"The ambivalence about distance learning in higher education: Challenges, opportunities, and policy implications"
She has conducted several national studies of student performance in online vs. face-to-face instruction, especially in community colleges, and the instructional factors that help students’ success in online classes. In 2018, Dr. Xu was awarded a five-year CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to explore ways to improve online learning at community colleges.
Ying Xu’s research interests center on the areas of technology-assisted language learning, digital literacy, and learning analytics. She currently is exploring the potential of conversational agents for young children’s literacy development and science learning. Xu is specializing in Language, Literacy, and Technology. Professor Mark Warschauer serves as her advisor.
In the past two decades, one of the most important trends in the US higher education system has been the steady increase in distance education through online courses. College administrators have expressed strong support for online education, signaling that the current online expansion will likely continue. While the supply and demand for online higher education is rapidly expanding, questions remain regarding its potential impact on increasing access, reducing costs, and improving student outcomes. Does online education enhance access to higher education among students who would not otherwise enroll in college? Can online courses create savings for students by reducing funding constraints on postsecondary institutions? Will technological innovations improve the quality of online education? This chapter provides a comprehensive review of existing research on online learning’s impact on access, cost, and student performance in higher education. Our review suggests that online education has the potential to expand access to college, especially among adult learners with multiple responsibilities. Yet, the online delivery format imposes additional challenges to effective instruction and learning. Indeed, existing studies on college courses typically find negative effects of online delivery on course outcomes and the online performance decrement is particularly large among academically less-prepared students. As a result, online courses without strong support to students may exacerbate educational inequities. We discuss a handful of practices that could better support students in online courses, including strategic course offering, student counseling, interpersonal interaction, warning and monitoring, and the professional development of faculty. Yet, college administrative data suggests that high-quality online courses with high degrees of instructor interaction and student support cost more to develop and administer than do face-to-face courses.
About Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. “Published annually since 1985, the Handbook series provides a compendium of thorough and integrative literature reviews on a diverse array of topics of interest to the higher education scholarly and policy communities…Each annual volume contains chapters on such diverse topics as research on college students and faculty, organization and administration, curriculum and instruction, policy, diversity issues, economics and finance, history and philosophy, community colleges, advances in research methodology, and more.” [Springer]
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