The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning ( is a refereed, open access e-journal that disseminates original research, theory, and best practice in open and distributed learning worldwide. This journal was formerly named the "International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning", the name change from "distance" to "distributed" to emphasise the new focus on openness and particularly on open educational resources (OER).


The Globethics library contains articles of the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning as of vol. 1(2000) to current.

Recent Submissions

  • Editorial - Volume 24, Issue 1

    Blomgren, Constance (Athabasca University Press, 2023-02-02)
  • Using Survival Analysis to Identify Populations of Learners at Risk of Withdrawal: Conceptualization and Impact of Demographics

    Martínez-Carrascal, Juan Antonio; Hlosta, Martin; Sancho-Vinuesa, Teresa (Athabasca University Press, 2023-02-01)
    High dropout rates constitute a major concern for higher education institutions, due to their economic and academic impact. The problem is particularly relevant for institutions offering online courses, where withdrawal ratios are reported to be higher. Both the impact and these high rates motivate the implementation of interventions oriented to reduce course withdrawal and overall institutional dropout. In this paper, we address the identification of populations of learners at risk of withdrawing from higher education online courses. This identification is oriented to design interventions and is carried out using survival analysis. We demonstrate that the method’s longitudinal approach is particularly suited for this purpose and provides a clear view of risk differences among learner populations. Additionally, the method quantifies the impact of underlying factors, either alone or in combination. Our practical implementation used an open dataset provided by The Open University. It includes data from more than 30,000 students enrolled in different courses. We conclude that low-income students and those who report a disability comprise risk groups and are thus feasible intervention targets. The survival curves also reveal differences among courses and show the detrimental effect of early dropout on low-income students, worsened throughout the course for disabled students. Intervention strategies are proposed as a result of these findings. Extending the entire refund period and giving greater academic support to students who report disability are two proposed strategies for reducing course withdrawal.
  • The Design and Psychometric Properties of a Peer Observation Tool for Use in LMS-Based Classrooms in Medical Sciences

    Mirmoghtadaie, Zohrehsadat; Keshavarz, Mohsen; Rasouli, Davood (Athabasca University Press, 2023-02-01)
    In peer observation of teaching, an experienced colleague in the educational environment of a faculty member observes the educational performance of that faculty member and provides appropriate feedback. The use of peer review as an alternative source of evidence of teaching effectiveness is increasing. However, no research has been done in the field of tool design and development to peer review in classrooms that use a learning management system (LMS). This study used mixed methods. In the qualitative stage, after studying sources and interviewing professors active in virtual education, a question bank was prepared and a 26-item initial questionnaire created. In the quantitative stage, the psychometric properties of the developed instruments, such as the face, content, and structural validity, were examined, and reliability tests were performed. IBM SPSS Statistics (Version 20) was used for analysis. Five categories, including content preparation, content presentation, effective interactions, motivation management, and support services, and 26 subcategories were determined to be effective indicators in peer observation in LMS-based classes in medical sciences. During content analysis, 9 items were removed due to lack of necessary criteria. Then, using principal component analysis and varimax rotation in the present mode )Watkins, 2018), 5 components with eigenvalues ​​higher than 1 were extracted, which explained a total of 70.55% of the total variance. The inter-cluster correlation coefficient (ICC) was 0.88. Thus, the peer observation measurement tool, designed with 17 expressions using the answer method “yes/no”, showed good validity and reliability. The research results demonstrate that the evaluation of virtual classes of professors by their peers is effective and that the results can be used in e-learning promotion plans.
  • The Online PhD Experience: A Qualitative Systematic Review

    Melián, Efrem; Reyes, José Israel; Meneses, Julio (Athabasca University Press, 2023-02-01)
    The online doctoral population is growing steadily worldwide, yet its narratives have not been thoroughly reviewed so far. We conducted a systematic review summarizing online PhD students’ experiences. ERIC, WoS, Scopus, and PsycInfo databases were searched following PRISMA 2020 guidelines and limiting the results to peer-reviewed articles of the last 20 years, yielding 16 studies eligible. A thematic synthesis of the studies showed that online PhD students are generally satisfied with their programs, but isolation, juggling work and family roles, and financial pressures are the main obstacles. The supervisory relationship determines the quality of the experience, whereas a strong sense of community helps students get ahead. Personal factors such as motivation, personality, and skills modulate fit with the PhD. We conclude that pursuing a doctorate online is more isolating than face to face, and students might encounter additional challenges regarding the supervision process and study/life balance. Accordingly, this review might help faculty, program managers, and prospective students better understand online doctorates’ pressing concerns such as poor well-being and high dropout rates.
  • An Online Physics Laboratory Delivered Through Live Broadcasting Media: A COVID-19 Teaching Experience

    Setiaji, Bayu; Santoso, Purwoko Haryadi (Athabasca University Press, 2023-02-01)
    The COVID-19 pandemic has constituted a sudden educational transformation around the world. It has disrupted instructors, including physics educators, forcing them to adjust to remote teaching. The hands-on laboratory, one of the components of physics instruction, has also had to rapidly go online in all branches of this science, including nuclear physics. In this study, live broadcasting media was designed to conduct a remote nuclear physics laboratory. We then evaluated the immediate impact of this new mode of lab instruction on students’ learning and attitude toward this type of instruction. Fifty-nine 3rd-year physics students at a public university in Indonesia participated in this study. The effectiveness of instruction was examined by analyzing both weekly reports and open-ended responses about students’ learning experiences. In summary, it was evident that live broadcasting media was an effective way to conduct an online nuclear physics laboratory. Accordingly, students’ attitudes demonstrated constructive behaviors about their remote laboratorial experiences. Our findings imply that online platforms are one way to offer the physics laboratory during unanticipated transitions such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Students’ preference for a hands-on laboratory and the technical issues reported during the broadcasting session should be further examined to help design a remote nuclear physics laboratory that is even more accessible and enjoyable.
  • The Perception and Behavioral Intention Toward MOOCs: Undergraduates in China

    Wang, Kai (Athabasca University Press, 2023-02-01)
    This study incorporated the technology acceptance model (TAM) and theory of planned behavior (TPB) to interpret students’ perception of MOOCs. This study was based on a survey questionnaire; all 525 respondents were undergraduates in China. A five-point Likert scale was used to collect data in order to measure relationships among the constructs of perceived usefulness (PU), perceived ease of use (PEOU), attitude (ATT), subjective norms (SN), perceived behavioral control (PBC), and behavioral control (BI). The results showed that the research model that incorporated TAM and TPB provided both desirable fit and validity, and all the proposed hypotheses were positively supported. Compared with ATT and SN, PBC had a much stronger impact than did BI. This study and its findings provided educators and MOOC providers with managerial implications as well as suggestions for designing future MOC offerings.
  • What are the indicators of Student Engagement in Learning Management Systems? A Systematized Review of the Literature

    Ahmadi, Golchehreh; Mohammadi, Aeen; Asadzandi, Shadi; Shah, Mahsood; Mojtahedzadeh, Rita (Athabasca University Press, 2023-02-01)
    Student engagement has an important role in academic achievement in all learning contexts, including e-learning environments. The extent of monitoring and promoting student engagement in e-learning affects the quality of education and is a determining factor for ensuring student’s success. Log data of students’ activities recorded in a learning management system (LMS) can be used to measure their level of engagement in the online teaching–learning process. No previous studies have been found stating a consistent and systematically raised list of LMS-based student engagement indicators, so this systematized review aimed to fulfill this gap. The authors performed an advanced search in the PubMed, Ovid, Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science, ProQuest, Emerald, and ERIC databases to retrieve relevant original peer-reviewed articles published until the end of June 2021. Reviewing the 32 included articles resulted in 27 indicators that were categorized into three themes and six categories as follows: (a) log-in and usage (referring to LMS, access to course material), (b) student performance (assignments, assessments), and (c) communication (messaging, forum participation). Among the categories, access to course material and messaging were the most and the least mentioned, respectively.
  • “Someone in Their Corner”: Parental Support in Online Secondary Education

    Hanny, Courtney N.; Graham, Charles R.; West, Richard E.; Borup, Jered (Athabasca University Press, 2023-01-03)
    Despite increased interest in K–12 online education, student engagement deficits and the resulting student attrition remain widespread issues. The Academic Communities of Engagement (ACE) framework theorizes that two groups support online student engagement: the personal community of support and the course community of support. However, more evidence is needed to understand how members of these communities, especially parents, support students in various contexts. Using insights gleaned from 14 semi-structured interviews of parents with students enrolled in online secondary school, this study adds support to the roles identified in the ACE framework by presenting real examples of parents supporting their online students’ affective, behavioral, and cognitive engagement. Findings also confirm patterns found in previous research that are not explained using the ACE framework, such as parental advocacy, communication with teachers, and self-teaching. We discuss how a systems approach to conceptualizing the ACE communities allows the framework to more accurately capture parents' perceived experiences within the personal community of support. We also discuss implications for both practitioners and members of students’ support structures.
  • Educational Experience and Instructional Design Effectiveness Within the Community of Inquiry Framework

    Wilson, Emerald; Berge, Zane L. (Athabasca University Press, 2023-01-03)
    Within its 20 years of development, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework has become the most widely used theoretical framework in e-learning. It is considered in much of the distance education literature to be a robust collaborative-constructivist process model that uses three essential elements to interpret educational experience: cognitive presence, teaching presence, and social presence. Widespread use of the CoI framework has resulted in several criticisms, such as having no guidelines for implementation, no incorporation of assessment and evaluation metrics, and no widespread consensus on the current model’s ability to represent all the contributing factors that promote a positive educational experience. However, there is an opportunity to overcome these shortcomings, some of which may exist, and to use the CoI’s extraordinary strength in creating a positive education experience, by adding instructional design effectiveness. The purpose of this combination of a literature review and opinion is to present the CoI framework and its major controversies to shine a light on its importance as one approach to designing critical parts of e-learning. Additionally, given the CoI’s purpose of creating a positive educational experience, this paper argues to make explicit to instructional designers and instructors the need to address using the CoI framework within an effective overall design.
  • The Influence of Sense of Community and Satisfaction With E-Learning and Their Impact on Nursing Students’ Academic Achievement

    Innab, Adnan; Albloushi, Monirah; Alruwaili, Mohammed; Alqahtani, Naji; Alenazi, Latifah; Alkathiri, Alwah (Athabasca University Press, 2022-11-01)
    The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sudden shift to distance learning. For many nursing students, distance learning is a new experience and an essential requirement if they hope to complete their programs. Two challenges that nursing students could face during e-learning are the lack of social presence and low satisfaction. This study aimed to assess students’ sense of community and satisfaction during e-learning and determine their impacts on academic achievement. This cross-sectional descriptive study used convenience sampling to collect data via a student satisfaction survey and a classroom community scale. There was a positive and significant correlation between the sense of community, total satisfaction with e-learning (p < .001), and academic achievement (p < .001). Academic achievement was positively and strongly correlated with satisfaction with teaching (p < .001), assessment (p < .001), generic skills and learning experiences (p < .001), and total satisfaction with e-learning (p < .001). Students who worked collaboratively with their classmates and were more engaged in their learning were more satisfied with e-learning and had higher academic achievement (p < .01). Female participants reported a strong sense of community and satisfaction with e-learning and greater academic achievement than males. Junior students perceived higher satisfaction scores and greater academic achievement (p < .01) than senior students. The findings of this study suggest that failing to meet student expectations can lead to low levels of student involvement. Students’ engagement and satisfaction are good indicators of the quality and effectiveness of online programs.
  • Technology Enabling the New Normal: How Students Respond to Classes

    Shariat Ullah, Muhammad; Md. Shariful Alam Khandakar; Muhammad Abdul Aziz; Daisy Mui Hung Kee (Athabasca University Press, 2022-11-01)
    This cross-sectional study investigates the online education intention of undergraduate students in the largest and oldest public university in Bangladesh during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under convenient sampling, 843 undergraduate students with rural and urban backgrounds participated in an online self-administered questionnaire. Partial least squares structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) was employed to examine the hypothesized relationships. We found that students’ online class intention is significantly influenced by their attitude towards online classes (AOC), perceived usefulness (PU), and facilitating conditions (FC). We further identified that external antecedents have significant indirect effects on the outcome variables. Our findings provide new insights and contribute to a learners’ community on online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study extends the technology acceptance model (TAM) and the theory of planned behavior (TPB) to depict the factors influencing undergraduate students’ intention to attend online classes (IOC) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Book Review: The Distributed University for Sustainable Higher Education

    Singh, Upasana Gitanjali (Athabasca University Press, 2022-11-01)
  • SLOAN: Social Learning Optimization Analysis of Networks

    Lemay, David; Doleck, Tenzin; Brinton, Christopher (Athabasca University Press, 2022-11-01)
    Online discussion research has mainly been conducted using case methods. This article proposes a method for comparative analysis based on network metrics such as information entropy and global network efficiency as more holistic measures characterizing social learning group dynamics. We applied social learning optimization analysis of networks (SLOAN) to a data set consisting of Coursera courses from a range of disciplines. We examined the relationship of discussion forum uses and measures of network efficiency, characterized by the information flow through the network. Discussion forums vary greatly in size and in use. Courses with a greater prevalence of subject-related versus procedural talk differed significantly in seeking but not disseminating behaviors in massive open online course discussion forums. Subject-related talk was related to higher network efficiency and had higher seeking and disseminating scores overall. We discuss the value of SLOAN for social learning and argue for the experimental study of online discussion optimization using a discussion post recommendation system for maximizing social learning.
  • Development of the Online Course Overload Indicator and the Student Mental Fatigue Survey

    Alleyne Bayne, Gail; Inan, Fethi A. (Athabasca University Press, 2022-11-01)
    The purpose of this study is to develop and examine the psychometric properties of the Online Course Overload Indicator (OCOI) and the Student Mental Fatigue Survey (SMFS). The OCOI was designed to measure students’ perceptions of cognitive overload in online courses. The SMFS was used to assess students’ perceptions of mental fatigue while taking online courses. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted on a sample of 378 undergraduate students from various institutions offering online courses across the United States. Results of a factor and reliability analyses confirmed that the instruments are valid and reliable measures of students’ perceived mental fatigue and overload from online course elements. The analysis supported the model that students’ perceptions of overload in online courses consist of four constructs—information relevance, information overload, course design, and facilitation—in addition to the one-factor structure of the SMFS, which consists of the student mental fatigue construct.
  • Translating and Validating the Community of Inquiry Survey Instrument in Brazil

    Parulla, Cibele Duarte; Weissheimer, Anne Marie; Santos, Marlise Bock dos; Cogo, Ana Luísa Petersen (Athabasca University Press, 2022-11-01)
    Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have emerged as an affordable way to distribute knowledge and democratize education. The examination of online courses calls for theoretical models and instruments that contemplate its particularities. The community of inquiry (CoI) framework has been used in several studies to analyze the effectiveness of online education and hybrid education, including MOOCs. This study aimed to translate and validate the Community of Inquiry Survey instrument (Arbaugh et al., 2008) into Brazilian Portuguese, and used a two-stage methodological design for translating and validating a questionnaire. In the first stage, we carried out translation, back-translation, and cross-cultural adaptation. We translated the 34 items while maintaining the survey’s original format. In the expert evaluation phase, all items were considered understandable and essential for inclusion in the Brazilian Portuguese version of the CoI instrument. In the second stage, a prospective cross-sectional study was conducted to validate the questionnaire, and data was collected from participants completing the Nursing Assessment MOOC available on the Lúmina platform. A total of 690 responses were gathered. The resulting instrument produced excellent results, and the three presences achieved high reliability indexes, clearly indicating their adequacy. Furthermore, this study proved the validation of the CoI instrument, maintaining the three-factor structure previously reported in the literature corresponding to the three presences: teaching, social, and cognitive presence. We recommend further studies to evaluate the need for excluding or altering cognitive presence items.
  • Using Low-immersive Virtual Reality in Online Learning: Field Notes from Environmental Management Education

    Rawson, Rebecca; Okere, Uchechukwu; Tooth, Owen (Athabasca University Press, 2022-11-01)
    Recent research in the field of virtual reality (VR) education is dominated by the application, experience, and effectiveness of high-immersive environments. However, high-immersive VR may not be accessible to all learners, with online distance learning students in particular unable to fully engage without being supplied with appropriate accessories. These field notes shed light on the role of low-immersive VR as a desktop tool for online distance learning students, exploring student experience of using 360° virtual spaces to undertake a summative assessment. Primary data collection in the form of an anonymous online survey was employed to gather feedback from postgraduate environmental management students who used low-immersive VR to undertake an environmental management system audit of a university campus. Quantitative results were analysed using descriptive statistics and qualitative responses using thematic analysis. Findings indicated that with guidance from the academic teaching staff and practice using the software, the majority of students felt both prepared and happy to undertake a summative assessment using VR spaces. Skills development and an appreciation of the effectiveness of the assessment approach were also highlighted as positive outcomes reinforcing findings from literature on the value of VR to improve learning outcomes particularly with practical tasks. Limitations of the assessment content and software were however noted by students, but both could be resolved with adaptations to the tool. It is hoped this research will be valuable to online education providers to demonstrate the value of using low-immersive VR within their programmes. 
  • A Learning Analytics Approach Using Social Network Analysis and Binary Classifiers on Virtual Resource Interactions for Learner Performance Prediction

    Khor, Ean Teng; Darshan Dave (Athabasca University Press, 2022-11-01)
    The COVID-19 pandemic induced a digital transformation of education and inspired both instructors and learners to adopt and leverage technology for learning. This led to online learning becoming an important component of the new normal, with home-based virtual learning an essential aspect for learners on various levels. This, in turn, has caused learners of varying levels to interact more frequently with virtual resources to supplement their learning. Even though virtual learning environments provide basic resources to help monitor the learners’ online behaviour, there is room for more insights to be derived concerning individual learner performance. In this study, we propose a framework for visualising learners’ online behaviour and use the data obtained to predict whether the learners would clear a course. We explored a variety of binary classifiers from which we achieved an overall accuracy of 80%–85%, thereby indicating the effectiveness of our approach and that learners’ online behaviour had a significant effect on their academic performance. Further analysis showed that common patterns of behaviour among learners and/or anomalies in online behaviour could cause incorrect interpretations of a learner’s performance, which gave us a better understanding of how our approach could be modified in the future.

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