Online Support For Distance Education Graduate Students


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The Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University has created an online support site for research students in the Masters and Doctorate programs at Athabasca University. CDE Research and Exploration Discussion Site (READS) offers resources, information and collaboration to students engaged in research projects.

M. Cleveland-Innes and Sarah Gauvreau
Athabasca University

Published in: Education
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Online Support For Distance Education Graduate Students

  1. 1. Online Support for Distance Education Graduate Students: CDE READS Martha Cleveland-Innes, Ph.D. Sarah Gauvreau, B.Ed. Athabasca University The 15 th Annual Sloan-C International Conference of Online Learning
  2. 2. CDE READS Defined <ul><li>Center of Distance Education </li></ul><ul><li>Research Exploration and Discussion Site </li></ul><ul><li>A central location for research students to access resources, information, direction and advice regarding 1. distance education research broadly and/or 2. the process of designing and implementing research on the topic of distance education and all its sub-fields. </li></ul><ul><li>http:// </li></ul>
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  4. 4. Objectives <ul><li>Provide a community of inquiry regarding research in distance education. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide a source of advice, information, and encouragement in a moderated environment to student researchers. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide peer interaction opportunities for participants. </li></ul><ul><li>Allow identification and pursuit of special interests by participants. </li></ul><ul><li>Provide doctoral students an opportunity to moderate and participate in online interaction. </li></ul>
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  7. 7. Beginnings <ul><li>Created late January 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>March 20 th 2009: an e-mail was sent out to grad students announcing the available position of research assistant. </li></ul><ul><li>Candidates then received a follow-up e-mail that included a job description and listed three interview questions. </li></ul><ul><li>A subsequent e-mail was sent on March 27 th , 2009 to find applicants with Moodle experience. </li></ul><ul><li>March 30 th : Sarah Gauvreau was named successful candidate and Web Master. </li></ul><ul><li>Chief responsibility: to create and maintain weekly discussion sessions. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Weekly Discussion Sessions <ul><li>Incorporated into CDE READS May 23 rd , 2009. </li></ul><ul><li>Designed to act as “virtual student lounge” to discuss various topics of research and distance education. </li></ul><ul><li>Weekly e-mails are sent to student body announcing topic of discussion. </li></ul><ul><li>Discussion sessions often include associated journal readings. </li></ul><ul><li>Student interest and response to topics vary widely. </li></ul>
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  12. 12. Student Response to READS “ The General Research Discussion topic is the most useful (for me). Overall I think more traffic would help make the resource more vibrant.” “ I’m not sure what the Professor’s Corners is really meant to do. I have an academic advisor / thesis advisor, wouldn’t I simply go to that person?” “ I believe the site has great potential, especially as more students move into their thesis phase of the program.  Collectively, students have a great body of knowledge.  I hope that we can share our respective expertise.” “ There is nowhere for pre-703/703/704 student to go for this intellectual dialogue and topical thought. This is where I see READS; filling this gap for research students.”
  13. 13. CDE READS Statistics <ul><li>Viewed 13, 629 times by grad students and instructors </li></ul><ul><li>Postings or additions: 410 </li></ul><ul><li>Most utilized forum: Welcome Forum </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1460 views </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>113 posts </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Most popular discussion topic: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Life after Athabasca University: 12 postings/318 views </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Least popular discussion topic: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research Reflections: 0 postings/ 50 views </li></ul></ul>
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  16. 16. Data Themes <ul><li>Many students are visiting the CDE READS site but few are posting. </li></ul><ul><li>Students are more inclined to post about personal experiences and needs. </li></ul><ul><li>Students are less likely to post during open/free discussion. </li></ul><ul><li>Students prefer to post on structured topics, accompanied by material (e.g. academic articles). </li></ul>
  17. 17. READS Future <ul><li>Consider the integration of social networking and learning support. </li></ul><ul><li>Improve volume of postings. </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporate synchronous discussions and presentations. </li></ul><ul><li>Increase number of guest speakers. </li></ul><ul><li>Link to thesis courses. </li></ul>