Virtual School Meanderings

September 19, 2012

Virtual School MOOC – Research into K-12 Online Learning: Blogging Activity #2

The third topic in Introduction to K-12 Online Learning Research is “Research into K-12 Online Learning.” The second blogging activity for this topic is to respond to the following questions:

Given your specific interest in K-12 virtual schooling research, where are questions are left unanswered?
Why is that question (or those questions) important?

For me, the biggest black hole that we have in K-12 online learning – at least in relation to the level of activity that we see – is when it comes to full-time K-12 online learning. Regardless if we are talking about for-profit corporate cyber charter schooling or district-based programs specifically designed to address the needs of at-risk students or re-capture drop-out students.  The vast majority of K-12 online learning research – at least what has gone through the peer-review process and been published in academic outlets – has focused on supplemental K-12 online learning.  The vast majority of what we know about full-time K-12 online learning has been published or funded by corporations providing full-time K-12 online learning – and that is a problem given that for the last three to four years this is where the greatest growth within the field of K-12 online learning has occurred.

Beyond the full-time K-12 online learning, I’d also recommend that we begin looking at sub-groups that are perceived or that proponents claim will benefit from K-12 online learning.  The top on my list of these sub-groups is students with special needs.  Last year the US Department of Education released a request for proposals to create a Center for Virtual Schooling and Students with Disabilities (or something to that effect).  It was interesting because there was a full page in the RFP about the great things that virtual schooling can do for students with special needs, all supported with citations that contained not a single piece of empirical research.  In this case it was millions of dollars to study the potential, and hopefully under the model of Rick’s conditions under which K-12 online learning can allow these students to be successful.  However, this is the same case that is made for a whole host of specific populations of students and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on what is essentially a best guess that this may have an impact when we look at the funding going to programs actually delivering K-12 online learning to these specific students.

There are so many more areas that I could discuss, but I’ll leave it at these two for now.

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