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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What Are They Doing And How Are They Doing It? Rural Student Experiences In Virtual Schooling

So that is the title of my dissertation which I defend tomorrow. Preparing for that defence has really derailed my plans to write about the virtual schooling stuff that I saw at AERA - although I still plan to do some of that. I also plan to use my wife's iPod to record my dissertation defence tomorrow and I'll see if I can chop some of the discussion down into segments that I can podcast from this blog.

Actually, podcasting is something that I'd like to do more of from here, as I could easily record myself presenting at any of the conferences that I attend and it would be a lot easier to simply record the presentation and podcast it in part or the complete thing from here than trying to find the time to type it up. So if anyone out there has experience recording the audio with an iPod, using a Mac (Audacity or Garage Band I would assume) to create the podcast, and then linking it into Blogger, I would love some suggestions/detailed instructions.

In any regard, the abstract for my dissertation that I will be defending tomorrow is:

This study examined the nature of virtual schooling in Newfoundland and Labrador secondary education. The primary goals of this research were to investigate the virtual school learning experience for students in the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI) including the kinds of support and assistance most frequently used and most valued by students learning in a virtual environment.

Data were collected related to what students did during their asynchronous class and synchronous class time, along with where they sought help when they needed content-based assistance. Students were interviewed and observed during their virtual school class time. In-school teachers were interviewed and e-teachers were also observed. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method utilizing Microsoft Word® as a tool for qualitative data analysis.

Findings indicated that during their asynchronous class time students were often assigned seat work or provided time to work on assignments, however, students rarely used this time to complete CDLI work. When the students required assistance they usually relied upon their local classmates. If peer support was not successful, they turned to their e-teacher if it was during synchronous class time or if they had the time to wait for a response. If it was during asynchronous class time or if they needed more immediate feedback, they would seek out their in-school teachers. Students rarely used most of the support resources provided by the CDLI.

Further research is needed to improve asynchronous teaching strategies exhibited, to better understand the virtual school experience of lower performing students, to improve upon the identification of students who will be successful in and provide remediation for students who are weak in certain characteristics, and finally to investigate how e-teachers and in-school teachers encourage greater interaction and sense of community to allow students to learn in the social process from their more capable peers. As the goals of this future research are to impact the practice of virtual schooling, design/development research may be a suitable methodology for these future studies.

I have it indexed under the terms (and I'll use them as tags and labels here as well) virtual school, virtual high school, K-12, online learning, web-based learning, small schools, rural, rural education.

Until next week when I have some real time on my hands...

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