Mea culpa, but in the preparations for the holiday season, I let slide by my report on the publication of the latest edition (Vol. 10, No. 6) of the always excellent International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. The December edition includes articles on the following:

Rory McGreal’s evaluation of the Commonwealth of Learning’s e-Learning Training division

Zawacki-Richter, O., Bäcker, E. and Vogt, S. (2009) Review of Distance Education Research (2000 to 2008): Analysis of Research Areas, Methods, and Authorship Patterns

This very important article examines research published in five distance education journals between 2000 and 2008. Main results:

  • Research in distance education is dominated by studies that focus on interaction and communication patterns in computer-mediated communication, instructional design issues, learner characteristics, and educational technology. In comparison, a very few studies on costs and benefits or policies and management.
  • In terms of research methods, a modest upward trend on a low percentage level for qualitative research methods.
  • More than 80% of all articles were contributed by authors from only five countries: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and China.
  • A significant trend was found towards more collaboration among researchers in distance education.

There is also a really useful classification of research areas in the article.

I have a few comments about this article.

  • First why did they restrict themselves only to ‘Western’ DE journals? Why did they not look at the Turkish Journal of Open and Distance Learning or the Asian Journal of Distance Education, for instance? It is not surprising that there was a national bias in the journals’ authors, but so there was in the article itself.
  • Little was said about the quality of the research (after the review of preceding literature), other than analysing the balance between quantitative, qualitative and ‘mixed’ approaches. However, you can have really bad quantitative articles and really good qualitative articles and vice versa. As the article noted, the main concern about DE research is its poor quality – too many publications and not enough coherence in the field.
  • Looking at journal publications alone may give an unbalanced view of publications in distance education. For instance, I suspect that there is a far higher proportion of books on strategies, policies and management than there are amongst journal articles. So any thorough review should include books.
  • A lot of ‘distance education’ research does not appear in distance education journals nowadays. A lot appears in journals on e-learning and learning technologies.
  • Now how about an analysis of blogs on distance education and e-learning? Anyone up to it?

Despite my comments this is a really important article.

Brown, A. and Green, T. (2009) Time Students Spend Reading Threaded Discussions in Online Graduate Courses Requiring Asynchronous Participation

Akyol, Z., Garrison, R. and Ozden, M. (2009) Online and blended communities of inquiry: Exploring the developmental and perceptional differences

Veletsianos, G. and Kleanthous, I. (2009) A review of adventure learning What is adventure learning? Online learning programs that focus on adventure and outdoors expeditions – such as following and participating online in an Arctic expedition.

Mishra, A. et al. (2010) Evaluation of the Undergraduate Physics Programme at Indira Gandhi National Open University: A Case Study Good to see a study of teaching science at a distance from the excellent IGNOU.

There is also an insider’s view on The First Doctoral Program in Distance Education in North America by a student,
Dorothy (Willy) Fahlman. This is about Athabasca University’s Ph.D. program.

Lastly (well almost) there is a review by Michael Beaudoin of a recent Sloan Foundation publication that I hadn’t known about but needed to: Online learning as a Strategic Asset, in the form of two reports:

S. McCarthy and R. Samors (2009). Online Learning as a Strategic Asset, Vol. 1: A Resource for Campus Leaders. Washington DC: Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

J. Seaman (2009). Online Learning as a Strategic Asset, Vol. 2: The Paradox of Faculty Voices. Washington DC: Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

Dang – that’s not all! There are also several interesting reports from the CIDER sessions, also worth reading. Now you know why it’s taken me so long to write this up! So read it – if you can find the time.


  1. Dear Tony Bates,
    Thanks for noting this review of the Latest issue of IRRODL. I have been through the entire journal and appreciate your points and directions to continue when examining the journal and the literature more generally. Your leadership in these areas matters and I also believe that CIDER sessions and Blogs at AU in their Athabasca Landing (Social Software Elgg) are slowly making significant contributions to students, faculty and alumni.

    Thanks Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers, PhD, R.Psych #1321(AB), RCAT, BC-DMT, GDDET (AU)


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