1999 Conference Proceedings

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The Online Academy:FOCUSING ON RESEARCH TO
PRACTICE IN TEACHER EDUCATION

Ed Meyen
(elm@ukans.edu; http://onlineacademy.org)

Statement of Problem:

The process of translating research into practice is a major concern of policy makers and practitioners in education. The Department of Education is often criticized for investing in educational research while not being positioned to demonstrate widespread application of research results to influence practice. Several reasons have been offered for why research is slow to influence practice. Much of the argument centers on the ineffectiveness of dissemination systems.

Traditional approaches to publication lead to delays of at least two years for results to find their way into journals. Training models such as "train the trainer," while effective, are too costly and slow for national dissemination. Adoptions of innovative practices are slow to occur and the transfer of knowledge from the literature into teacher education curricula is slow and unsystematic.

The Online Academy, which this presentation will describe and demonstrate, is the result of a national initiative by The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) to bridge the gap between research and practice. The Academy was funded December 1, 1997, and will offer instructional modules online through teacher education programs nationally beginning in the spring of 1999.

Focus of Academy:

The focus of the Academy is to identify research-based interventions related to influencing the performance of students with disabilities in the areas of positive behavioral supports, reading, and technology in education. Once identified, the interventions are translated into instructional modules that can be integrated into teacher education curricula nationally. The primary mode of instruction will be web-based modules delivered via the Internet. Since inclusion has made the education of students with disabilities the responsibility of all teachers, the instructional modules will be designed to assist teachers in general education settings.

The Mission of the Academy:

The mission of the Academy is to create the conditions necessary to identify and prioritize the most appropriate research-based interventions, translate the research interventions into curriculum maps, develop instructional modules for delivery online, and build a web based infrastructure for national dissemination within the "just in time" context. Basic to fulfilling this mission is the engagement of the profession in shaping Academy products and involving as many teacher education programs as possible in becoming Academy partners.

This work represents a major effort to bridge the gap between research and practice in special education. Research-based interventions will be identified by national experts in the content areas of reading, positive behavior supports and technology in education. The interventions will be translated into instructional modules designed for preservice students. The WWW will be used for dissemination. Teacher education programs will have access to the modules as well as access to resources in the content areas, which can be integrated into their teacher education curricula. The effectiveness of a national online instructional system will be tested. Data will be collected on a large-scale online delivery program to assess the effectiveness of online instruction. There will also be the residual effect of instructors and students gaining experience with online instruction in a systematic manner.

Deliverables:

The deliverables to be developed by the Academy include online instructional modules across the three content areas of positive behavioral supports, reading, and technology in education. In addition to the online modules, web-based course supports including syllabi, glossaries, bibliographies, teaching resources, instructional management systems, and assessments will be developed for those who elect not to use the online versions.

Distribution Model:

The model to be used in disseminating instructional modules on research-based interventions will employ an extranet system. All modules, tools, and technology support systems will be developed at the Academy and disseminated to participating institutions electronically. Each participating institution will have on its server the same modules that the Academy will have on its server. This will allow the participating institutions to create their own identity with the modules and to make the modules available to their students online without depending on the Academy.

Advantages of an Online Instructional Model:

The rationale for adopting an online instructional model is based on the advantages afforded students and teacher education programs in utilizing the capacity of technology for disseminating research-based instructional modules nationally. The Academy analyzed examples of online instruction and experimented with different models in the process of creating a prototype module design.

Online Module Design:

Prior to developing a prototype instructional design for the online modules, content experts nationally were engaged in a process to identify the research-based interventions and to assist in the development of content maps. Research standards were developed to guide this process. Design standards were also developed to serve as a framework for the development of the instructional design. The online module design and navigation system has been developed and tested. Beta testing of modules will occur in the fall of 1998 with modules available to teacher education programs in the spring of 1999.

Status of the Academy:

The first module in each content area has been completed. Orientation modules for instructors are also completed. A process for inviting institutions to participate is in place and will be announced this fall. National jury panels will review the initial modules in September and October of 1998. Communications are also occurring with State Educational Agencies (SEAs) on possibilities for offering modules to local districts. Although the existing Academy module is targeted to teacher education pre-service programs, the mission of the Academy could be broadened to include SEAs if deemed necessary and appropriate.

Demonstration:

Demonstrations of the online instructional modules will be presented and an opportunity for hands-on experimentation will be provided.


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