The promise and challenge of online action research: Notes from a study of self-motivated online music learner

“Teaching and learning through Online Educational Resources is growing, yet too little is known about the cognitive and affective processes of those learners who remain until project completion versus those who drop out; but your discussion of the challenges related to using an online action research methodology offer us wonderful insight into the field of OEM as well as the PAR in an online context. (Dusty Columbia Embury, Associate Editor)”

The informality and “anytime, anywhere” accessibility of open online education clearly appeal to many learners, yet these same qualities create challenges to researching the phenomenon, and particularly to understanding the learners. An action research approach is one way to meet these challenges, by reaching out to the online learners themselves, actively working with them on their learning projects while seeking their insights and perspectives as major stakeholders in the online resources.

This is the approach I took in this study, by offering tutoring-style help to self-motivated online music learners. The eleven long-term participants enthusiastically responded with thoughtful insights regarding their backgrounds and local situations, long-term music-making and music-learning goals, and the difficulties and frustrations encountered along the way.

However, there are aspects of online interaction that are not conducive to building the relationships that are so crucial to good action research. This paper focuses on three internet-related issues that appeared to influence the effectiveness of the study as action research: open versus closed online actions, reaching disadvantaged communities and learners, and consciousness-raising at a distance. As ever more interaction takes place online, including the formation of “virtual communities” for learning and other activities, it will be useful to discuss and develop ways to take action research online.

Blog post by Catherine A Schmidt-Jones

I invite you to learn more about this experience by reading my article HERE.
After you’ve had a chance to read this piece, please share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with our community in the comments below so we can continue this discussion!