Building a research community at the National Research Center in Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA)

Concurrent Session 5

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Brief Abstract

Interesting in learning more about who is doing what kind of research in distance ed?  Interested in connecting with folks doing research and collaborating on research projects and different intitiaitves to support research in distance education?  Then attend this session faciltiated by the DETA Research Center that will look for attendees to share their research,  Looking to find a support network and resources to help you design and administer high-quality research studies? Desire to collaborate with other institutions on funding opportunities and research? Come join our community! 


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

Through rigorous, cross-institutional research, the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA, pronounced data) strives to improve student access and success in distance education, in particular for underrepresented students. Launched at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), we released the DETA Research Toolkit in October of 2015, which contains research guides, pertinent survey instruments, data codebooks, shared definitions, and operationalizations of variables. Alongside the release of the toolkit was a request for research proposals that align with DETA’s goals. Through a competitive process, institutions and faculty across the country were awarded grants to conduct quasi-experimental, survey, and meta-analytic studies.

The DETA Research Center seeks to engage a community of individuals interested in or currently conducting research on distance education.   The objective of this session is to hear from individuals who are conducting research in distance education at their respective institutions, discuss challenges and opportunities in conducting research, and contemplate ways to collaborate on future research, including funding opportunties.  

In previous DETA community discussions, we identified some of the top challenges in conducting research; these included a lack of standardization in the research process, difficulty with adequately incentivizing participation, reliance on self-reported data, absence of a collaborative culture despite the necessity of a team-based approach, and problems accessing individual level data. One key recommendation was to build a community to proffer and provide support. We hope to expand on previous efforts to increase each individual’s and institution’s capacity to carry out DETA Research by building community and implementing solutions. For more, view these posts: Challenges in Conducting DETA Research and Recommendations for DETA Research Support.