Assessing Transformational Learning in Online Professional Programs: Methodological Approaches and Challenges

Swapna Kumar
University of Florida, United States of America

Patricia Arnold
Munich University of Applied Sciences, Germany


In the last decade, online education has increased access to institutions ofhigher education and equity for non-traditional populations. Developments inICT have led to an augmented number of online professional programs foradults that offer students professional growth and attempt to connect theoryand practice or theory, research and practice, with goals of transformation inthought, behaviour and action. Transformational learning in professionalprograms or in related work-based learning environments has been studiedusing various methods such as student, faculty and employer interviews;observations and analyses of student work. Researchers have also proposedthat transformational learning should be studied as a process and not as anoutcome at the end of a course or program (Land & Meyer, 2010). However, inthe online environment where faculty and researchers rarely meet studentsface-to-face and where the workplace is located in another state or country,research on the assessment of transformational learning becomesproblematic. At the same time, the access to a record of all interactions in theonline environment and learning products in digital format presents newsources of data and opportunities for research such as learning analytics.Given this situation, how can online professional programs assess that theyare achieving what they set out to do? What existing methodologicalapproaches can be applied to assess transformational learning in onlineprograms or are new approaches needed?

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