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Monday, May 29, 2006

Adressing Virtual Schooling Concerns

A colleague on mine here in Georgia, Cool Cat Teacher Blog , has posted some Concerns about virtual high schools that she has. Specifically, she states:

"Yes, plaigarism may be a concern, but I think the greater concern is parentarism."
She then goes on to ask:
  • Who is going to ensure that these children are truly being educated?
  • Who will verify the identity of the person doing the work?

My initial response would be to ask the people involved in long standing virtual schools, such as the Florida Virtual School or the Virtual High School. Both of these organizations have been offering courses for a decade now and, to date, I have yet to see much in the media about this being a problem. I know for a fact that I have not read anything in the practitioner or academic literature about this issue.

There have been valid concerns about the issue of who is doing the work and in some regards, some of those have never been addressed. I do know that virtual schools have gotten very good about creating more authentic forms of assessment that allow for students to be unsupervised (i.e., it doesn't matter if they have access to their notes and a textbook). I also know that through the use of on-going assessments, discussion forums being a good example of this, virtual teachers can get a good idea of who is on the other end of the keyboard - which is important when other writing assignments are submitted, because the teacher now has an on-going sense of the students writing style and voice.

Many virtual schools also have their teachers call their students on the telephone or use various synchronous software to interact with their students in real time, which is another avenue that allows a virtual teacher to ensure that the student is the one with the knowledge.

The reason I'm not as concerned about this as a used to be is because of the movement by virtual schools towards these more authentic forms of assessment. The use of these kinds of assessments is a move away from the discrete knowledge that is required by the standardized multiple-guess tests that are so popular with conservatives these days. Students will still do well on these multiple-guess items, because they know and understand the material well - they have to in order to perform well on these authentic assessments. But it fosters a movement away from teaching to the test - which is always much easier for a parent to complete anyway.

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Blogger Vicki A. Davis said...

Great post! You answered some of my questions. I do like how some of the validation is occuring. There are always issues in any form of schooling and academic dishonesty can happen anywhere. I just hope that those who work with any form of schooling such as virtual schooling are cognizant of issues such as this and take meaningful measures to support the integrity of the degree that they are offering. Thank you for answering some of these questions.

I, like you, am concerned at not hearing more about what is being done to prevent well meaning parents from becoming overly involved.

4:11 PM  
Blogger MKB said...


I'm not as concerned about the overeager parent because of the use of authentic assessment. Afte reading two and three discussion entries a week from a student, I can tell their voice in their writing - so when they submit an essay to me I have a fairly good sense of whether or not they wrote it.

Fortunately, even the most interested and active parent tends not to be involved in what they consider the mundane and "less academic" portions of their child's work - such as posts to the discussion forum.

So, unless a parent is doing everything for their son or daughter (in terms of written work), an online teacher can tell if the work is coming from one voice or two - and if it is wo there is a problem, regardless if the second voice is a parent, the Internet, a paper mill, etc..

Personally, I am no more worried about well meaning parents online than I am in the traditional face to fac environment.


5:24 PM  
Blogger Vicki A. Davis said...

I have formally, changed my opinion of virtual schooling IF and ONLY IF the virtual school effectively uses authentic assessment. I blogged about it today and thought you would want to know. This is one way the blogosphere changes me as I learn from experts such as yourself.

Candid Cheating with the Camera Phone

1:37 PM  
Blogger MKB said...


I'm not sure howmuch of an expert I am, but I like to think that I know a bit on the topic and,more importantly I think, tend to ask the right questions.

I'll take a look at your latest post later this evening.


6:56 PM  
Blogger glong425 said...

I'm concerned. My stepson is in Beaver County PA and has been cyberschooled for the last 2 years. According to his sister, her mother does all of his work and testing. The child is functionally illiterate and not even all that functional. I do not know what to do or where to turn. What a great disservice to my child.

12:42 PM  
Blogger MKB said...


I'm not sure what to tell you at the moment. I can tell you that I will post a new entry on this topic and see if others have any ideas - I'll also take a stab at it myself.


1:04 PM  

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