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Monday, November 13, 2006

Repost from the AECT BlogTrack - Virtual Schooling Questions

The second entry from May and the fifth in this series.

One of my colleagues in this BlogTrack, Ernise Singleton - Higher Education, posted as one of her initial entries a list of questions that she was interested in or initially drew her to specific area of online learning research (see What is online teaching?). Thinking it a great idea, I thought that I would try and do the same…
  1. What does online learning look like for secondary students?
  2. What does online teaching look like? How is it different in an entirely synchronous environment? An entirely asynchronous environment? An entirely with both synchronous and asynchronous components?
  3. How do they navigate the challenges of learning in an environment that largely requires an adult learning skillset?
  4. Would they prefer to learn in a classroom with a teacher in a face to face environment, given the option?
  5. What do students think of the option or ability to learn in this environment?
  6. Do students in these web-based environments perform as well as their classroom counterparts?
  7. Can we design an online learning environment that is accessible to all secondary students?

While I have tried to address some of these in my own research studies to date (namely questions 1, 2, 4, and 7), there is still much that I have left to answer - the mark of a good researcher I guess… More questions than answers. In any regard, hopefully over the next few months I’ll get a chance to talk about some of the research projects that I have been involved with an my current thoughts on some of these questions.

So, what are you curious about when it comes to virtual schooling? Are your own list of questions similar? Am I missing the boat on any of these or asking questions that you think have already been answered? Let me know...

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Blogger Kate Logan said...


I'd like to add something to question 6: Do students in these web-based environments perform as well as their classroom counterparts?

I don't think we can acurately compare the two, because there are so many factors. I'll list a couple...

A. Quality of online content and course management--not all courses are created equal, neither are they managed equally. Some courses are self-paced with very little interaction from the instructor; others are highly structured with due dates, group work and a lot of teacher/instructor communication. You can't compare the success of a student in a self-paced course with that of a student in a traditional classroom because the two are so totally different. You may be able to compare a highly structured online course with a traditional course given the assignments are the same, timeline is the same, same due dates, same teacher/student interaction frequency, and so on...

B. The student is removed from the physical aspect of the classroom and with that a lot of baggage. There may no longer be personality, behavior, or hormone issues at play. The pressure to quickly verbalize (on the spot questioning in front of the class) learning is removed. Issues of race, ethnicity, cliques, etc... are diminished in the online environment.

We need to be very careful when we compare student success between traditional highschool and online/virtual high school. At the very minimum we need to list all the factors that may effect the differences in success rates, good or bad.

3:13 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

While I agree that we need to be careful when comparing, I disagree with you about an accurate comparison and wuld actually argue that if you can't compare than you shouldn't do it. As a researcher, as a parent, as a taxpayer, as a legislator and (I would also include) as a teacher, I need to know that my students are getting an equivilent experience in my online environment.

The different between my statement and the factors that you have listed is that I'm not saying they should get an equal experience (i.e., not the same experience), but an equivilent experience (i.e., at the same depth, with the same coverage, etc.).

I should be able to say to any of those groups above that I listed, that when there are no issues of student selectivity involved (and from the sounds of the earlier descriptions that you have given me about your programs, your's would be one where student selectivity doesn't appear to be an issue) students in the online environment should be able to do as well as classroom students on external assessments such as state-mandated exams, AP tests, etc..

If they can't, then we aren't doig as good a job in the online environment as the traditional classroom teacher, so why waste the money?

So don't mistake the question, I'm not asking do students in these web-based environments get the same experience as their classroom counterparts? What I wat to know is that do they learn as much?

The current research that we have doesn't tell us this yet, contrary to Susan Patrick's four things we know about the research - which I'll return to this week - in fact, there hasyet to be a study where virtual school students performed as well as classroom students where the researchers didn't state in the same article problems with issues of student selectivity as the potential cause for the virtual school student success.

We need to get virtual schooling to a point where all students can access it, and all students can be success in it. If we can't do that, then why bother?


8:45 AM  
Blogger Kate Logan said...


We are in total agreement. Students shouldn't get an equal experience, but an equivallent experience...meaning that students in one group learned as much as students in the other group.

We have to answer these same questions very often. We believe that all of our courses meet or exceed the Wyoming State Content Standards and almost all of our courses have been mapped to those standards. We have found some holes and we are creating custom courses to make sure that students who graduate get the "same amount of learning" (that sounds awkard, but I can't phrase it better) than their traditional HS peers.

People do a lot of complaining about No Child Left Behind, but one of the good things about the law is that it has forced educators to set one bar (at least on a per state basis) for all students that success is measured against.

It makes it really easy for us to claim and prove that our students are performing as well as their peers when measured by Wyo State Standards and the common state assessment.

4:16 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

The problem with NCLB and standardized exams in general, both for traditional schooling and virtual schools (although I'd argue it is a bigger problem for virtual schools), is that standardized testing is not really an authentic form of assessment for most of the knowledge that the state standards demand of our students. So while everyone gets measured with the same stick, should be even be using that stick in the first place (or a stick to do our measuring at all)?


4:27 PM  

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