Friday, March 13, 2009

Favourite e-learning research

I'm often asked to provide a piece of research to support e-learning and one of my favourites is a full paper on Carol Twigg's research. What follows is a short summary.

Transforming learning through e-learning

There are three key questions when looking at transformation in education and training:

Is it cost-effective?

Are we seeing better learning?

Can drop-out rates be reduced?

Answers to these questions were sought in one of the most detailed and influential pieces of research into course redesign from the Center for Academic Transformation in the US, funded by an $8.8 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Program in Course Redesign, led by Dr. Carol A. Twigg supervised a truly innovative, wide-ranging and significant experiment in the use of technology in learning. In the light of increasing participation, rising costs and problems with student retention, the research tackled the issues of costs, effectiveness ad retention head-on.

Background to research

Out of hundreds of applicants, 30 research universities, comprehensive universities, independent colleges, and community colleges in all regions of the United States institutions each received a grant of $200,000. The research wisely focused on the courses that generated most enrollments. Just 25 introductory courses cover a third of all students in four-year institutions and half of all students in community colleges. In many of these courses, the drop-out rate ranged from 15% at top research universities through 30-40% at comprehensive universities and to a staggering 50-60% in community colleges. Widening participation clearly has consequences in corresponding drop-out rates after only one year.

Successful transformational tactics

The findings showed that the benefits flowed. Not from an incremental strategy, led by institutions, but from transformational change.

There were several transformational pedagogic changes that were marks of success:

1. Concentrate on large enrollment courses (larger impact and cost savings)

2. Improvements apply to many types of courses

3. Don’t fiddle, redesign the whole course

4. Don’t bolt on new technologies to existing physical system

5. Don’t stay with an unaltered concept of classroom instruction

6. Move students from a passive, "note-taking" role to an active-learning orientation

7. Move from an entirely lecture-based to a student-engagement approach

The point of the research was to have some sort of transformational effect on these institutions and the chosen courses. There had to be a shift from the old to the new so that comparative measures were meaningful.

Carol Twigg’s conclusion, at the end of this study was that we have “traditionally assumed that high quality means low student-faculty ratios, and that large lecture-presentation techniques supported by cheap labor constitute the only viable low-cost alternatives. But it is now clear that course redesign using technology-based, learner-centered principles can offer higher education a way out of this historical trade-off between cost and quality. New models demonstrate that it is indeed possible to improve learning and reduce costs at the same time. For the first time, we can have our cake and eat it too.”

Contact me if you want full paper.


jay said...

This is right on. I'd love to see the whole paper.

Rob said...

Fascinating stuff. I would love to look at the full paper. I found a few references to it, but not the full text.

Donald Clark said...

National Center for Academic Transformation site has loads of good stuff in this area:

Rob said...

Thanks - really interesting collection. And Carol Twigg turns out to be an Eng Lit person - even better!

Donald Clark said...

When hiring graduate learning designers English Lit students were usually on the ball. Good writing skills and an analytic mind meant they could take most subjects and make them readable as e-learning.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff again Donald...the whole paper would be useful....I think the LSC would be interested given the "capital build crisis" and wonder whether we would be better considering this research in planning BSF?

Rob said...

Interesting, Donald - I will quote you at the next Open Day when faced with the inevitable parent enquiry "What can Eng Lit graduates do?"

Donald Clark said...

Seb Schmoller has also posted some excellent links:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Donald. To be precise, the links are from this post:
. Sorry that the URL is so long....., and feel free to edit your comment to point to it instead of accepting this one.

Liz said...

I'd like to receive the whole paper, please.

Anonymous said...

Donald, fantastic stuff please could you let me have a copy of the paper. thanks

bapalarry said...

I'd love a copy of the whole paper. I assume it include a citation for the Twigg research, if not, do you have it? Thanks.

Paper Research said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

regine said...

One of the many advantages of e learning is the interactivity that engages users, pushing them rather than pulling them through training.