March 28, 2023

Misunderstanding on the internet instruction at Virginia Tech (letter)

To the Editor:

Measures of top quality in on-line education have been created by means of decades of exploration in the subject of instructional design and technologies (IDT), informing best practices in the design and style, growth,  implementation and analysis of modern day on the net courses and applications. Your latest write-up, “Online Courses Surge at Virginia Tech. But What About Results?” by Susan D’Agostino, phone calls into question the high-quality of the on the web courses featured in the piece.

Regretably, this article consists of notable misconceptions about on the net training in standard as effectively as misunderstandings about strategies for measuring the effectiveness of these programs. It is hoped that the opportunity to emphasize these concerns and share appropriate, proof-primarily based means from the IDT knowledge foundation may perhaps inform future publications which aspect the matter of excellent in online schooling.

Very first, the author labels the classes featured in this posting “massive on the net courses,” conflating them with Massive On-line Open Programs (MOOCs). MOOCs are free of charge or very low-price finding out alternatives accessible to anyone and are really unique than the classes highlighted in this article—large enrollment undergraduate programs for residential learners. This distinction is an vital 1. The students are various, the  designs of the understanding experiences are different, and, consequently, the actions of quality are essentially unique. 

One more essential false impression in this post relates to a recommendation that VT should really ascertain the effectiveness of the highlighted on the net programs by comparing pupil understanding results in these courses to their on-campus counterparts. This prompt observe fails to think about many years of investigate that explicates why this kind of comparisons are not valid or meaningful. A assortment of causes exist for preventing the use of such comparisons. One fundamental obstacle is that this strategy presumes the face-to-facial area classroom to be the gold standard against which excellent is calculated. These comparisons position credit rating (or  blame) for pupil accomplishment on the bodily mastering surroundings without the need of taking into consideration the several aspects that do affect university student understanding, particularly the chosen teaching approach and its alignment with qualified mastering results.

As these types of, the tutorial process and the shipping mode are confounded, ensuing in outcomes that are meaningless. Media comparison reports such as people encouraged in the article are not handy resources of details about the success of any variety of instruction. 

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A different crucial oversight in the report is the absence of data about the tutorial design strategies employed in the showcased courses. The college instructing these classes engaged in mindful preparing and
implementation efforts informed by the science of understanding and finest practices in on the net training. For example, Professor Greg Tew created open online textbooks for his Style Appreciation and Life in the Built Environment courses using strategic chances to have interaction the learners in reliable purposes of design understanding and capabilities.

Professor Stefan Duma organized in-particular person lab classes to provide on the web college students alongside one another as aspect of his Concussion Views training course. Each individual of these college associates talk consistently with their pupils concerning class ideas, timelines, and expectations, information and facts that is made readily available through their detailed study course websites which provide as an organizational framework for these courses. Furthermore, Professor Duma retains weekly in-man or woman workplace several hours as options to interact with and support his online students, in addition to supplying assist by means of electronic mail in an ongoing method. Professor Tew features one-on-a single Zoom phone calls as desired and individually responds to college student email messages commonly in just minutes, 7 times a week. These kinds of educational style and design and learner aid procedures are the hallmarks of effective online and blended teaching and learning, underpinned by decades of analysis by scholars in instructional design and technologies.

Ultimately, the short article neglected to point out the significant use of formative evaluation knowledge in the implementation of the showcased programs. The article’s vital issue of “What about outcomes?” is answered as a result of continuous evaluation of these classes to make sure they are facilitating the intended learning outcomes and meeting university student demands working with different formative evaluation approaches. For instance, the mastering administration systems that support online (and in-particular person) courses at Virginia Tech permit instructors to watch scholar development throughout the system, providing insights as to when college students may be struggling.

Furthermore, the regular engagement these school have with their online students, beyond what is achievable in a substantial lecture hall, presents extra formative comments which can be employed to revise course options and/or offer extra specific advice or aid for the total class. Formative evaluation info generates important information and facts which can be employed to deal with emergent pupil desires and facilitate a much more helpful finding out knowledge over all.

The opportunity to share these challenges and challenges contained in the article “Online Classes Surge at Virginia Tech. But What About Results?” is appreciated. Maybe larger recognition of the rules of
successful layout, implementation, and evaluation of online teaching and learning, as nicely as the extensive research base on which very best techniques for on the net training and mastering are designed, can positively notify
created explorations of these matters heading forward. 

–Barbara B. Lockee
Associate Vice Provost for College Affairs
Professor, Instructional Structure and Engineering