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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What Am I Working On?

Well, as many of you know I am beginning a new faculty position at Wayne State University this month and several people have inquired what I will be working on now that my dissertation is finished. I have several virtual school projects in the works and other virtual schools that seem like that could be potential research partners. So here is a quick run down of what I am or hope to be up to...

In terms of my overall research, I think you can summarize my program of research as examining the effectiveness of virtual schooling, particularly in rural school environments.

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

Rural students engaged in virtual schooling often take these courses in unsupervised environments within their school. The purpose of this case study was to examine what students actually did during their scheduled synchronous and asynchronous time, along with the process that they undertook when they needed assistance through the use of interviews, focus groups, journal entries, and participant observation. To date I have conference proposals accepted by the Virtual School Symposium and the Canadian Institute for Distance Education Research, along with one pending with the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. I'll definitely be submitting some manuscripts out of this research endeavour, although they will probably be in the works closer to 2008.

Perceptions of Web-Based Design/Useful & Challenging Characteristics of Virtual Schooling

These studies were conducted as a part of the qualitative research courses that I took at the University of Georgia. They were designed to explore the perception of course developers, electronic teachers, and students on the characteristics of effective web-based design for secondary school students, along with secondary students’ perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics of virtual schooling through the use of surveys, interviews and focus groups. I have one manuscript that is currently being reviewed and two that are close to submission (probably in the next two months or so).

Student Performance in Virtual Schooling

The purpose of this line of inquiry is to examine the student achievement in standardized public exams and final course scores in the province between different delivery models, geographic location and subject area to determine whether or not students are succeeding in the virtual high school environment at the same rate as their classroom counterparts. I have been collaborating on this project with Dennis Mulcahy at Memorial University. We have a manuscript that should be submitted in a week or so from now, and then a conference proposal that is currently pending with the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

Mediating Scores from the Educational Success Prediction Instrument (ESPRI)

The ESPRI is an approximately 20 item instrument that predicts whether or not a K-12 student will be successful in a virtual school environment. It has been validated in several previous studies. The purpose of this project is to develop four web-based modules associated with the categories of the ESPRI that students can utilize when it is determined that they are weak in a particular area. It is hoped these modules will work with the ESPRI to change it from strictly a prediction instrument to a way to allow a wider range of students to be successful in a virtual environment. I am working on this project with Margaret Roblyer at the University of Tennessee (Chattanooga) and Steven Mills at the University Center of Southern Oklahoma, along with Robert Branch at the University of Georgia whose class will be doing the design work on the modules.

Reviewing Virtual School Literature

The literature related to online learning programs for K-12 students dates to the mid-1990s, and builds upon a century of research and practice from K-12 distance education. While K-12 online learning programs have evolved and grown over the past decade, the amount of published research on virtual schooling practice and policy is limited. This line of inquiry has evolved from considering the use of theory in distance education literature to simply reviewing the literature on virtual schooling to a high-level content analysis of the literature. The initial portions of this project were conducted while I was still a doctoral student at the University of Georgia. From this early work I have two manuscripts that should be submitted sometime this Fall. The content analysis portion I am working with Cathy Cavanaugh at the University of Florida and Tom Clark of TA Consulting. To date we have submitted a proposal to the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

In addition to these projects, there are also two potential new partners that may be venues for my future research.

1. A virtual high school in Ontario - The principal of this virtual school, which has been operating since 1996, is an old friend of mine and has offered me access to all of the data that they have collected since they began operation. This data set may be useful to mine for the purposes of looking at completion and attrition rates, times to completion between full-time and non-traditional students, and student performance. In addition to being able to access and mine this data set, he has indicated that any replication studies or new research studies that I wish to undertake, he would be interested in becoming involved.

2. The Michigan Virtual High School - One of the group of researchers funded by NCREL to complete quantitative studies on virtual schooling in 2005 has worked with the Michigan Virtual High School (MVHS) he has agreed to introduce me to the people responsible for the operation of the MVHS this fall (I just have to follow-up with him).

So that's what I plan to be up to and the people that I will be working with for the next year or so... Are there others out there researching virtual schooling that would like to share what they'll be up to in the next little while?

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5 Comments:

Blogger Abigail said...

Did you post your dissertation to any dissertation databases? I tried looking it up on one, Digital Proquest, but didn't find it. I'd be interested in reading your study as I am starting my dissertation work and am looking at virtual high schools as well.

Can you post a link to your dissertation, not just abstract, for those of us who are interested?

Thanks in advance!

Interesting research veins you are pursuing!

4:30 PM  
Blogger Abigail said...

I just re-read your post and realize that you haven't defended yet! Sorry for bugging you at this point. Good luck with the defense!

4:32 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Actually, I have defended (back in April). I did not submit my dissertation to Dissertation Abstracts because I didn't feel like paying the $50-odd so that DA could turn around and sell copies of my dissertation for $20 each.

What I have done is posted a link to my dissertation on my personal homepage. You can access it at http://www.michaelbarbour.com/research/pubs/phd_2007.pdf
BTW, what aspects of virtual schooling are you looking at?

MKB

5:49 PM  
Blogger Abigail said...

Hi MKB,
Thanks for forwarding the link to your dissertation. I spent the morning reading it (minus the appedices). Wow! I was impressed and found loads of things helpful. To name a few highlights: a literature review that was comprehensive and cogent--a hard combination to achieve, your summary tables along with references--very digestable, your analysis of your research questions and subsequent reformulations, your interpretations/findings, and ideas for future research).

Thanks again for sharing with the larger community.

A couple of questions if you don't mind:
1. You talked a lot about member checking but with the students, it didn't seem to have a high response rate. What would you do differently, if anything, to increase member checking?

2. What device did you use to record your interviews by phone?

3. If you were to do it again, what would you have done differently? (i.e. do you wish that you had used the various surveys you adapted or designed on a larger student sample? Would you have used more focus groups than individual interviews? and Why? etc)

I'm not sure if this is the appropriate medium to be asking these questions, so you can give me a netiquette lesson if needed:)

You asked about my own research. I'm a little unsure(translation, totally insecure!) right now about where I want to head. But I am starting a preliminary study looking at factors related to why students do or do not complete their courses at a state-led virtual high school. I'm looking at this question from both the student perspective and the teacher perspective. I'm curious to see how they compare and contrast.

More generally, I'm interested in why students do/don't complete courses, factors related to helping students be successful online, and how rates of completion differ among various student populations and why. The school that I am looking at does a lot of remediation, so it isn't just getting the cream of the crop student who is highly motivated and a stellar, self-directed learner like most. As with many virtual schools, attrition rates are a concern.

Any suggestions for a novice researcher?

Also, it looks like you are doing research with the big dogs--Roblyer, Cook, Cavanaugh, etc. I've come across them multiple times in my readings. Kudos.

2:25 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Abigail,

This is an appropriate medium to an extent - meaning that if you want to engage in a really specific conversation, which I am happy to do, that would probably be more appropriate for e-mail.

Having said that, as for your three questions and the feedback on your ideas, I'll post individual blog entries on each of these items so that I can devote some thinking time to it (plus others can comment).

MKB

3:00 PM  

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