The Online Learning Consortium's premier journal dedicated to the development and dissemination of new knowledge at the intersection of pedagogy, emerging technology, policy, and practice in online environments.


The library contains articles of Online Learning as of vol. 1(1997) to current.

Recent Submissions

  • Research Ethics of Twitter for MOOCs

    Costello, Eamon; Donlon, Enda; Brown, Mark (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-09-01)
    This study examined the ethical considerations researchers have made when investigating MOOC learners’ and teachers’ Twitter activity. In so doing, it sought to addresses the lack of an evidence-based understanding of the ethical implications of research into Twitter as a site of teaching and learning. Through an analysis of 31 studies we present a mapping of the ethical practices of researchers in this area. We identified potential ethical issues and concerns that have arisen. Our main contribution is to seek to challenge researchers to engage critically with ethical issues and hence develop their own understanding of ethically- appropriate approaches. To this end, we also reflected and reported on our own evolving practice.
  • Impactful Leadership Traits of Virtual Leaders in Higher Education

    Alward, Erin; Phelps, Yvonne (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-09-01)
    Universities are increasingly leveraging virtual teams into the organizational structure and strategic framework for many functions including academic administration and faculty leadership. One benefit of a virtual workforce is the ability to hire the most qualified individuals regardless of where they are physically located. As the virtual workforce expands, leaders may intuitively rely on traditional face-to-face approaches and strategies for employee oversight and motivation. These techniques may be ineffective or challenging to use in the virtual environment necessitating new approaches. Leaders of virtual teams need to understand the intricacies associated with these groups and be cognizant of factors that assist in creating cohesiveness, trust, and communication amongst virtual teams. This qualitative phenomenological study explores leaders’ perceptions surrounding competencies needed to effectively lead virtual teams in online education. A decisive sampling method was used to identify 10 experienced academic leaders who supervise virtual teams. As a result of the interviews, seven major themes emerged: (a) training and development; (b) trust; (c) emotional intelligence; (d) communication/team building/technology; (e) employee recognition and motivation; (f) leadership styles; and (g) virtual leadership competencies unique to higher education. Based on these themes and further evaluation the need for specific soft skills and robust technology emerged. Specifically, organizational success partially hinges on comprehensive training for virtual leaders, the significance of trust, emotional intelligence, and effective, respectful communication.  
  • From Proprietary Textbook to Custom OER Solution: Using Learner Feedback to Guide Design and Development

    Florida State University Libraries; Dennen, Vanessa P.; Bagdy, Lauren M. (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-09-01)
    This study presents the initial needs analysis and formative evaluation of the beta version of an open educational resource (OER) textbook solution. The OER textbook, created by the authors, replaces a proprietary, paper-based textbook and is delivered to students digitally, within a learning management system. Findings show that students are concerned about cost and convenience, and are likely to seek course content online before reading material in traditional course textbook. Many do not purchase assigned textbooks at all. Students also want mobile access to course readings, and for those readings to be brief and targeted, covering just the necessary content for completing coursework. Students provided positive feedback on the OER textbook, indicating that it helped them meet course learning objectives. The online integration of reading and other content materials within the LMS encouraged use. Students reported higher rates of access and appreciation that it was free. These findings suggest that instructors should consider the cost, format, length, and relevance of assigned readings in courses, whether they are ready to adopt, adapt or create open digital textbooks or continue to use proprietary, paper-based ones. 
  • The Collaborative Mapping Model: Relationship-Centered Design for Higher Education

    Drysdale, Jason T (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-09-01)
    Instructional designers list one of their primary obstacles as collaborating with faculty (Intentional Futures, 2016).  Additionally, instructional designers experience a high degree of role misperception and struggle to advocate for clear and defined roles (Drysdale, 2018).  In order to address these challenges, I created the Collaborative Mapping Model (CMM), a model of instructional design for higher education instructional designers that puts relationship at the center of design and addresses issues of scale, quality, and empowerment.  I first identified four primary roles of instructional designers in higher education by evaluating the industry standard models of instructional design, comparing their structure and usage for relevance to the consultative role designers assume in higher education. The collaborative designer role had no associated model of design, and led to the development of the model. Development was informed by several key theories, including authentic leadership theory (Kiersch & Byrne, 2015), shared leadership theory (Bolden, 2011), and appreciative inquiry (Kadi-Hanifi et al., 2014). After several years of implementation and refinement, I developed an action research study to determine the effectiveness of the model.  I administered a mixed methods survey to a group of 50 faculty who had designed a course in partnership with an instructional designer through the CMM.  Among other results, 92% of respondents (n=37) indicated an improvement in the quality of their courses and 73% (n=37) saved time by working with an instructional designer in the CMM.  Key themes from the qualitative survey question included value and respect for the expertise of the instructional designer, a significant improvement to the online courses designed and developed through the CMM, and enthusiasm for continued collaboration with instructional designers.  This study describes the development of the model, an overview of theoretical influences and processes, and the effectiveness of the Collaborative Mapping Model of instructional design.Keywords: instructional design, instructional design models, collaboration, faculty partnership, advocacy, leadership, course mapping, curriculum design, professional roles
  • Putting Theory into Practice: Incorporating a Community Engagement Model into Online Pre-professional Courses in Legal Studies and Human Resources Management

    France-Harris, J.D., Antoinette; Burton, Ed. D., Christie H.; Mooney, J.D., Mara (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-06-01)
    As part of community-engaged educational partnerships, students are paired with community members in instructor-focused activities linked to an academic curriculum.  Scholars widely agree that this type of approach can significantly improve the learning experience for students while simultaneously having a positive impact on the community.  As faculty in higher education implement this pedagogical tool, it is a natural progression for it to expand into online classrooms.  In particular, while there is a growing body of research related to community engagement in online healthcare and science-related fields, less research exists on the incorporation of community engagement in other types of online pre-professional courses.  This paper explores student perceptions in online pre-professional undergraduate courses in the legal studies and human resources fields in which community engagement projects were utilized.  These experiences should lead to a deeper understanding of the benefits and challenges of community-engaged online classrooms and give guidance for developing future projects.
  • The Efficacy of an Online Cognitive Assessment Tool for Enhancing and Improving Student Academic Outcomes

    Shaw, Lindsay; MacIsaac, Jann; Singleton-Jackson, Jill A. (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-06-01)
    With technology at the fingertips of most undergraduate students, it has been difficult for instructors to fully engage students in the classroom, which has resulted in the creation of several innovative assessment platforms, such as mTuner. mTuner integrates several cognitive learning strategies within an assessment, with the goal of actually enhancing learning, as opposed to just measuring it. In the current study, students’ level of engagement and performance with mTuner were compared to their final multiple-choice paper and pencil exam mark to determine the efficacy of mTuner in achieving improved learning outcomes. Results indicated that students had high performance scores on the mTuner assessment despite their limited engagement in the cognitive learning features, putting to question mTuner’s facilitation of long-term learning. Implications and future recommendations of mTuner implementation in educational environments are discussed.

    Anderson, Terry; Rourke, Liam; Garrison, Randy; Archer, Walter (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    This paper presents a tool developed for the purpose of assessing teaching presence in online courses that make use of computer conferencing, and preliminary results from the use of this tool. The method of analysis is based on Garrison, Anderson, and Archer’s model of critical thinking and practical inquiry in a computer conferencing context. The concept of teaching presence is constitutively defined as having three categories – design and organization, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction. Indicators that we search for in the computer conference transcripts identify each category. Pilot testing of the instrument reveals interesting differences in the extent and type of teaching presence found in different graduate level online courses.
  • Design of Net-learning Systems Based on Experiential Learning

    Pimentel, Juan R. (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    The theory of experiential learning is briefly reviewed and a model of the learning process is presented. The paper then discusses and characterizes a virtual learning environment and its relationship to experiential learning and learning styles. An approach for designing virtual learning environments is presented taking into account the technology for learning. A prototype for a virtual learning environment designed and built by the author and known as LeProf is then discussed along with its application in the design of an educational site for learning electrical circuits.
  • Enabling Curriculum Re-design Through Asynchronous Learning Networks

    MacKenzie, Niall; MacKenzie, Niall (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    This paper considers existing processes in Higher Education and the opportunity for using Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALNs) to re-design the curriculum. A curriculum model based upon experiential learning, that explicitly links theory and practice, is promoted as the basis for considering the application of technology. The Computer Supported Experiential Learning project at the University of Central England is explained, and appropriate technologies considered at each stage of the learning cycle. Fundamental to this paper is the view that technology should be used to add value to the learning process, and not to simply automate existing processes. The opportunities for experiential learning to take place are considered a priority in the curriculum design process, and the starting point in deciding upon the use of technology.

    Ives, Kathleen Susan (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    The goal of community colleges is to serve local needs. Community colleges’ low tuition helps keep higher education affordable for a diverse population. Distance learning holds the promise of providing yet another mechanism by which community colleges can bring education to a non-traditional student body. This paper explores the role of distance learning opportunities in community colleges within the context of today’s current environmental scan.

    Rovai, Alfred P.; Ponton, Michael K. (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    Higher education administrators and faculty members seek ways in which to advance student learning in online courses, and student affairs professionals seek ways to promote a sense of belonging and connectedness of students to their schools. The present study examined how a set of three classroom community variables were related to a set of two student learning variables in a predominantly White sample of 108 online African American and Caucasian graduate students. Using canonical correlation, the two subscales of the Classroom Community Scale and the mean number of messages posted each week to the online course’s group discussion boards were found to be related significantly to perceived learning and total points earned in the course along a single dimension. Moreover, African American students scored significantly lower across all five variables than their Caucasian peers, suggesting that the achievement gap that exists in many traditional educational programs also exists in graduate ALN programs and that this gap extends to sense of community.

    Vignare, Karen; Sener, John (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    The Monroe County (NY) Health Alert Network (MCHAN) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) recently completed their second year of a Centers for Disease Control grant-funded project that offers a series of instructor-led asynchronous online learning courses. The courses are designed to enhance the workforce competencies of local and state health department staff and other nontraditional responders in planning for and responding to bioterrorism and other health emergencies. The project meets an important need for critical skills and knowledge training in this field and demonstrates how partnerships of higher education, government, and industry can deliver such training online. Contrary to the results of many e-learning initiatives, the vast majority (84%) of students involved in the program successfully completed the courses they started. Student and instructor evaluation surveys show high degrees of satisfaction and success; they also provide useful information on how to improve the courses. A critical element in the success of the courses was the employment of a program coordinator to manage course creation, instructor training, marketing, and registration. If one considers project costs relative tocompletion rates, this project has been highly cost effective despite the added cost of paying instructors. Overall, project results indicate that the asynchronous instructor-led online course model can be implemented successfully in many corporate and government e-learning initiatives.
  • Institutional Policy for ALN

    Harris, Dale A.; DiPaolo, Andy (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    For the past five years, Stanford has been involved in developing the capability to offer courses to remote learners over the Internet. This has evolved into a robust operation, which over the past year has offered 180 courses to approximately 4000 distance learners. More recently, the Department of Electrical Engineering has extended its offerings so that it is now possible to earn course credits sufficient to obtain a Master’s degree and academic certificates entirely online. In this paper, we discuss the issues of institutional policy which have emerged as we have gone through this evolution. Our experience at Stanford will be discussed within the broader framework of institutional policy and of the general institutional resistance to change in higher education. A version of this paper was presented at the Fourth International Conference on Asynchronous Learning Networks held in New York in November 1998.

    Bourne, John; Moore, Janet C.; Sener, John; Mayadas, Frank; Ettinger, Linda F. (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    This paper investigates how access to higher education in the United States can be increased through further integration of online education. The search for opportunities to increase access to online education examined multiple prospective higher education contexts. A series of papers produced by participants in the 2005 Sloan-C summer workshop is synthesized and presented in this overview. Individual papers are included in the publication, providing analyses of specific opportunities.

    Kumari, Siva (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-19)
    Information technologies provide unique opportunities for higher education faculty to rethink the resources that are available to re-envision their pedagogical techniques. One such promise is the ability of the faculty member to invite virtual guest speakers or experts into the graduate course through web-based conferencing. The virtual guest can host asynchronous interactive discussions with students in the course for a specified period of time. These technologies provide students with the ability to interact with guests in new ways by expressing individual concerns and discussing them without time and place constraints. This paper describes in quantitative and qualitative terms one such experience in a graduate course where three virtual guests were invited to interact with the students over the eleven-week course.
  • Doctoral E-mentoring: Current Practices and Effective Strategies

    Byrnes Jr., David James; Uribe-Flórez, Lida J.; Trespalacios, Jesús; Chilson, Jodi (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-01)
    Effective mentoring has been the cornerstone of a successful doctoral experience. Traditional doctoral education uses an apprenticeship model for mentoring to help students learn what is required as an academic professional. However, online environments present unique challenges to creating and maintaining mentor-mentee relationships. Using keywords specific to e-mentoring and online graduate education, literature searches were conducted to isolate relevant research from the last decade. From this literature, it was possible to synthesize current practices in e-mentoring and identify effective strategies to use for doctoral students conducting research. Using Yob and Crawford (2012) framework, results were organized into the following six independent categories: Competence, Availability, Induction, Challenge, Communication, and Emotional Support. Other aspects that impact the mentoring relationship are also discussed.
  • Integrating UDL Strategies into the Online Course Development Process: Instructional Designers' Perspectives

    Office of Digital Learning, George Mason University; Singleton, Korey Jerome; Evmenova, Anna; Kinas Jerome, Marci; Clark, Kevin (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-01)
    This qualitative case study design examined the perspectives that instructional designers at a 4-year research institution in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States have about integrating UDL strategies into the online course development process. The participants were six individuals involved in the online course development process: four of the participants were instructional designers working for the Instructional Design Team, one participant was an assistant program manager in the Office of Distance Education, and the other was an instructional designer working in the College of Health and Human Services. The interviews focused on the participant’s perspectives on the integration of UDL strategies and how they believe faculty perceived such practices. Using a series of semi-structured interviews and document analysis, three distinct themes emerged: (a) the importance of the instructional designer/faculty member partnership, (b) the number of factors impacting faculty adoption of UDL strategies in their online courses, and (c) faculty resistance to changes in how classroom accommodations are addressed in the higher education classroom. In addition to highlighting factors impacting the integration of UDL strategies, the findings also revealed techniques that could be useful in improving faculty adoption of such practices.
  • Social Network Analysis and Online Learning Communities in Higher Education: A Systematic Literature Review

    K. Jan, Shazia; Vlachopoulos, Panos; Parsell, Mitch (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-01)
    This paper presents the results of a systematic literature review which sets out to explore the use of social network analysis (SNA) for investigating online learning communities in higher education. The impetus for such a review originated from an increased interest by researchers in SNA techniques to investigate interactions and learning engagement in various types of online communities. However, the researchers often omit to ground their research and SNA methods in community based learning frameworks such as communities of inquiry (CoI) and communities of practice (CoP). We identified a handful of studies that integrate SNA methods and key constructs from these frameworks and examined: SNA measures and corresponding theoretical constructs used; other analytical techniques used; limitations and; suggestions for further research. We found that while SNA is effective in detecting prominent participants, sub-groups and certain aspects of a CoP, a specific SNA measure cannot be correlated with a particular presence in a CoI. Therefore, SNA needs to be complemented with a qualitative analytical technique. Whether SNA can be used as a stand-alone technique for identifying communities remains to be seen. We also find a lack of consideration to attributional and performance variables in existing studies. In conclusion, we propose the development of a fully integrated research framework for a holistic analysis of online learning and teaching.
  • Teaching to Connect: Community-Building Strategies for the Virtual Classroom

    Berry, Sharla (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-03-01)
    A sense of community is central to student engagement and satisfaction. However, many students struggle with developing connections in online programs. Drawing on interviews with 13 instructors, this paper explores the strategies that they use to help students develop a sense of community in synchronous virtual classrooms. Four strategies for building community online are identified:  reaching out to students often, limiting time spent lecturing, using video and chat as modes to engage students, and allowing class time to be used for personal and professional updates.
  • A National Study of Online Learning Leaders in US Community Colleges

    Fredericksen, Eric E. (The Online Learning Consortium, 2019-01-25)
    Online learning has become a major endeavor in US higher education. A 2016 national study of leadership for online learning explored a new leadership role that Presidents and Provosts at US universities have established to coordinate and direct their efforts in this vital area. But a significant portion of online education is offered by two-year schools, so this systematic national study of online learning leaders at our community college will complement the first study and contribute to our understanding of this vital academic initiative in those institutions. 

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