Guest Interview Series by Dr. Danny Glick

Hear From the Experts on Online Education in a Pre- and Post-COVID Era

By IGI Global on Mar 30, 2021
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In response to the ongoing shift to remote education, Dr. Danny Glick, University of California (UC), Irvine, USA, and editor of Early Warning Systems and Targeted Interventions for Student Success in Online Courses, has been conducting a series of interviews with leading industry experts, research scientists, and university professors. In this interview series, he seeks to explore research-based principles, emerging trends, and initiatives for driving student engagement and success in online courses.


It is his hope that this interview series will be an important step towards helping the education community navigate successfully the “new normal”. View the latest interview below featuring Dr. Ying Xu from UC Irvine.



Introduction from Dr. Glick


Today, I am delighted to be speaking with Dr. Ying Xu, a postdoc researcher at UC Irvine’s School of Education, and a UCI Public Impact Distinguished Fellow. Dr. Xu’s research centers on applying learning principles to maximize the benefits of cutting-edge educational technologies in supporting student learning in formal and informal settings. She is the co-author – with UCI Prof. Di Xu – of The Promises and Limits of Online Higher Education. Ying’s research has been published in high-impact journals like Computers & Education, and the British Journal of Educational Technology.


Early Warning Systems and Targeted Interventions for Student Success in Online Courses
Profs. Danny Glick (University of California, Irvine, USA) et al.
©2020 | 374 pgs. | EISBN: 9781799850755
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The Interview Featuring Dr. Xu


Professor Xu

DR. GLICK: Good afternoon, Dr. Xu. Thank you so much for making time for this interview. Online education is one of the fastest-growing segments of higher education in the U.S. — and demand continues to rise (Seaman, Allen, & Seaman, 2018). Today, it has been more than two decades since the launch of the first online degree programs, and in recent years, the number of online programs available and student enrollment in them has grown dramatically (Gallagher, 2019).


DR. GLICK: How many students take online courses, and why?


DR. XU: Hi Danny, thanks for having me in this interview! In the pre-COVID world, the number of students enrolling in online courses is steadily increasing over the past few years, despite the slight decrease in overall college enrollment during that period of time. Based on the data provided by National Center for Education Statistics, the number of college students who took at least one online class increased by 1 million from 2012 to 2016, representing a 13% increase. There are two primary reasons that students take online courses. First, the online delivery format provides greater flexibility and convenience, especially for students who have other work and family commitments. Second, individual student preferences about the course delivery drive enrollment in online education. For example, students are making decisions based on three factors specific to a course, including the suitability of the subject areas to the online context, the difficulty of the course, and students’ perceived importance of the course.

Due to the current covid situation, many higher education institutions quickly switch to online learning to contain the spread of the virus. There is no national data available yet revealing the scale of online learning, but some research has hinted that instructor's experience of online teaching during COVID may have boosted their confidence in this teaching format. This could contribute to the continuing growth of online education.


DR. GLICK: A new report by UCLA (December, 2020) finds that Black and Hispanic households are significantly more likely (1.3 to 1.4 times) to experience limited access to technology as compared to non-Hispanic Whites. This seems to suggest that underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged populations are less likely to enroll in online courses. What is the profile of online students? Are affluent students more likely to enroll in online courses? How does socioeconomic status impact online learning?

DR. XU: Online learning gives students more flexibility, so it is not surprising that this kind of learning format may be particularly appealing to students who assume working and family responsibilities. These students would otherwise have to take fewer courses or not enroll in college at all. For example, based on data from California’s Community College System, students age 25 or older are much more likely than younger students to take online courses. Specifically, 15.4 percent of older students take online courses, compared to 8.5 percent of their traditional college-aged peers, or those who are 18 to 25 years old.
Indeed, there is also a racial and ethnic difference in online enrollment. Latino students have a substantially lower online enrollment rate than white students do. As you mentioned, Latinos are typically less likely to have internet access at home. Many researchers believe that this broadband internet access divide may partially contribute to the racial/ethnical disparity in online enrollment.



Digital Learning: Architectures of Participation
Exploring Online Learning Through Synchronous and Asynchronous Instructional Methods
Handbook of Research on Creating Meaningful Experiences in Online Courses
Student-Centered Virtual Learning Environments in Higher Education
Handbook of Research on Virtual Training and Mentoring of Online Instructors

DR. GLICK: According to your and Di Xu’s report, online education presents a promising opportunity to reduce higher education costs for institutions and students. As you noted, there is some suggestive evidence that online education might be able to “bend the cost curve” in traditional higher education. That said, reducing college costs by increasing class size may negatively impact student achievement. What are some arguments against online learning as a cost-saving strategy?

DR. XU: Since online courses do not have physical space limitations on enrollment, colleges can increase class sizes in online courses as a response to changes in demand relatively easily compared to brick-and-mortar classrooms. While online education seems to be a promising means to reducing higher education costs for both institutions and students. There are two caveats against this promise. First, we need to think about the extent to which online courses and programs compromise the quality of education received compared with traditional face-to-face instruction. If the primary reason why online class size can be increased without degrading learning outcomes is that interpersonal interactions are muted enough in online classrooms, it is reasonable to question whether the reduced interpersonal interactions and social presence may compromise the quality of education received by students.

Another important caveat to the promise of online education is the large upfront cost of developing high-quality online courses. The complexities involved in making generalizations about costs across different types of courses and institutions make it very difficult, if not entirely impossible, to provide a clear-cut answer as to whether online courses are indeed cheaper in terms of both upfront costs in course development and recurring costs in course deliver.


DR. GLICK: Which research-based strategies may prove effective in improving online education?


DR. XU: Based on the growing knowledge regarding the specific challenges of online learning and possible course design features that could better support students, several potential strategies have emerged to promote student learning in semester-long online courses.


The first one is a strategic online course offering. Above all, given students’ differential ability to successfully learn in an online environment, colleges may need to be more strategic in online course offerings. Considering that the convenience of online learning is most valuable to adults with multiple responsibilities and that older students typically have a higher level of self-directed learning skills, colleges may be able to expand online learning more drastically in courses or programs enrolling a large proportion of adult learners.


The second one is providing students with counseling or tutoring services. When students struggle academically, they may benefit from institutional resources and supports, such as counseling and tutoring services. However, since online students often choose the format to accommodate work and family responsibilities, they may face challenges accessing these supports if they are delivered exclusively on campus. To better address, the need of the growing online student population, especially those who enroll exclusively online, many colleges have started to provide comprehensive counseling and tutoring through the online format.


The third one is promoting interpersonal interactions during online classes. Interpersonal interactions are key to successful learning in any environment. Researchers have proposed a number of ways to strengthen interpersonal communication in fully online courses, including assigning students to peer groups and incorporating small-group problem-solving activities to facilitate student-to-student interactions, and providing synchronous online discussion sessions to improve instructor-student interaction by mimicking traditional classroom interactions.


The fourth strategy is to more effectively monitor student learning progress. One great advantage of the virtual learning environment is its potential to identify at-risk students in a timely way, based on individual online learning behaviors that might otherwise go unnoticed in face-to-face lectures with large class sizes. Based on student clickstream and learning analytics data, online platforms can closely record when and how students access online materials and complete assignments. Colleges could incorporate early warning systems into online courses to identify and intervene in helping struggling students before they withdraw from the course.


DR. GLICK: Dr. Ying, thank you so much for sharing your valuable insights and experiences. I wish you and your family a Happy New Year!



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For more information regarding this research and to review Dr. Glick and Dr. Ying’s research, view the IGI Global publication, Early Warning Systems and Targeted Interventions for Student Success in Online Courses.

Available in print and electronic format, it is available at a 40% discount* when you utilize the coupon code GLICK40 through IGI Global’s Online Bookstore. Additionally, this publication is available across preferred providers such as GOBI Library Solutions, EBSCOHost, Oasis, and Ebook Central (discounts may vary), as well as IGI Global’s InfoSci-Books (6,000+ e-books) database.

Visit the publication’s webpage to order, or contact Customer Service at cust@igi-global.com or 717-533-8845 ext. 100 with questions. For researchers, be sure to recommend this publication or the InfoSci-Books database to your library to have access to this critical content.


About Dr. Danny Glick: Danny Glick is a Research Affiliate at the University of California, Irvine’s Online Learning Research Center where he explores ways to improve student persistence and performance in online courses using early warning systems and light-touch interventions. He is a former visiting scholar at the University of California, Irvine’s School of Education where he investigated the effects of blended learning on the achievement of low-income students. Dr. Glick is also the Director of Pedagogical Implementation at Edusuft, a subsidiary of ETS, where he leads a team of EdTech implementation specialists. For the past 20 years, he has helped ministries of education and higher education institutions in 35 countries to shift from traditional instruction to online learning. Dr. Glick holds a PhD in Learning Technologies and a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction, and has presented and published on topics including early warning systems, targeted interventions, student persistence, and learning design.

About Dr. Ying Xu: Ying Xu received her Ph.D. degree in Language, Literacy, and Technology in the School of Education at UC Irvine. Ying's research has centered on applying learning sciences to maximize the benefits of cutting-edge educational technologies in supporting children's learning in formal and informal settings. She is currently exploring the potential of using artificially intelligent conversational agents to promote children’s language development and STEM learning through scaffolded conversations. Ying's research has appeared in Computers & Education, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, British Journal of Educational Technology, and the Proceedings of CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, and Ying has received multiple paper awards at the ACM SIGCHI conferences and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conferences. Being named a UC Irvine Public Impact Distinguished Fellow, Ying is committed to using her research to empower children, families, and communities and bring about actionable changes in the children’s media industry.


For your reference, find below a sample of related titles, which are also featured in IGI Global’s InfoSci-Books database and are available for purchase in print and electronic format. Be sure to recommend these titles to your librarian, to ensure your institution can acquire the most emerging research.

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References

Gallagher, S. (2019). Employer demand shaping the future of microcredential market: insights from a national survey. UPCEA Unbound. https://unbound.upcea.edu/innovation/alternative-credentialing/microdegrees/national-survey-suggests-that-employerswill-lead-way-on-digital-badging

Ong, M. P. (2020). COVID-19 and the Digital Divide in Virtual Learning. UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge. https://knowledge.luskin.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Digital-Divide-Phase2_brief_release_v01.pdf

Seaman, J.E., Allen, I.E., and Seaman, J. (2018). Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States. The Babson Survey Research Group. https://onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/gradeincrease.pdf

Xu, D., & Xu, Y. (2019). The Promises and Limits of Online Higher Education: Understanding how distance education affects access, cost, and quality. American Enterprise Institute. https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/the-promises-and-limits-of-online-higher-education


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.

About IGI Global: Founded in 1988, IGI Global, an international academic publisher, is committed to producing the highest quality research (as an active full member of the Committee on Publication Ethics “COPE”) and ensuring the timely dissemination of innovative research findings through an expeditious and technologically advanced publishing processes. Through their commitment to supporting the research community ahead of profitability, and taking a chance on virtually untapped topic coverage, IGI Global has been able to collaborate with over 100,000+ researchers from some of the most prominent research institutions around the world to publish the most emerging, peer-reviewed research across 350+ topics in 11 subject areas including business, computer science, education, engineering, social sciences, and more. To learn more about IGI Global, click here.


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