What do we do with research findings? Creating and diffusing online instructional practices from data and evidence

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Let’s talk about how to interpret findings from several DETA-supported research studies, determine what they mean for us and our institutions, turn these results into new or altered practices in our organizations, and diffuse these innovative practices across our institutions for students, instructors and faculty, support staff, and administrators.


Tanya Joosten, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist, the Director of Digital Learning Research and Development, and co-PI and co-Director of the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is nationally recognized in her work in blended and online learning as an Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Fellow and works to guide strategic digital learning efforts on campus, across the UW System, and nationally as an advisor to the Provost, a member of the University of Wisconsin System Learning Technology Executive Council, and a member of several national boards and committees. Currently, Dr. Joosten leads a national research initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Education working to provide access to research models and methods, facilitating innovate processes of data collection, and encouraging the replication of research across institutions through the DETA Research Toolkit to identify key instructional and institutional factors that influence student success with particular attention to underrepresented students. Dr. Joosten has a background in the social sciences hailing from the field of communication. Her notable keynotes include eLearning Asia, ITC eLearning Conference, and SACS COC President’s event, and her ideas have been highlighted on plenary panels at the UW-Madison Annual Distance Teaching and Learning conference and the OLC International Conference for Online Learning. You can find her ideas and work cited in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes, U.S. News World and Report, and more. Recent interviews with Dr. Joosten are available on ResearchInAction and TOPcast available on iTunes. Her book on social media is available from Wiley Publishing, she has authored numerous articles, chapters, and encyclopedia entries on human and social interactions and digital learning, and she often writes invited blog posts and magazine articles for organizations, such as EDUCAUSE, WCET, Inside Higher Ed, and Pearson. Dr. Joosten previously worked as the Director of the Learning Technology Center leading faculty development and engagement initiatives, pedagogical and technological innovation projects, core learning technology oversight, and blended and online program development.
Rachel Cusatis is a social scientist serving as an Instrumentation Innovator - Research at the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA) at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. Rachel serves as the key grant activities coordinator and liaison to the institutional partners supporting research efforts across those institutions working directly with the PIs, institutional researchers, and data analysts. This included the collection of data from each educational institution, merging of data sets, and cross-institutional data analysis. In these efforts, she has developed, reviewed, and edited student and instructor survey instrumentation and codebooks, including shared measures, definitions, and coding. Furthermore, Rachel performs quantitative analysis on student and instructor surveys merged with student grade and retention data across institutions to identify key instructional and institutional factors that influence student academic outcomes. She has contributed to key outcomes of the grant, including development of the DETA research toolkits and DETA research briefs. With a sociological perspective on the challenge of increasing access and success, Rachel is passionate about improving student experiences and outcomes in postsecondary education, particularly for consistently underserved populations within our student body like our low-income, first-generation, and minority college students.

Extended Abstract

The session is formatted as a brainstorming discussion that takes findings from a cross-institutional study (10+ institutions) on distance education (blended, online, and CBE) and challenges the participants on determining how to interpret these findings, including how the findings affect practices, including changing current and/or developing new instructional practices, and how to diffuse these processes across the institution. We often hear people discuss data-driven decisions or evidence-based practices, yet many times the data and evidence that is driving our decisions and our practices within our educational institutions lacks the rigor of empirical research. The DETA Research Center (http://www.uwm.edu/deta) spent two years designing research models and conducting rigorous research in higher ed across a numerous institutions (2-year and 4-year) to help us identify effective instructional and institutional practices in blended and online courses and programs. In producing the DETA Research Toolkit (http://www.uwm.edu/deta/toolkits), including guides to research, survey instrumentation packet, data codebooks, shared definitions, and operationalizations of variables, institutions were able to conduct studies and collect data across institutions.  Data from student surveys, student assessments, and institutionally warehoused data allowed us to gather empirical findings as to what actually works for the students, in particularly underrepresented students, rather than administrators, instructors, or instructional support staff deciding on anecdotal, experience, or assumptions based on partial or inaccurate data. This sessions brings those cross-institutional findings in blended and online learning and ask the participants — what do we do next?  Importantly, this session examines these finding from this large study on distance education (blended, online, and competency-based education) and challenges the participants on determining how to interpret these findings, turn them into practice, and develop diffusion processes across the institution. Results alone are useless.  Also, learn about the DETA Research Toolkit, ongoing research studies, opportunities for partnership, and more!