Advancing Quality Research in Online Learning: A Panel Discussion with Editors of the Online Learning Journal

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session Research

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Brief Abstract

Join us in celebrating the Online Learning Journal’s (OLJ’s) 25th anniversary! To celebrate we’ll spend time reflecting on what makes high quality research, suitable for publication in OLJ or other peer-reviewed journals. We will also discuss how you can become involved in our efforts to continuously improve the quality of research on online learning.


Sponsored By


Dr. Nicole Weber is the Assistant Vice President (AVP) of Learning at the Online Learning Consortium (OLC). In this role she works closely with OLC staff and global partners to advance professional development opportunities, continuous improvement efforts, and research in support of quality digital, blended, and online learning. Before joining OLC, she served as the Director of Learning Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she led online and blended faculty development efforts, technology training for the digital learning ecosystem, and emerging learning technology exploration and evaluation, collaborating across the institution to support student learning and success. Nicole received her PhD in Urban Education specializing in Social Foundations of Education with an emphasis on designing engaging learning environments in 2012.
Dr. Peter Shea is Associate Provost for Online Learning and Associate Professor in the School of Education and the College of Computing and Information at the University at Albany, State University of New York. His research focuses on the development of communities dedicated to learning in online environments. He has published widely on this topic in journals such as Computers and Education, JALN, Internet and Higher Education, The Journal of Educational Computing Research, Interactive Learning Environments and others. He is past director of the SUNY Learning Network, the online education enterprise of the 64 campus and 400,000 students in the SUNY system. Peter's research has been supported by the US Department of Education and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He has been co-recipient of three national awards for online learning, faculty development and online programs from EDUCAUSE and the Online Learning Consortium.
Premiere online scholar and James Stuckle professor, University of Illinois Southern; OLC Fellow and Outstanding Achievement Award in Online Learning; member of IACEHOF and significant role in development and dissemination of the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework. Karen Swan is the James J. Stukel Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership and a Research Associate in the Center for Online Learning, Research, & Service (COLRS) at the University of Illinois Springfield. Karen’s research has been in the general area of electronic media and learning for the 25 years since she received her doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University. For the past 20 years, she has been teaching online, researching online learning, and writing extensively about her experiences. She received the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) award for Outstanding Individual Achievement, National University Technology Network (NUTN) Distinguished Service Award, and the Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award for her work in this area. She is also an OLC Fellow and a member of the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame. In 2010 she also was given the Distinguished Alumni award by her alma mater.

Extended Abstract

As we celebrate the Online Learning Journal’s (OLJ’s) 25th anniversary, it is the perfect time to reflect on the need for high quality research on online learning.  This includes taking a hard look at weaknesses in the literature and how we might address these. Weaknesses include fragmented and disjointed approaches to researching online pedagogy, tools, and participants.  Other issues are the application of methods that lack rigor or are unsuited to the research questions, and poorly written reports that impede subsequent attempts at replication and follow-up. The field faces a significant challenge. We must design and carry out research that will both address past concerns about methods and findings and illuminate the directions we should take in the future.  

This panel session will bring together some of the most influential leaders from the online learning research community to answer questions like:

  • What makes a good research question?
  • What are the most common problems with literature reviews?
  • What methods are complementary to my research question?
  • What topics are likely to stimulate additional productive research and generate citations?
  • How can I help OLC and OLJ to advance the quality of research in the field?