA. All of the resources in the Center are either original research that has been conducted through commissioned, sponsored, or institutional collaborations; curated research that is made possible through collaborations with a variety of institutions and organizations; curated articles from OLC’s peer-reviewed journal, Online Learning, or resources that supplement research in these six areas.

Evo: How do you hope the Research Center for Digital Learning and Leadership will impact the evolving postsecondary landscape?

JB: The hope is that the Research Center will transform teaching and learning in the digital learning landscape through the dissemination of research throughout the field.

In collaboration with this dynamic community, the Research Center will further knowledge of the field, create collaborative networks among like-minded professionals, and provide original, evidence-based, and theoretical–based research.

In doing so, the Research Center has the potential to greatly impact teaching, learning, design, and leadership practices, as well as provide a greater understanding of digital learning to the collective postsecondary landscape.

Evo: What will it take to ensure the Research Center itself is a long-term and viable success?

JB: The long-term and viable success of the Research Center depends on the continued support of the Research Center’s advisory council, the support and collaboration with institutions and organizations, and of course, funding through commissioned research and grant opportunities.