digital learning on smartphone

Many of us own at least one piece of technology that makes our lives easier. Laptops, smartphones, tablets and apps are great for entertainment, productivity and staying connected.

Technology also is making impact on the way students learn. But there is still much to learn about the best way to achieve it.

That’s exactly what researchers are investigating at the College of Education and Human Ecology’s Research Laboratory for Digital Learning. The lab was created under the leadership of Cypert Distinguished Professor Kui Xie to “understand how students learn in technology-supported learning environments.”

In other words, how can we use digital tools to bring added value to classrooms and advance student learning?

Xie and his team have made waves in the research community since the digital learning research lab opened in 2013. Their work is helping understand how technology affects youth learning from preschool to high school and how adults learn in higher education and vocational education.

“We’re really excited about the work we are doing,” Xie said. “In just a few short years, we have started to establish a reputation in digital learning research and enhance the knowledge produced at the university and in Ohio.”

Digital learning is a growing field

That growing reputation has already earned the lab involvement in more than $30 million in research grants as Xie and his team design, develop and integrate digital learning into educational curricula.

One project is College Ready Ohio. It is designed to foster engaging and relevant learning experiences that prepare Ohio’s high school students to enter higher education and be successful.

The six-year project is investigating the impact of teacher professional development with technology integration and piloting digitally enhanced curriculum and teaching in the classroom.

The team expects these interventions will influence the learning cultures of schools and improve college readiness for students.

Preparation key for successful online learning

Researchers at the lab are leading the way to introduce essential learning strategies and technology that will help students be successful in online degrees and courses. Beginning in spring semester 2016, the course “Keys to Academic Success for Online Learners” (ESETEC 2011) will be piloted with the College of Nursing.

The seven-week online course is designed to help students transition from traditional face-to-face learning to online learning. It covers a wide range of learning strategies including self-regulation, online collaborative learning, resource management, e-book reading, information sharing and note-taking strategies.

This course was created in the digital learning lab for several reasons. Working with EHE’s Walter E. Dennis Learning Center, Xie led the team that successfully reimagined an online module of the center’s flagship course that helps students learn effective note-taking strategies.

Combined with his research, which explores why students need proper preparation for online courses, and the expanding options available in Ohio State’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning, creating this course was a golden opportunity.

The research team was able to conceive and implement a much needed course at Ohio State, Xie said. After successfully implementing the pilot course, he plans to seek partnerships with other online degree programs at Ohio State. Xie believes the it will become a valuable course with high enrollment. It also creates teaching opportunities for graduate students in Educational Technology that will help grow the program.

Abundant opportunities in lab, EdTech

Several other research projects are coming out of the digital learning research lab.

One is educating teachers about how to effectively evaluate the myriad of choices available in digital materials (EDCITE).

Another is creating a mobile app for a proven literacy intervention program developed at Ohio State to significantly improve the quality of language and literacy instruction for preschoolers (Read It Again-Mobile).

Researchers also are working with an Ohio State geography professor to develop a game-based learning intervention based on a GeoGame initiative funded by the National Science Foundation.

group of students meeting
Kui Xie, Cyphert Distinguished Professor, and his research team discuss their latest findings that impact digital learning.

Small office meet-ups transform to international interest

The impact of these projects on students’ learning success all started as a meet-up collaboration. Faculty members and doctoral students interested in working together on research gathered to examine how technology could be mindfully used to improve students’ learning.

“Our research is going to have a lot of impact state- and nationwide for school districts,” Xie said.

As interest in the lab has grown, so has the attention from the US Department of Education, Ohio Department of Education, The Ohio State University, international organizations, researchers and students who want to become involved with the Research Laboratory for Digital Learning.

It now has two full-time research scientists, four research assistants, a team of graduate students and Ohio State faculty actively searching for best practices to improve learning through digital means. Additionally, visiting scholars from China and Turkey joined the lab this autumn semester.

Min Kyu Kim, an award-winning research scientist, is helping grow the impact of the digital learning lab. His expertise in designing and developing adaptive learning environments enhances the research efforts in the College Ready Ohio and EDCITE projects.

“I have a learned a lot in the short time I’ve been at Ohio State,” Kim said. “At the University of Southern California, I was the only digital learning researcher. In this lab, we are all interested in advancing research in digital learning. This is a good opportunity for me to develop as a researcher.”

Even with the early success of the lab, the team is continually looking for ways to improve learning in digital mediums.

“Dr. Xie is very proactive and is always searching for research opportunities and people to help,” Kim said.

“He is definitely developing the field of digital learning with an entrepreneurial state of mind.”


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