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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Assessment of the Virtual School Symposium

Well, its two days since I left Denver and the Virtual School Symposium (and in fact I'm sitting in a lodge room in Amicalola Falls (see Rock Ruminations for more details). Thinking about the conference as a whole, I was somewhat please and somewhat disappointed. I was please and thought that the program was better than last year in Atlanta, and much of the kudos for that fact go to Matt Wicks of the IVHS. There were a lot of big names in the field, all of the big names that I can think of with virtual schooling were there in fact. Having said that, many of these big names - I can think of many of the presentations that I attended given by people from the Virtual High School in Concord, MA - were sessions or information that I have heard or read before, in many instances from the same people. With the exceptions of some of the research sessions, and those sessions provided to present the two Learning Point Associates reports released in the past month or so. I was speaking to another participants and we were saying that more sessions where we had people involved in the trenches speaking (like the student panel that was held), it would have been more beneficial to see what others are doing and be able to get tips and avoid pitfalls of others. Sessions that featured current teachers and letting them discuss what was working and things they were still struggling with. Sessions that featured administrators and how they were running their virtual schools and the challenges that they were facing. Sessions featuring school-based personel and how they were integrating virtual schooling ino their birck and mortar schools.

The keynotes were by far the best portion of the conference... One entry in this blog has already focused upon one of the keynotes and I plan to add more entries about that particular keynote in the next few weeks, as he did have some interesting points to ponder.

Anyway, one of the features that I spoke to NACOL about, that I really feel needs to be addressed. One of the common themes expressed by many of the conference participants and presenters was that more research is needed. Now, the vast majority of unfunded, long-term research is completed by graduate students as they complete their thesis and dissertations. In fact, if you do a comprehensive literature review of virtual schooling or even web-based K-12 online learning, you'll find a lot of articles that just report on what someone did. With the exception of the past two years, and the writings of Dr. Roblyer, the vast, vast majority of RESEARCH conducted into virtual schooling has been done by graduate students. Yet, I will typically pay a $50 registration fee to just about every conference that I attend with organizations that are graduate student friendly. The student registration at the Virtual School Symposium was $250. Most conferences have a system where graduate students can volunteer for a reduced or waiver of the registration fee... Not NACOL's Virtual School Symposium. If research is what they want, and fundin for that research continues to be tight, NACOL is going to have to become a more graduate student friendly organization.

More about the VSS in future entries...

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