February 21, 2024

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Misunderstanding online education at Virginia Tech (letter)

4 min read
Misunderstanding online education at Virginia Tech (letter)

To the Editor:

Measures of high-quality in online schooling have been developed by way of many years of research in the industry of instructional structure and technology (IDT), informing best methods in the design, advancement,
implementation and evaluation of modern on the internet courses and applications. Your new post, “Online Lessons Surge at Virginia Tech. But What About Outcomes?” by Susan D’Agostino, phone calls into problem the top quality of the on-line courses highlighted in the piece.

Sadly, this posting is made up of notable misconceptions about on-line instruction in typical as very well as misunderstandings about strategies for measuring the success of these programs. It is hoped that the
possibility to highlight these troubles and share suitable, evidence-centered methods from the IDT knowledge foundation may inform future publications which feature the matter of high quality in on the internet education.

First, the creator labels the classes highlighted in this article “massive on-line courses,” conflating them with Massive On-line Open up Programs (MOOCs). MOOCs are no cost or low-cost mastering alternatives obtainable to
anyone and are really diverse than the courses featured in this article—large enrollment undergraduate classes for residential college students. This distinction is an crucial a single. The students are unique, the patterns of the understanding activities are diverse, and, hence, the actions of quality are always diverse. 

Another important misunderstanding in this report relates to a suggestion that VT should establish the effectiveness of the featured on-line programs by evaluating pupil learning results in those people lessons to their on-campus counterparts. This prompt observe fails to take into consideration many years of investigation that explicates why such comparisons are not legitimate or significant. A wide variety of reasons exist for keeping away from the use of such comparisons. One fundamental challenge is that this method presumes the confront-to-face classroom to be the gold standard against which top quality is calculated. These comparisons location credit rating (or blame) for scholar achievement on the physical mastering environment with out thinking about the quite a few components that do effect college student learning, particularly the selected instructing tactic and its alignment with focused understanding outcomes.

As these types of, the educational technique and the delivery manner are confounded, resulting in outcomes that are meaningless. Media comparison studies this kind of as individuals encouraged in the article are not practical sources of details about the success of any form of instruction. 

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Yet another crucial oversight in the posting is the absence of details about the tutorial design and style strategies employed in the featured classes. The school training these classes engaged in conscious setting up and
implementation initiatives informed by the science of learning and best methods in on the internet schooling. For case in point, Professor Greg Tew created open online textbooks for his Design and style Appreciation and Existence in the Built Setting programs using strategic possibilities to interact the learners in genuine programs of style and design awareness and capabilities.

Professor Stefan Duma arranged in-particular person lab classes to deliver online learners alongside one another as portion of his Concussion Views class. Every of these faculty associates communicate frequently with their
pupils pertaining to course programs, timelines, and expectations, information that is manufactured obtainable through their comprehensive study course web sites which serve as an organizational framework for these programs. Additionally, Professor Duma holds weekly in-particular person office environment hours as possibilities to interact with and help his online students, in addition to giving support by way of email in an ongoing fashion. Professor Tew delivers just one-on-a single Zoom calls as required and personally responds to pupil email messages typically inside of minutes, 7 times a week. These sorts of educational layout and learner help strategies are the hallmarks of effective online and blended teaching and understanding, underpinned by a long time of research by scholars in instructional design and engineering.

At last, the write-up neglected to mention the vital use of formative analysis facts in the implementation of the featured programs. The article’s important concern of “What about results?” is answered through continuous analysis of these programs to ensure they are facilitating the intended learning outcomes and meeting scholar requirements using a variety of formative analysis tactics. For instance, the studying administration methods that guidance on-line (and in-man or woman) programs at Virginia Tech permit instructors to monitor scholar development during the training course, supplying insights as to when students may be battling.

In addition, the common engagement these college have with their on the net college students, beyond what is achievable in a large lecture corridor, offers supplemental formative comments which can be utilized to revise course plans and/or deliver further detailed advice or guidance for the whole class. Formative evaluation details generates crucial information which can be utilised to tackle emergent scholar demands and facilitate a more efficient understanding expertise over all.

The prospect to share these issues and worries contained in the report “Online Lessons Surge at Virginia Tech. But What About Outcomes?” is appreciated. Perhaps larger awareness of the ideas of
helpful style, implementation, and evaluation of on the web training and learning, as effectively as the extensive research foundation on which greatest procedures for on the net teaching and discovering are built, can positively notify
prepared explorations of these subjects going ahead. 

–Barbara B. Lockee
Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
Professor, Educational Style and Technological know-how

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