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High-Impact Practices in Online Education

reviewed by Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw & Erika Stevens - October 02, 2019

coverTitle: High-Impact Practices in Online Education
Author(s): Kathryn E. Linder & Chrysanthemum Mattison Hayes (Eds.)
Publisher: Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA
ISBN: 1620368471, Pages: 264, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

Due to their positive associations with student learning and retention, 11 undergraduate experiences have been deemed High-Impact Practices (HIPs) (Kuh, 2008). HIPs are experiences that require a considerable investment of time and effort by students; connect learning in the classroom with the real world; encourage collaboration between faculty, students, and other diverse populations; and depend on in-depth feedback. George Kuh (2008) purported that all higher education institutions should seek to provide at least two HIP experiences for all undergraduate students. Unfortunately, the research and focus on HIPs has been primarily on undergraduate residential experiences, despite the fact that online learning continues to grow at an exponential rate, surpassing the growth of residential higher education programs (Seaman, Allen, & Seaman, 2018). This edited book, High-Impact Practices in Online Education: Research and Best Practices, offers a timely review of the research that has been done on HIPs in the online environment. Instead of presenting HIPs as an overwhelming concept, the editors choose to have the authors focus on one HIP per chapter, making the topic and the 11 experiences manageable to digest. A strength of this book is its diversity of contributing authors and experts in the field who have experience with implementing HIPs in the online environment.

Each chapter focuses on one HIP with the authors reviewing the types of practices that have been developed for the online environment, the research that has been done, and the research that still needs to be done. The challenges of implementing each HIP are clearly outlined in almost every chapter and the authors offer key strategies and experiences for overcoming them. Each chapter ends with key takeaways for those interested in both research and practice.

In Chapter One, Kuep reviews the limited research on technology-facilitated and online First Year Seminars (FYS). This chapter depends on older sources and focuses primarily on the implementation of technology-facilitated, online, and blended FYSs for residential students, leaving the reader to wonder if FYSs are being offered and examined for online students and programs. The need for more research in this area and a discussion on this topic could have improved this chapter. However, Kuep offers many important and useful takeaways, including the recommendation that universities need to offer professional development that focuses on how to facilitate engagement and learning in the online environment. Instructors cannot simply facilitate online FYSs in the same way as residential FYSs and expect the same effective results.

In Chapter Two, Baker and Pregitzer use Moore’s Theory of Interaction as well as media richness theory to discuss the importance of creating common intellectual experiences (CIEs) in online classes and introduce a NET framework (Narrative, Engagement, Transformation) for creating online CIEs. This chapter is relevant as it provides a clear outline and discussion on how one university is implementing and evaluating CIEs in the online environment, providing institutions with a framework that can be implemented and scaled with online students and in online programs. Baker and Pregitzer offer many salient takeaways.  

In Chapter Three, Johnson, Powell, and Baker (2018) take an in-depth look at learning communities (LCs) and how they have been used in residential and hybrid classes at one institution. Recognizing that “no empirical studies” (p. 43) have compared online and residential LCs and that research on online LCs is limited, these authors draw on online LC and residential LC research to offer practical and specific strategies for creating online community (e.g., a welcome page, small group work). They provide models for developing both blended, hybrid, and fully online LCs. However, the most useful element of this chapter is probably the author’s provision of a taxonomy for implementing online LCs and for guiding a process evaluation of them.

Griffin focuses on writing-intensive courses (WICs) in Chapter Four. While she makes minimal references to online courses, Griffin provides many practical ideas for WICs that can be applied in the online or residential environment. She illustrates the importance of creating meaningful writing assignments, discusses the effectiveness of video/screencast feedback, and cautions faculty about the potential problem of literacy load in the online platform.

Chapter Five provides a detailed discussion about collaborative learning in the online environment, taking a detailed look at the challenges that may arise in developing and implementing both synchronous and asynchronous collaborative assignments and projects (CAPs) in the online environment. Robertson and Riggs, however, do not leave the reader feeling defeated as they provide strategies to overcome these challenges. Also, extremely useful to the online instructor facilitating CAPs is Robertson and Riggs’s table outlining innovative activities.

Undergraduate Research (UR) is an HIP covered across two chapters, with chapters focusing on UR in the humanities and the sciences. Pearson and McClurken discuss collaboration in a digital research project from a synchronous online class in the humanities, but there is little mention of how to incorporate UR in an asynchronous online class. In the second chapter, Downing and Holtz discuss how online resources for data collection and disseminating research results online can benefit undergraduate students in a science program. While both chapters have interesting ideas in how to use online platforms for research, neither one discusses the implications for asynchronous online courses.

In Chapter Eight, Nelson and Soto discuss the importance of diversity and global learning in online classes, offering three strategies that can be used to increase diversity in online classes. In Chapter Nine, Strait and Nordyke discuss the elements of eService-Learning (eSL) in onsite, hybrid, and online courses, addressing the challenges associated with incorporating eSL into hybrid and online classes. Their use of tables makes the information clear and gives pertinent information on how to incorporate eSL in online classes.

Internships are another HIP that can be especially challenging in an online class. Pike tackles the challenging HIP of internships in online classes by discussing the features of effective internships. Extremely helpful is her inclusion of tables that detail effective practices for online internships with references for further reading.

Despite the lack of scholarly research in the use of capstone courses and projects (CCPs) in online courses, Newton-Calvert and Smith Arthur expertly discuss the importance of soft skills and community partners when implementing CCPs of any type. Using the Community of Inquiry Model, they discuss the important elements that an online CCP needs to have and the benefits that come from offering it online.

According to Sparrow and Török (2018), a well-developed ePortfolio system should expand beyond a single class to create a body of work showcasing a student’s cumulative work over the course of their educational career. Along with discussing the benefits of ePortfolios in online courses, Sparrow and Török also emphasize that an accessible platform should be used that allows students to comment on others’ work and gives them access to their ePortfolio after they have graduated.

While not an HIP, libraries can play an important role in supporting and encouraging HIPs. Chapter Thirteen looks at the traditional role of libraries in courses and their developing role in online courses. Libraries can play an important role in supporting multiple HIPs in online courses when integrated into well-developed courses.

A reader of this book is provided with a solid foundation on the research and practice surrounding HIPs. The reader desiring to implement HIPs at their institution will find that some chapters provide specific examples and guidelines for how HIPs can be incorporated in online classes and programs. Practical tips for evaluation are also provided. The reader will be led to the conclusion that HIPs are vital to effective education in both the residential and online environments. However, although not always overtly discussed in each chapter, the reader will also conclude that a serious lack of research exists on HIPs for online classes and programs. There is a need for implementation, evaluation, research, and peer-reviewed publications detailing how to develop and implement HIPs in the online environment and for establishing effective frameworks and taxonomies for implementation and evaluation. Online HIPs need to be designed, developed, and evaluated in light of the unique characteristics of the online learner and environment. Despite the few critiques contained in this review, the book provides a great contribution to the literature on HIPs, illuminating an area that needs further development.


Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Association of American Colleges: Washington, D.C.

Seaman, J. E., Allen, I., & Seaman, J. (2018). Grade increase: Tracking online education in the United States. Oakland, CA: Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group. Retrieved from https://onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/gradeincrease.pdf

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 02, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23108, Date Accessed: 5/24/2022 6:13:44 PM

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About the Author
  • Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw
    University of Memphis
    E-mail Author
    AMANDA ROCKINSON-SZAPKIW, EdD, PhD, LPC, is an associate professor for the Instructional Design and Technology Program at the University of Memphis, where she serves as the coordinator of an online EdD program. Her research focuses on the influence of sociocultural (e.g., technology-enabled classrooms, distance education environments, family) and psychosocial factors (e.g., self-efficacy, self-directedness) on student success, namely persistence. Dr. Rockinson-Szapkiw has authored and co-authored more than five dozen peer-reviewed journal articles and presented over 100 presentations. She co-edited the book Navigating the Doctoral Journey: A Handbook of Strategies for Success. Her development of a collaborative workspace to facilitate doctoral mentorship in the online environment was recognized by Microsoft via a case study and was awarded the 2013 Campus Technology innovator award. She has also developed a number of instruments for use with online doctoral students, including the Academic-Family Integration Inventory, the Scholar-Practitioner Research Scale, and the Distance Doctoral Integration Scale (with Holmes).
  • Erika Stevens
    Walters State Community College
    E-mail Author
    ERIKA STEVENS is an associate professor of Spanish at Walters State Community College in East Tennessee and a second-year EdD graduate student at the University of Memphis in Instructional Design and Technology. Her research interests include faculty perceptions of online foreign language courses, faculty training in creation of online foreign language courses, and high-impact practices, specifically study abroad (diversity and global learning) and eservice-learning.
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