2018: A Full Year of Impactful Research and Teaching

The Research Laboratory for Digital Learning (RLDL) has had another productive year in 2018. We continued and expanded a rigorous research program that prioritizes practical applications of empirically-tested tools and methods in context-specific digital learning environments. Here is a brief look at our accomplishments this year.

Following Our Aim

In 2018, we continued to work towards a better understanding of how technology-supported learning environments can be tailored to promote students’ motivation and engagement in different contexts, including both rural and urban settings. We believe that technology can play essential roles in promoting meaningful learning, including supporting collaborative, motivated, and self-regulated learning.

We recognize that the success of technology integration efforts depend upon how successfully these programs are translated to fit each local context. This include making technology integration programs work within urban contexts where infrastructure demands often outnumber resources, or within rural contexts where new infrastructures need to be built to support pedagogical innovations. We also recognize the importance of translating research into practice, bringing the latest research findings into the classroom for both K-12 and higher-education settings.

Of course, we cannot do our research without a collaborative team of research staff, graduate students, international visiting scholars and affiliates.

Thriving Research Program

Our research lab has had a record high productivity in this year, with 14 research articles published or in production in highly competitive journals so far in 2018. These latest studies highlight four areas of research: (1) K-12 Technology Integration, (2) Teacher as Agents of Change, (3) Motivation and Engagement in Digital Learning, (4) Data Analytics and Research Methodology.

A number of our recent works focused on contextual factors that matter in technology integration. For example, one article published in Computers and Education outlined the qualities teachers look for in digital resources, qualities that would help teachers integrate digital resources in more meaningful manners in the classroom (Xie, Di Tosto, Chen, & Vongkulluksn, 2018). Another article accepted for publication in Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education also found that technology usability, or the extent to which teachers view that a specific technology tool can be used to achieve teaching goals, play a large role on how effectively they implement that tool in the preschool classroom (Xie, Vongkulluksn, Justice, & Logan, accepted). Other recent works that focused on contextual factors influencing classroom technology integration include Gimber, Acree, Xie, & Anthony (in press), and Duan, Xie, Hawk, Yu, & Wang (online first).

Another trend in RLDL research is pointing to teachers as key agents of change in leveraging technology affordance for student success. Both Vongkulluksn, Xie, & Bowman (2018) and Cheng & Xie (2018) found that teachers’ value beliefs towards technology influenced their investment in integrating digital tools in the classroom. Myrtile et al. (online first) and Nelson, Voithofer, & Cheng (2019) also found that both teachers’ implementation fidelity of a technologically-driven classroom intervention, and teachers’ knowledge of how to integrate technology with content-area pedagogy (TPACK knowledge) affect how well teachers are able to utilize technology as intended for student learning.

Aligned with RLDL’s focus, a number of our 2018 publications also highlight motivational processes and engagement in technology-supported learning environments. For example, Xie, Hensley, Law, & Sun (online first) identified the dynamic relationships between team leadership, group cohesion, online engagement, self-regulation and learning outcomes in small group learning. Hashim & Vongkulluksn (2018) found that e-reader apps influenced fourth-grade students’ reading engagement in context-specific ways, boosting students’ cognitive strategy use while appearing to have a negative effect on their intrinsic motivation to read. Further, both Vongkulluksn, Matewos, Sinatra, & Marsh (in press), and Sun, Xie, & Anderman (2018) found that students’ self-efficacy, academic emotions, and self-regulation are key motivational factors that affect student learning in digital environments. The ways in which technology can specifically improve these types of motivation may be its key contribution for modernized teaching and learning.

In addition, several of our publications reported our innovations in research methodologies. For example, Xie, Di Tosto, Lu, and Cho (2018) developed a computational approach to detect team leadership in small group online learning settings. This study leveraged the affordances of data analytics and machine learning techniques, such as, text-mining, and social network analysis, to study educational phenomena. In Xie, Heddy, & Greene (2019), we developed an experience-sampling method tailored for mobile devices. This approach affords new opportunities to collect intensive data in the moment of learning and to examine students’ study habit in offline learning contexts.

We look forward to continue this research trend into 2019, forging forward in our quest to understanding teaching and learning processes in technology-supported learning environments. With one grant awarded by the Spencer Foundation to investigate effective teaching practices for information literacy development, and several pending grants focusing on understanding the most effective ways to modernize teaching and learning through technology, RLDL is on track towards an equally exciting year next year.

Community Impact

In 2018, we also continue our goal to emphasize the role our research plays in positively impacting our communities.

In higher education, RLDL supports OSU students in online learning. We offered a large-enrollment course, ESLTECH 2011 Keys to Academic Success for Online Learners, that introduces essential strategies and technologies that promote successful online learning experiences and academic success. In 2018, we enrolled close to 350 students from a wide range of majors across campus. We apply empirically-based, technological innovations for students in our course, using data analytics and cutting-edge data presentation methods to inform our instructors of students’ progress and motivational reactions to instruction, as well as to improve our students’ awareness of their own learning behaviors.

In K-12 settings, we made substantial progress on our work on the College Ready Ohio and Evaluating Digital Content for Instructional and Teaching Excellence (EDCITE) projects. We collected data from more than 10,000 students in 21 schools across Ohio as part of these two on-going projects, aiming to investigate factors that influence the success of technology integration on student learning. Importantly, we are also committed to translate research findings on these factors into school policies and classroom practice. We planned and implemented research dissemination tours across Ohio, sharing research findings tailored to each participating school and engaging administrators and teachers in discussions about practical, empirically-based changes that are most likely to have positive impacts on student success.

Nationally and internationally, the laboratory members have been actively engaged in major professional communities (e.g., AERA2018, AECT2018) in disseminating their research findings through invited keynote talks, featured workshops, and presentations in US, UK, China, and Indonesia.

We look forward to another impactful year in 2019, where our continued work in K-12 and higher education settings have the capacity to reach thousands of students across Ohio. We are ever committed to bring research to real-world practice, translating our empirical work into meaningful, actionable practices in the classroom.