As part of my coursework in Assessing Digital Learning and Instruction at Lamar University, I explored using practical measurement strategies to quantify and assess student-learning in digital learning environments. The goal of this course was to create an action research plan to measure the instructional impact of my innovation plan, and assess it's effectiveness on learning outcomes. Action research, as described by Craig Mertler in Action Research: Improving Schools and Empowering Educators, involves the stages of planning, acting, developing, and reflecting. In this course we have focused on the planning stage and will move through the acting, developing, and reflecting stages as we continue with our coursework.
The planning stage
My action research topic is “The Effect of Collaborative LMS Features on Success in EDUC 1300”.
PURPOSE & RESEARCH QUESTION
The purpose of my study is to examine of whether collaborative and interactive learning activities conducted by forming groups in the LMS improve course completion rates and grades in the EDUC 1300 course offered at Houston Community College. This is a required first-year core course offered to a wide range of students, and there is a need to increase completion rates and passing rates in this course, in order to help students develop critical thinking skills and good study habits. It appears that the LMS is used simply for operational features like announcements, paperless content delivery and submissions, without providing students enough opportunities for engagement, collaboration, and interaction. Incorporating features in the LMS that gives students these opportunities would allow them to address topics that are of interest and use to them personally, ultimately giving them choice, ownership and voice in their learning process.
TYPES OF DATA COLLECTED
I am planning to collect both quantitative and qualitative data while conducting this research. The quantitative data includes course completion rates, grade distributions, scored feedback questionnaires and LMS analytics. The qualitative data includes a student and instructor feedback surveys.
Once the collaborative and interactive learning activities from the innovation plan are implemented into the coursework, we can examine certain measures of success over the course of the semester, such as LMS analytics and asking for feedback at certain points in the semester from students and instructors. The bulk of the measurements will come at the end of the semester. Being conducted in a core course, this study will provide a large sample to work with in terms of the data collection we will use to track the progress of the strategy and plan implementation. We will be able to compare outcomes year-to-year and even allow for a control group (instructors who participate in the innovation plan vs. those who do not).
When reviewing literature on educational technology implementations, I was able to find useful strategies and ideas that could be applied to my action research plan. Using these resources, I compiled a formal literature review to support my plan: its focus is on the types of collaborative and interactive learning activities available for distance education, and the successes and challenges of implementing those strategies.
TIMELINE OF ACTION RESEARCH
The stakeholders from the Education content area, the Distance Education department and the Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence will already be implementing a 4DX plan; regular communication will be maintained throughout the action research process, while the innovation plan is being implemented. The results and analysis from the action research will also be shared with other content areas, and the other colleges outside the Online College. I can also document the whole process on my blog and ePortfiolio, and submit my research for publication in a journal of higher education.
Throughout the process of the action research plan, we have incorporated various forms of measurement and feedback which will allow us to systematically reflect upon our practice, review our progress and determine the plan's effectiveness. This will help us to make decisions about what we will change during the implementation of the plan and in our future practice. Reflection is truly a part of the process from the beginning, not just a the end; it is what guides us to better outcomes when attempting to innovate our practices.
Mertler, C. A. (2016). Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.