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When it comes to making research actionable, Oregon State Ecampus is leading the charge

Cardboard file organizers upright on a shelf; each has a white label on the front and holds files inside.

By Heather Doherty  
March 28, 2018

Oregon State University Ecampus knows that as leaders in the field of higher education, there is a responsibility that comes with it: stay on top of the research. And what better way to do so than by being the ones to conduct the research?

Faculty in the OSU Ecampus Research Fellows Program are engaged in producing original research on teaching and learning with the aim of advancing the field of online education as it relates to access and instructional excellence.

Fellows are tasked with developing a topic, delving into the research, synthesizing it, and then sharing their findings with higher education communities to reach a larger audience.

In an effort to inform readers about a variety of topics related to online education research design and methodology, the inaugural 2016-17 research fellows recently released a series of white papers with topics ranging from assessing students’ latent skills in an online course to evaluating the impact of engaged philosophy in the online classroom.

“Online learning is the future of higher education, but a lot of questions still surround its effectiveness,” says Ecampus Research Unit Director Katie Linder. “With our Ecampus Research Fellows Program, we provide the outlet for faculty members at Oregon State to dive into research about online and hybrid learning and find answers to those questions.”

“That’s the goal of this program. To offer a space to conduct research that is meaningful and impactful to the field of online education.”

One project, conducted by OSU Ecampus anthropology instructor and academic advisor Brenda Kellar and OSU Ecampus anthropology instructor Mary Nolan, explores the concept of creating community among all types of learners in the online environment.

“The project was sparked by conversations with students who said they wished for more community,” Mary says. “That made my antennae go off because I had read about this Ecampus fellowship program and I started thinking about how we might look at this issue of community and connection.”

While the researchers say it can be a challenging task to grasp the concept of community that resonates with all students, their white paper examines how community relates to a variety of social science disciplines and online education in general.

“These two faculty members saw a problem and wanted to explore it more in depth, and they used the fellows program to do so,” Katie says. “That’s the goal of this program. To offer a space to conduct research that is meaningful and impactful to the field of online education.”

Karen Thompson, and assistant professor in the OSU College of Education, analyzed data about a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, titled “Supporting English Language Learners Under New Standards” in her fellows project.

“Together with my colleagues, we decided to seize this opportunity to conduct research we had been wanting to do to find out what participants got out of the course and also what structures school districts put in place to support teachers taking the course,” Karen says.

In its third year, the 2018-19 Ecampus Research Fellows Program features six projects, including one project that has an Oregon State Ecampus instructional designer as a part of the study team.

Including an instructional designer in this project is in direct response to a recent study conducted by the Oregon State Ecampus Research Unit that highlighted the importance of instructional designers engaging in research about online education.

Learn more about this year’s cohort.

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