Research Methods in Instructional Technology
Lloyd Rieber, Instructor
Course Web site:
This course introduces you to key concepts and practices in the educational research process. The concepts, practices, and hands-on experience related to educational research are considered within a context of applied research. This context is organized into two major areas: (1) learning the fundamentals: Establishing a framework, exploring the literature, and learning about methods; and (2) exploring and applying the research: Identifying and interpreting the literature, then summarizing, synthesizing, and applying the results. We will explore different aspects of the research experience during the term as we focus on the overall research process. Throughout the course, you will participate in Research Design Activities (RDAs) for you to learn how to critically examine real world research. Our primary goal is to explore how to do and apply research in a variety of contexts to meet multiple purposes.
The philosophical foundation of the course is that there is not one method for research, but rather techniques that work better for a particular situation. As such, we will discuss the research process in the larger context of problem-solving. The overall goal is not to become an expert researcher, but to become more of an expert in the research process and a critical consumer of educational research. A knowledge of the research process, working in concert with tools and skills determined necessary for a given framework in a particular context, will enable you to accomplish this goal.
This is an online class. A variety of synchronous (in real time) and asynchronous technologies (not in real time; e.g. email) will be used to teach this class. Of these, two deserve special notice: 1) Horizon Wimba - a virtual classroom which permits synchronous sessions and interactions between the instructor and students with 2-way Internet audio; and 2) Pre-recorded presentations of course content. (Click here for more information about the Horizon Wimba classroom.)
All academic work must meet the standards contained in "A Culture of Honesty." Students are responsible for informing themselves about those standards before performing any academic work. The link to more detailed information about academic honesty can be found at: http://www.uga.edu/honesty/ahpd/culture_honesty.htm
Please note that this course syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary.Accommodations
This course follows
the regulations outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Call UGA Disability
Services at (706) 542-8719 (voice) or (706) 542-8778 (TDD only) for information
about architectural access and to arrange for sign language interpreters, assistive
listening devices, large print, audio, or Braille. Students requiring special
accommodation should contact the instructor as soon as possible.
Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2012). Practical research: Planning and design (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Additional readings will also be assigned during the semester to supplement the text.
Participants in the course will become strategic consumers and proficient users of educational research. Participants will read and critique a variety of educational research studies that use various methods (quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods), with the objective of being able to analyze and apply research to professional contexts.
At the end of the course, each participant will be able to:
There are both synchronous and asynchronous aspects to this course. The primary course content is delivered asynchronously in two ways - textbook readings and pre-recorded presentations. One of the most important tools to access these resources is a special web site that has been created for you containing a Learning Plan for the course. This learning plan lists all course activities, along with due dates, in the general order in which they should be completed. A user account has been created for you. Your username is the same as your UGA MyID, but your password is the last 4 digits of your UGA Card Number (not your social security number). Think of your learning plan as your "headquarters" for completing the course.
We will meet at our assigned time online in a "virtual" live classroom (described more below). Prior to each live class each participant needs to:
These pre-recorded presentations are designed and narrated by Lloyd Rieber and Greg Clinton. The average length of the pre-recorded presentations is about 45 minutes. These presentations are Flash-based and will work on both Windows and Macintosh computers. All of these chapter presentations can be found on the course learning plan. These required "readings, viewings, and listenings " need to be completed with care prior to the respective scheduled class - again, they are your main means for acquiring the course content.
For each class meeting, all participants will then meet online in the Horizon Wimba Virtual Classroom at our assigned time. Reading the assigned chapters, articles, etc., and viewing the pre-recorded presentations are crucial to having a successful experience in each scheduled synchronous class meeting. The instructor will prepare a special interactive session based on the assumption that all participants are fully prepared. If you do not "read and view" the material ahead of time, you will likely be confused and disoriented.
Each class is scheduled from 4:40-7:40 pm, however, for simplicity we will begin each class promptly at 5:00 pm, so please log onto the UGA Horizon Wimba server about 15 minutes prior to this time to ensure you are all ready to go. Each class will begin with brief class updates and time for questions and answers. The instructor will then conduct an interactive session on the topic scheduled for that day. The purpose of the interactive session is to explore general themes and difficult concepts of the weekly topic. Again, it is VERY important that all participants come to class having read the respective book chapter/s thoroughly (and any other assigned readings) AND having viewed the pre-recorded presentation/s.
An advantage of using the pre-recorded presentations is that a significant part of the scheduled class time will be yours to organize and use as you wish. During the first half of the course, this remaining class time is an excellent time to work on Research Design Activities (RDAs), provide feedback to your design buddy's RDA, or, if you are doing the course project with a partner, to meet with your partner to discuss or work on the course project. During the second half of the course, this time should be used to work on the required research project.
You should discipline yourself to work at least until 7:40 pm each class, even though the formal part of the class will almost always end much earlier.
Student Support for Horizon Wimba
UGA provides special
support to students enrolled in classes that use the Horizon Wimba classroom.
Students may get assistance by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Student
(STS) at 706-542-3333. The STS help desk is open from 9 am-10pm Monday
through Thursday, 9am-5pm Friday, and 1-7 pm Saturday and Sunday.
An evaluation rubric is provided for your reference, so you will know how you will be evaluated in this course.
Attendance/Participation (individual): Everyone is expected to attend each online class and be punctual (I will keep a record of attendance). A variety of in-class activities are planned. Many of these activities are group-based, so come prepared to interact. We will use many different online technologies to accomplish this, including the group discussion tools in eLC and Horizon Wimba. In many settings, educational research is a team effort. This requires an understanding of group dynamics and interpersonal communication. Finally, realize that if you are absent, even for valid reasons, you are still responsible for the material and assignments discussed in each and every class (the plan is to record each live class).
Informal Activity - SDC - Systematic Data Collection (individual): Purpose: To experience first-hand what it feels like to do collect data systematically on a topic of the participant's choice; To reflect on the role and value of research data to inform one's thinking or decision-making in practice.
As the name suggests, this is meant as an informal, fun assignment to gain some experience of what it feels like to actually do research on a topic of personal interest to you. Your task is to identify a subject or topic on which you have genuine curiosity and then collect data systematically on it. All you have to submit to get credit for this assignment is a brief written report (about 200 words) in which you describe the topic you chose, how you went about collecting data systematically, what you found, and a reflection of what you learned doing this activity. (If you choose to collect data on yourself, a family member, or any other person, be careful not to disclose any personal information in your reflection given that this reflection will be posted on the Internet.) You will give a brief 5 minute oral report about your experience during class.
We will brainstorm possible topics during class, but here are just a few to get you thinking:
Research Methods Knowledge Test (individual): Purpose: To assess each participant's acquisition and understanding of core research methods facts and concepts.
All participants must master a core set of research methods knowledge gained predominately through reading the required textbook chapters, but also through viewing required pre-recorded presentations. Mastery is defined as attaining a score of 100% correct on a test of 75 multiple-choice questions (subdivided into four sections). No partial credit will be given. However, you may take each section of the test as often as you wish up to the date listed above. The best way to prepare for this test is by reading the textbook chapters well.
(Every question must be answered correctly during any one attempt on any of the four sections. If one or more questions are answered incorrectly on an attempt, that entire attempt for that section is discounted.)
Research Design Activities (individual): Purpose: To give each participant the opportunity to individually learn and implement the particular research design skill being introduced and discussed at that time; each RDA is focused on helping everyone understand equally the particular skill and process highlighted in the RDA.
RDAs are designed to enhance, extend, and support course content. These are completed individually and are meant to give you some initial practice in each of the major themes of the course. Feedback will be provided first by Design Buddies (selected no later than the second session of the class), then the instructor. You can revise these based on your buddy's feedback, at which time the instructor will evaluate them. These activities are meant to be "low stress," so if you find yourself sweating over them, you are missing the point. The purpose of each RDA is to give you some quick, initial practice applying the respective design skill. If you do not complete a specific RDA appropriately, you will have one opportunity to resubmit based on the instructor feedback.
Though you are under no obligation to do so, it is perfectly acceptable to refine any or all of the RDAs to make them part of the Research Project due at the end of the course. It is therefore wise to identify your project topic early on in order for you, or your team, to use the RDAs as the first step in your project.
A special RDA online workspace has been created exclusively for this class and can be accessed from the course learning plan. When you have finished your first draft of an RDA, your buddy will be notified via email and an automated notice appearing on his/her course learning plan that you are ready for feedback. Everyone is expected to review their buddy's RDA and provide feedback by the due dates listed on the course learning plan. You then have the option of revising your RDA based on your buddy's feedback. The instructor will then review every RDA (and the respective buddy feedback) and provide feedback. All RDA work and feedback will be generated, stored, and viewed online. All RDAs will be shared with the entire class (though names will be removed).
A total of three RDAs are planned based on the following topics:
Research Design Project (individual): Purpose: To apply research to study, solve, or improve an educational problem.
You will individually complete a Research Project in which you apply research. We will use a real-world analogy for the preparation of this project, that of persuading some administrative, governing, or funding group to take action in the form of approving (and perhaps funding) your project idea. Using that analogy, imagine that a short, allotted time has been given to you to address this group. Your project will consist of two elements:
Both elements need to describe or address the following: 1) Problem area or topic; 2) Review of the related literature; 3) Design of an approach you are taking to study, solve, or improve an educational problem.
The approach you are taking to solve or improve the problem can take one of two forms: An original research study proposal to collect new data on the topic; or a development project proposal to build or produce something on the topic with a design based on existing research.
Your presentation must be pre-recorded and made available to all participants in the course no later than April 17, 2013. (Tools and strategies for accomplishing this will be discussed in class.) The 2-page executive summary is due April 24, 2013.
Note: The course goal, objectives, and requirements have been designed to be relevant for professionals working in instructional technology, including K-12 schools, business and industry, and higher education contexts. For this reason, this course is practitioner-oriented. However, participants who are thinking about applying to a Ph.D. degree program may have other goals and objectives, such as learning how to prepare a complete and formal research proposal and even how to conduct original research. For these individuals, it may be more relevant to consider writing a proposal for the design of an actual (though small scale) research study. Ph.D. applications typically ask for writing samples and this course provides a good opportuniys to develop a research manuscript as part of a portfolio submitted with a Ph.D. application. The criteria of such an alternative project is actually the same as the 2-page proposal, but larger in scope (typically about 15 pages double-spaced, not including title page, references, and any appendices). I will be happy to discuss this option with anyone. (A person choosing to do this will need to notify the instructor at least by the midpoint of the semester. Caution: Providing this option is not an excuse to "go long" on the 2-page executive summary, or to submit an excessively short "full proposal"; doing so will result in an inferior project and will certainly not be awarded full credit for the assignment.)
Peer Critique of Research Design Project Presentations: Purpose: To watch and provide a brief critique of a subset of the presentations made by your classmates.
One of the time-tested benefits of this course is that participants tend to address very important and timely research topics in their final projects, resulting in an opportunity for the rest of us to learn a great deal. The requirements that all presentations be short and pre-recorded allow us to use our time flexibly and strategically to enjoy this benefit. Rather than be required to listen to every project presentation, each participant will instead be required to watch a subset that best matches their interests.
All participants must choose to watch at least 5 presentations of other classmates' research design projects and write and submit a brief critique of each (approximately 100 words for each critique) addressing the following points: 1) 1-sentence summary of the topic; 2) importance of the topic; 3) strengths and weaknesses of the project; and 4) persuasiveness of the presentation.
Details on how and where to submit these critiques will be announced and explained in class. All peer critiques are due no later than April 23, 2013 (the day before our last class).
Closing comments and cautions
This course, due to its strong application orientation, is highly activity-based. In completing the research design project, it is important that everyone identify their problem area early and pace their work appropriately. The research design project consists of many phases which build upon each other. Individuals who wait until late in the course to begin may experience "log jams" and may find it difficult to complete the project with high quality, thus risking a lower grade and, more importantly, less professional gain. Often, participants enter a course thinking that they can always take an "incomplete" if they decide they will not complete the course requirements on time. Keep in mind that I follow the university guidelines regarding an incomplete grade which reserve this for unforeseen circumstances or emergencies, not merely a failure to complete the work on time. I am confident that those who heed this warning will be able to complete the course with sufficient time to produce a high quality product while gaining personal and professional satisfaction.
This syllabus and the design of the course is adapted from courses taught by Dr. Janette Hill and Dr. Mary Ann Fitzgerald. I thank them very much for graciously offering their materials and expertise in the development of this course. I also acknowledge the efforts of Dr. Thomas Reeves -- his teaching of this course greatly informed the design and structure used by Dr. Hill and Dr. Fitzgerald. Finally, thanks also go to Dr. Michael Orey for sharing his ideas and experiences related to teaching this course.