State of the Field

For Dr. Charles Graham’s class, we read three articles (listed below) that analyzed the trends in distance education research.  The earliest article (Anglin & Morrison, 2000) was published a decade before the latest (Davies, Howell, & Petrie, 2010), yet many of their conclusions were the same.  Again and again, these reviews of the published distance education research call for greater research to develop a theory base for distance education.  Since I’m relatively new to the field, I don’t yet have a solid grasp of the existing theoretical base for distance education.  But it seems that helping to think through the theory of this field would be exciting and compelling.  However, such research would also necessarily be more substantive and protracted.

Last semester, Dr. Rick West had us do an analysis of a journal (my group worked on the American Journal of Distance Education). I read an article by Lee, Driscoll and Nelson (from 2005, as opposed to a newer article from 2007 read in this batch of three).  Having now read these articles, I realize that our work has a long way to go.  Our greatest weakness is in inter-rater reliability of coding.  We kind of jumped into that blind, working individually on certain years within the decade we were looking at.  No inter-rater reliability was done.  I’m now working with Dr. West to flesh out the paper further, and clearly we need to go back and improve our coding methods.

One thing that Dr. Davies wrote about was that distance education researchers feel less and less the need to compare themselves to face-to-face learning.  Hopefully, as Davies writes, the field is “coming of age” and accepting that it is indeed worthwhile in its own right.  No longer the little sister in the shadow…I hope!


  • Davies, R. S., Howell, S. L., & Petrie, J. A. (2010). A review of trends in distance education scholarship at research universities in North America, 1998-2007. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(3), 42-56.
  • Anglin, G. J., & Morrison, G. R. (2000). An analysis of distance education research: Implications for the instructional technologist. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 1(3), 189-194.
  • Lee, Y., Driscoll, M. P., & Nelson, D. W. (2007). Trends in research: A content analysis of major journals. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (Second., pp. 31-41). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

One thought on “State of the Field

  1. Lisa:

    Inter-coder reliability is a very important part of content analysis and qualitative research. Here is an article that I have found to be very useful. I have put the pdf for the article in Mendeley.

    Lombard, M., Snyder-duch, J., & Bracken, C. C. (2002). Human Communication Research, 28(4), 587-604.

    The following link from Lombard summarizes and provides some good practical advice.

    Hope that is helpful.


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