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Research_Statement_Wilder2

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Research_Statement_Wilder2

  1. 1. Research Statement – Michael Wilder My research interests focus on identifying basic effects and underlying principles that can guide the development of effective and efficient online learning course curriculum. While technology-based education continues to provide a variety of opportunities that were previously unavailable through traditional delivery methods, it is important that the pedagogical design of such instruction does not create unintended obstacles to student learning. Conveniences provided by technology such as as mobility, flexible scheduling, and improved multimedia may be offset by frustration, confusion, and disorientation experienced by students in poorly conceived learning environments. Contemporary learning management systems, for example, provide a sophisticated array of affordances for both the learner and the educator such as virtual grade books, self-grading assignments and quizzes, and online discussion forums to name a few. At the same time, using and understanding these complex, Web-based tools may require the expenditure of valuable cognitive resources that could otherwise be allocated toward comprehending the actual learning material. In order to design curriculum that minimizes technical challenges and maximizes pedagogical effectiveness, higher education faculty, instructional designers, and subject matter experts need to be informed regarding the impact of technology on the teaching and learning process. As a result, it is important that empirical research guided by established and recognized learning theory (such as the cognitive load theory) be conducted to identify basic principles that can guide the development of future online course curriculum. Current research As a professional instructional designer in higher education, I witness the effects of online curricular organization on a daily basis. As an academic, however, I have begun the process of conducting formal research. My dissertation (in progress) entitled “Effects of curricular organization on cognitive load and student performance in online learning environments,” specifically focuses on comparing the impact of functional curricular organization (determined by features and tools offered by a commercial learning management system) with modular curricular organization (determined by the instructor based upon logical sequence by date or theme) on student learning performance, self-perceived cognitive load, and time on task. The question raised in this line of research is whether there are ways in which online course content can be sequenced and ordered so that the logical flow (from the learners’ perspective) becomes more intuitive and less confusing so that more cognitive resources can be directed toward developing educational schemata rather than spent comprehending a confusing and awkward interface. This study uses traditional experimental research methods to gather performance, survey, and time data between two groups. Variances not related to curricular organization (such as prior experience with online learning standards and prior content familiarity) is controlled statistically and analyzed using standard Multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) strategies.
  2. 2. Future research In the short-term, my research will focus on questions related to online course development that can be immediately manipulated by the instructor or instructional designer rather than features that need to be implemented by software designers. In particular, I plan to conduct studies that indicate how curriculum can be ordered and sequenced so that learners are able to navigate through learning materials with minimal cognitive effort. In the long-term, I intend to apply research methods established by cognitive load theory, traditional human computer interaction studies, and contemporary usability testing strategies to higher education online curriculum. In combination with techniques to gather and analyze learning analytics, I seek to identify basic learning principles that can be used to inform online course developers and serve as a basis for future research.

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