Two Studies Show the Reach of Research

In a conference keynote address, well-known distance education researcher Curt Bonk (Indiana University) identified three mega trends in e-learning that research has shown:

·         Learner engagement

·         Pervasive access to learning

·         Customization and personalization of learning

This is a contrast to Bonk’s findings in 2002, when he announced, “There’s no learning in e-learning” primarily because courses were not being designed specifically for online distance education. So, what has happened in the past 14 years? Bonk says we have had a decade of “permanent disruption” (p. 8) brought on by vast resource abundance and extensive opportunities for learner empowerment” (p. 6) in which “instructors are no longer simply delivering content to waiting learners,” Read Bonk’s 30 different ways in which learning is changing. Themes such as those that researchers like Bonk have identified are important to QM and inform the work of QM’s Rubric Committee to regularly refresh the Rubric. (Click here for an overview of this rigorous process)

While research extends what we know about improving education, it is important to follow one of the tenets of scientific research – that of replication. George Siemens, a well-known theorist and researcher from University of Texas-Arlington co-authored a recent article on the importance of replication, that is, “the reproduction of a previous study in order to investigate the agreement between the current results and those of the original study” (Brandt et al., cited in Andres, Baker, Siemens, Gašević, and Spann, 2016, para. 2). Replication is a well-established and crucial characteristic of rigorous scientific research. While it’s challenging to do especially in education research it is still a mark to aim for. Recognizing how, where, and when to gather data related to building a resource base for the study of online learning is one of the important first steps in designing a research study. As pointed out in the article, the importance of that step is matched by knowing what research has been done previously. The continuously updated QM Research Library is a good place to find existing research on what works for online learners.

Andres, J. M. L., Baker, R. S., Siemens, G., Gašević, D., & Spann, C. A. (2016). Replicating 21 findings on student success in online learning. Retrieved from

Bonk, C. J. (2016). Keynote: What is the state of e-learning? Reflections on 30 ways learning is changing. Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, 20(2), 6-20. Retrieved from