Main lessons I culled from these papers:
- open and distance learners/online learners are much more heterogeneous than on-campus students: social background, institutional differences, prior education/learning experiences, all influence their readiness for online learning
- as a result, ODL students need much more personalization or individualization of their learning: one size does not fit all
- special attention needs to be paid to ‘at risk’ students very early in their studies: intense personal/tutor support is critical for such students.
It can be seen that such findings are important not only for the design of for-credit programs but also for MOOCs.
There were surprisingly few papers directly on this topic (although papers on other topics such as assessment and quality are also relevant of course).
The main lessons for me from this research on course design were:
- technology offers opportunity for radically new course designs and new approaches to student learning,
- such new designs need to be driven and informed by sound pedagogical theory/principles and prior research.
- we should be working to use technology to decrease faculty workload, not to increase it, as at present
- this will probably require team teaching, with different skills within the team (subject expert, learner support staff, course designer/pedagogue, technology specialist); it is unrealistic to expect faculty to be expert in all these areas
- to individualize learning, increased use of adaptive technology and the creation and support of personal learning environments will be necessary to help faculty manage the workload.
Two more reports are expected shortly, covering OERs/MOOCs, quality and assessment, research methods and overall conclusions.