My interest in educational research in general, and in technology-assisted teaching and learning in particular, dates back to 2001 when, being a master student in the Department of Languages and Cultures I took a course in Using Media in the Language Classroom (ETAP 634). Since then I have been exploring ways of combining my background in linguistics and language teaching with scientific and practical curiosity in educational technologies, focusing on media education and online teaching and learning.
While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in my native Russia, I had minimal exposure to educational technologies in scholarly contexts, and even less in non-institutional settings Having plunged into the media rich environment in the United States, I started as a novice user of technologies and as a skeptical researcher of their educational values. I questioned the need to invest significant human and material resources into integration of technologies into classrooms. Gradually, through active involvement in research projects, collaborative work with faculty members and fellow students, and through my personal learning and teaching experience with and about media, I started recognizing the importance of developing effective strategies for utilizing modern technologies, ensuring their accessibility, and promoting media literacy among youngsters and adults worldwide. These are the issues that currently drive my scholarly interests as is illustrated in the selection of works included into this portfolio.
I have selected two items of evidence in support of each criterion - scholarship, research, and cooperation. One of the latest and most challenging projects, still ongoing, is the International Online Distance Higher Education Project. The draft of the article entitled Crossing Cultures and Borders in International Online Distance Higher Education included into this portfolio was chosen as evidence of scholarly thinking and writing ability and to serve as evidence of cooperative ability. Having had personal experience teaching and learning cross-culturally and trans-continentally, I am well aware of issues raised when telecommunication technologies are used to build bridges between cultures and countries for educational purposes. This project, which I plan to continue and develop into my dissertation, focuses on urgent questions that administrators, practitioners and online global students face when opting for international online education.
My most recent published article, co-authored with Dr. Carla Meskill ,The Presentation of Self in Everyday Ether: A Corpus Analysis of Student Self-Tellings in Online Graduate Courses, appeared in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. While I chose to include it into the research section, this work also supports my writing and thinking abilities, and shows the results of productive cooperation. Not only did I learn new research methodologies needed to conduct linguistic analysis of large corpora, but I also acquired dexterity with the concordancing program. Further, I updated my knowledge of data manipulation, and put into practice theoretical knowledge of statistics. Weekly meetings with my advisor and co-author provided ample opportunities to observe and actively participate in deliberating, applying, and evaluating research methodology, and further developed my understanding of data analysis, interpretation of findings, and seeing implications of study results.
Two projects in support of cooperative abilities were selected based on their contribution to my growth as a practicing teacher, a curriculum developer and evaluator, as well as a productive and cooperative team member. Online Course Development Project involved collaborative planning, design, teaching, evaluating, and re-design stages that produced a master level fully online course in Media Literacy (ETAP 638) successfully offered since fall-2005. The Curriculum Development Project, carried out in a team of two other doctoral students, yielded “The Tech Valley Language Academy: A Second Language Program”, a curriculum for a second language school with clear mission, objectives, logistical procedures, and evaluation strategies. While different, both of these projects contributed to strengthening and deepening my scholarly interests related to online distance education, language teaching with technology, cross-cultural and multicultural issues.
The portfolio also includes two research proposals written for university courses I took while in the doctoral program. The research proposal Computer-Assisted Instruction in Higher Education in Russia: Exploring the Factors that Relate to Technology Integration illustrates my scholarly interest in investigating the whys and hows of effective integration of computer technologies in higher education. Designing this study required knowledge of quantitative methods of research, which were further developed when drafting a proposal for the Study of Online Student Retention Rates written for EPSY 630 Statistical Methods II. These items, selected as evidence for scholarly thinking and writing ability, and scholarly research ability respectively, demonstrate my interest in exploring not only qualitative but also quantitative methods of research. These projects expanded the scope of research questions I find intellectually stimulating: they included new geographic locations for researching educational technology and institutional issues raised by online distance education.
I am currently involved in two research projects. In collaboration with Dr. Carla Meskill, I’m continuing to develop my expertise in corpus analysis, while co-authoring “The Language of Digital Learning Objects: A Cross-disciplinary Study”. Language concordancing software is utilized here for corpus analysis of 1691 peer reviews in the MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) learning objects collection. We focus on points of convergence and divergence between languages used in three disciplinary groups: hard sciences, humanities, and education. Preliminary results were presented in the Seventh International Conference “Jazzing IT Up with MERLOT” (August 7-10, 2007, New Orleans, LA).
Having been actively involved in several research projects in this last two years, I believe I have found an area of sufficient personal interest and in need of additional scholarly investigation to serve as the topic of my dissertation. I would like to design and carry out a study that would further explore issues related to International Online Distance Higher Education. The draft of an article Crossing Cultures and Borders in International Online Distance Higher Education included into this portfolio presents a broad review of literature in this field. In the second stage, I plan to design and implement a study that would focus on teacher-student relationships in the context of online global environment, where cultural differences are treated as both beneficial and detrimental to successful online learning.