December 10, 2008
Eight Resources for Distance Education Research
In Monday’s Faculty Focus we discussed the new research expectations being placed upon distance education administrators. To respond successfully to these expectations, Scott Howell, director of evening classes at Brigham Young University, recommends eight resources—some low-tech and common sense, some at the cutting edge of knowledge distribution.
1. Library expertise – Get to know your subject librarian. In any university setting there’s going to be a subject librarian who knows the available resources and databases, and how to search and get at the information you need.
2. Books from your library or other libraries – Academic libraries have been paying much more attention to the distance education field, Howell says. Because there’s been more research going on, the libraries are more aware of products and publications that can help distance education researchers in the field.
3. Academic journals – Howell says the number of academic journals dedicated to distance education has probably doubled in the last five years, making it difficult for distance education administrators to keep up with them all.
One way to stay on top of everything is through “current awareness services” that extract a table of contents for the user and provide specific requested articles the week they are published. You also can subscribe to the RSS feeds now offered by most journals.
4. Databases – University libraries can provide access to a revitalized ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) database, with free access to more than 1.2 million bibliographic records of journal articles and other education-related materials.
Plus, Google has created its own database called Google Scholar . It includes a significant amount of important work on distance education.
5. Subscription services – Howell mentions Distance Education Report and Distance-educator.com as useful publications in the field.
6. Web portals – There’s been a shakeout in distance education web portals, but Howell believes that the ones that are left are stronger. He says the best one is Wisconsin’s Distance Education Clearinghouse. Others include the British ICDL (International Centre for Distance Learning) and the ADEC (the American Distance Education Consortium) at the University of Nebraska.
7. Associations – Associations can be a significant research asset for a distance education administrator. In particular, Howell mentions the Sloan Consortium . He also checks with WCET (Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications) for important large scale studies.
Howell says that the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) is the association where he spends most of his time. “If I want another director or another vice president or another dean to jump into the conversation with me and my administration, that’s mainly where I’ll go,” he says.
8. Listservs – Howell recommends any of the association listservs as good starting points for scholarly research in distance education, and good places to find collaborators. “Probably about once a week we receive a query across one of our listservs from a distance educator like myself responding to a request from one of their academic officers for information,” Howell says.
Adapted from Nine Tips for Doing Scholarly Work as a Distance Ed Administrator, Christopher Hill, Distance Education Report, April 15, 2007.