In response to a call from IES for research on how to best support postsecondary teachers and students to thrive in online environment, NCER is establishing a new research and development (R&D) center. This center, led by SRI International (SRI) and the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College (Columbia University), aims to help faculty embed support for self-directed learning skills into their online and hybrid courses.
This R&D center will support postsecondary instructors in making optimal use of technology features often available in online course tools to bolster student self-management strategies. Through its research and capacity-building programs, the center aims to strengthen teaching and learning, improve student outcomes, and ensure all students—regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status—have equitable learning opportunities and attainment in broad-access institutions.
“Lack of self-directed learning skills can hinder a student’s success in any college course,” says SRI’s Rebecca Griffiths, a lead researcher in the new center, “but the challenge is greater in online courses, which typically place more responsibility on students to manage their own learning.”
Self-directed learning skills, also known as self-regulated learning skills, encompass three interrelated and mutually reinforcing areas:
- Affect, which includes self-efficacy and the motivation to learn
- Strategic actions, which include planning, goal setting, strategies to organize, code, and rehearse
- Metacognition, which includes self-monitoring, self-evaluating and self-correction
These three areas can form a virtuous cycle. When students believe that studying helps them learn important and useful knowledge, they are more likely to study strategically and effectively. Effective study habits in turn enhance academic performance and build positive mindsets including confidence, motivation around learning, and a sense of personal growth.
SRI and CCRC will partner with Achieving the Dream and nine broad-access, public colleges, and universities across the U.S. to conduct these research program activities.
The research goals of the R&D center are to—
- Generate new knowledge about how faculty can effectively use technology features and instructional practices in online STEM courses to create a positive feedback loop for students
- Shed light on institutional policies and practices and instructional environments needed to support a coherent, intentional, and sustainable approach to helping students build self-directed learning skills across their coursework
- Develop and pilot a technology-enabled, skills development model that will use technology features already widely available in learning management systems, adaptive courseware, and mobile apps to deliver instruction on these skills
- Using research findings to inform the development of a rich, interactive toolkit to support institutions and faculty as they implement self-directed learning skills instruction at scale in online programs.
In addition to carrying out the research activities, the center will provide national leadership and capacity-building activities for postsecondary teaching and learning. Through partnership with Achieving the Dream, technology developers, researchers, education equity advocates, and others, the center will establish the critical importance of integrating self-directed learning into instruction to improve teaching and learning and improve equity in postsecondary student outcomes. They will also engage faculty, instructional designers, and educational technology developers to share knowledge and to co-develop and disseminate capacity-building resources that support teaching these skills and strategies.
The center is led by Dr. Deborah Jonas (PI, SRI International, top photo), Dr. Nicole Edgecombe (Co-PI, Teachers College, Columbia University), Dr. Rebecca Griffiths (Co-PI, SRI International), and Dr. Neil Seftor (Co-PI, SRI International).
This blog was written by the R&D center team. For further information about the grant, contact the program officer: Dr. Meredith Larson.