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UC Irvine Launches Online Learning Research Center

The University of California, Irvine School of Education has created a new research center that will aim to provide "evidence-based resources, materials and guidelines for teachers and students to improve academic achievement and equity in online learning." The Online Learning Research Center (OLRC) will offer information both for instructors — helping them "improve their online courses to better meet the needs of online students" — and for students to learn how to succeed online, according to a news announcement.

The center will be co-directed by UCI professors Di Xu and Mark Warschauer, whose research on online learning will inform its offerings. The researchers have identified challenges inherent to online learning environments, such as the need for self-directed learning skills and the lack of interpersonal interaction. "Because most students have been prepared for the traditional classroom format that allows for the dissemination of knowledge and control of the activity by an instructor, they need additional support, investment, and scaffolding to move toward successful online learning that reflects self-directed philosophies," the announcement explained.

"Our research suggests that learners may not be equally predisposed to engage in online learning that requires high levels of self-direction and younger students, academically under-prepared students, and racial minority students have been found to struggle the most in online environments," noted Xu in a statement. "That is why we devised resources for instructors and students to better address and overcome these challenges. Without sufficient levels of support, the current online expansion may widen the performance gaps."

"The Online Learning Research Center is designed by leading experts in online learning and is firmly based on research evidence on how to improve online learning for diverse students," said Richard Arum, dean and professor of the UCI School of Education. "We hope this center can prove beneficial to universities across the world as we all confront the challenges presented by the coronavirus - we must be deliberate in setting up online learning environments so to avoid exacerbating the gaps in learning outcomes."

For more information, visit the OLRC site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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