The topic that I would like to study in Distance Education is how to determine whether a student is doing his or her own work. Course effectiveness is compromised if enrolled students do not learn the material.
The first step that I would take is to pore through as many scholarly journals and writings as possible on the topic. Then, I would try to arrange interviews with students who had taken or are taking distance education courses, in as confidential manner as possible, about their experiences in online classes and whether they knew of students (without mentioning names) who had not done all of their online work by themselves. Following that, I would interview online course instructors and ask them which strategies they use to determine if a student is doing his or her own work. Whenever possible during this information gathering process, I would make in-person observations of students engaged in work in their distance education classes. For this to be effective, one would need to spend an extensive amount of time around the same class to become familiar with the students in the class and have access to their work. In a class such as EDUC 685, it would be difficult to monitor student behavior. A high school computer lab where students are working in something like Kentucky Virtual University is an example of a place where one might carry out personal observations.
Finally, I would try to interpret the data by finding the commonalities and use the information to develop a plan for resolving the issue of whether a student is doing his or her work.