Zawacki-Richter's list of gaps in research


Revised Table 4 with larger fonts to indicate gaps or needs in research


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Zawacki-Richter, O.  (2009, June).  "Review of research areas in distance education:  A Delphi study."   International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

Zawacki-Richter organized a Delphi survey to identify 15 areas of research in the field of distance education, The panel of 19 participants who completed both steps of the Delphi process concluded that there were four more important research areas and that there are   most neglected areas in three major divisions:  Macro, Meso and Micro.

This current summary of this article will give you, the reader, a concluding table that is better at annotating the results of Zawacki's conclusions than the Table 4 (in the Zawacki-Richter article).


The concluding table (4) is titled "Importance of the research area" -- showing the rank of areas within the three major divisions of Distance ed and theories (macro), Management, organization and technology (meso) and Teaching and learning (micro).  Zawacki's table shows ranking from 1 to 3 of the importance of each of the 15 research areas, but the table does not clearly show the gaps.  A simple use of bold face would help the reader to more quickly interpret the concluding five paragraphs.   The table could also have a row of asterisks to indicate research areas that Jegede (1994) identified as gaps.   The reader could then quickly and graphically see the trend in gaps by looking at a revised table 4.

Currently, without asterisks (for Jegede's input) and boldface (for the Delphic list of needs), the eye sees four research areas marked as 1 in importance, and five areas ranked as 2 in importance.  With the annotations that I've recommended, we see seven areas that are boldface (with two lower levels, meso and micro, also highlighted).  The conclusion I drew was that the gaps are less in systems and theory and that each level has specific needs, three areas in macro, and two each in meso and micro.

Below is the table revised with boldface and marked with asterisks (for Jegede's list of needs).

I plan to post this revised table on my EDD 7007 web page so that my colleagues in ITDE can get a quick view of what Zawacki aims to share.

Revised Table 4 with uniform font size.

Importance of Research Areas in Distance Education Assigned by Panel Members
Rank Research area
Macro level: Distance education systems and theories
1 Access, equity and ethics   ***Australia ***   
2 Theories and models
3 Globalisation of education and cross-cultural aspects
3 Distance education systems and institutions
3 Research methods in distance education and knowledge transfer
Meso level: Management, organization, and technology
1 Innovation and change
1S Quality assurance  ***Australia ***
2S Costs and benefits
2S Professional development and faculty support
2 Learner support services   ***Australia ***
3 Educational technology   *Australia *
3S Management and organization
Micro level: Teaching and learning in distance education
1 Interaction and communication in learning communities    *Australia *
2 Instructional design  ***Australia ***
3 Learner characteristics

The letter "S" appears after the rank number to indicate the areas related to education management (meso level) that the third to last paragraph highlighted as "growing in importance" ... the phrase does not indicate specific needs (although some of the research areas in the meso division are in boldface to indicate a gap in the research).  Zawacki also points to a need for studies to evaluate the "effectiveness of management interventions" (a broad phrase that might be captured by the research area labeled "management and organization," which was given the lowest priority rating of 3).  I have interpreted the "effectiveness" phrase in a broader "meso" level sense rather than in the narrower sense of a research area.

 ***Australia *** is the symbol I've used for Jegend's list of eight needs, and I had trouble finding a place for "interactive multimedia" (perhaps the first area in micro and and the second to last area in meso, both marked in blue with fewer asterisks, showing a hybrid or mixing of two research areas).  "Industrial and business training context" seemed entirely too interdisciplinary to help identify specific areas of need (I could find at least four areas that could address this phrase).  "Evaluation" might fall under quality assurance, and I couldn't place "role of DE in national development" anywhere.  

In short, this updated, multi-colored version of table 4 quickly gives the reader a more-graphic way of sorting the data, particularly in pulling out the gaps in research.

I have further revised the table by making font size larger for areas identified as needing additional research, in "Table 4, larger fonts."


Table 4, larger fonts
Importance of Research Areas in Distance Education Assigned by Panel Members
(revised with larger fonts indicating more gaps in research)
(importance is indicated by the rank number, 1 being most important within each division)

Rank Research area
Macro level: Distance education systems and theories
1 Access, equity and ethics   ***Australia ***   
2 Theories and models
3 Globalisation of education and cross-cultural aspects
3 Distance education systems and institutions
3 Research methods in distance education and knowledge transfer
Meso level: Management, organization, and technology
1 Innovation and change
1S Quality assurance  ***Australia ***
2S Costs and benefits
2S Professional development and faculty support
2 Learner support services   ***Australia ***
3 Educational technology   *Australia *
3S Management and organization
Micro level: Teaching and learning in distance education
1 Interaction and communication in learning communities    *Australia *
2 Instructional design  ***Australia ***
3 Learner characteristics

The slight indentation for each line plus the larger rank number gives the table a bit busy, but causes the eye to notice those seven research areas more than in my first version of the revised table (which had uniform font size).

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