Gauging the Quality of Online Learning by Measuring 21st Century Engagement

Edel-Malizia, Stephanie; Brautigam, Kathleen
January 2014
Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning;2014, p700
Conference Proceeding
This research explores 21st Century engagement as an indicator of online instructional quality. How do you move from having a policy of providing quality online learning to actually determining the magnitude, amount, or volume of quality learning experiences provided in a particular course? Like many institutions providing online learning, we are engaged in a process of exploring the most effective way of improving the quality of courses. Online learning is steeped in the tradition of providing a typical type of experience for learners, with common elements that have become the status quo for over the past 20 years and largely replicates industrial models where top-down, passive methods of instruction are the norm. High quality instruction contains specific elements that will improve the potential for teaching to engage students through socio-emotional, behavioral and cognitive means (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, and Paris, 2004). These elements have been well researched primarily in the context of face-to-face primary and secondary education. Csikszentmihalyi's Flow model (1990) (1996) can be applied to gage levels of engagement in relation to 21st Century Skills. Indicators of Engaged Learning are provided by the 1995 work of the Council for Educational Research and Development, and North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, "Plugging in: Choosing and using educational technology" (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, & Rasmussen). The Indicators of Engaged Learning provide indicators and definitions of teaching and learning approaches and are used to document the use of technology in the classroom as related to student engagement. This study stems from the belief that these elements of face-to-face teaching are just as important to the quality of teaching and learning in an online environment, including traditional higher education students as well as adult students. As seen in numerous scholarly publications focusing on contemporary higher education, there are a growing number of academics that are wondering if the quality of online instruction has kept up with its explosive growth. This research seeks to create a process for evaluating online course design for the purposeful creation of instruction that will engage students through socio/emotional engagement (interactions and reactions), cognitive investment (intellectual), and behavioral engagement (participation) as measured by indicators of engaged learning and gaged through use of the Flow model to determine the level at which students will be engaged and to use this quality measure to improve course design.


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