UCI School of Education Launches Online Learning Research Center
Led by leading experts in online learning, the Center is designed to provide evidence-based resources, materials and guidelines for teachers and students to improve academic achievement and equity in online learning.
IRVINE, Calif. (March 17, 2020) -- The University of California, Irvine School of Education today launched an Online Learning Research Center (OLRC), designed to provide evidence-based resources, materials and guidelines for teachers and students to improve academic achievement and equity in online learning.

The OLRC draws on decades of research experience of its Directors, Prof. Di Xu and Prof. Mark Warschauer , widely considered among the world’s experts on online learning. The easy-to-use guidelines and resources on the OLRC website help instructors improve their online courses to better meet the needs of online students. Resources are also available for students themselves to learn how they can better succeed online.

The worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has rapidly accelerated use of online learning in California and around the world. Several major California universities, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego have indicated that they will largely be transitioning to online learning in spring, and other campuses, including UCI, are also making all their classes available online.

“The Online Learning Research Center is designed by leading experts in online learning and is firmly based on research evidence on how to improve online learning for diverse students,” said Richard Arum , dean and professor of the UCI School of Education. “We hope this center can prove beneficial to universities across the world as we all confront the challenges presented by the coronavirus - we must be deliberate in setting up online learning environments so to avoid exacerbating the gaps in learning outcomes.”
Xu and Warschauer’s research point to several challenges that learners face in online environments, largely related to the requirement of higher levels of self-directed learning skills, and greater difficulties to achieve effective interpersonal interactions in the virtual space. Because most students have been prepared for the traditional classroom format that allows for the dissemination of knowledge and control of the activity by an instructor, they need additional support, investment, and scaffolding to move toward successful online learning that reflects self-directed philosophies.
Watch Dean Richard Arum and Professors Mark Warschauer and Di Xu introduce the new Online Learning Research Center.
To enable faculty to better scaffold the online learning process and engage students, it is important that instructors receive guidance and support on what tools and strategies to use and why to use them. 

“Our research suggests that learners may not be equally predisposed to engage in online learning that requires high levels of self-direction and younger students, academically under-prepared students, and racial minority students have been found to struggle the most in online environments,” Xu said. “That is why we devised resources for instructors and students to better address and overcome these challenges. Without sufficient levels of support, the current online expansion may widen the performance gaps.”

Xu has conducted several national studies of student performance in online vs. face-to-face instruction, especially in community colleges, and the instructional factors that help students’ success in online classes. In 2018, she was awarded a five-year CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to explore ways to improve online learning at community colleges. Warschauer, a member of the National Academy of Education, completed his dissertation on online learning in the mid-1990s and is leading a five-year study of online learning at UCI, funded by the National Science Foundation.

UCI is a national leader in high-quality online instruction. More than 90 percent of students take courses that include online learning opportunities, and the University has also launched a number of highly successful graduate programs that are taken largely or exclusively online. The School of Education - through a multitude of projects, including the Next Generation Undergraduate Success Measurement Project - is at the forefront of studying undergraduate student experiences and outcomes. 

For further information, see the Online Learning Research Center at http://olrc.us .
About the UCI School of Education
 One of the nation’s premier education schools, the UCI School of Education is focused on advancing educational sciences and contributing to improved educational opportunities and outcomes for all individuals across the entire lifespan. A diverse, dynamic and collaborative institution, the School of Education’s research, community partnerships and programming are dedicated to producing innovative scholarship, addressing the needs of local schools, and inspiring future generations of educators. Established in 2012, the School of Education ranks No. 20 in the U.S. News & World Report’s list of top graduate schools of education, No. 10 among public schools. Located in the heart of diverse and burgeoning Orange County – the nation’s sixth most populous county – the UCI School of Education is uniquely positioned to serve as a model for a 21 st Century school of education. For more information, please visit our website