The sixth topic in Introduction to K-12 Online Learning Research is “Research into the Facilitation of K-12 Online Learning.” The second blogging activity for this topic is:
Do you agree that facilitators play an important role in online learning? Why or why not?
I agree that facilitators play an important role in online learning. As I wrote in my forthcoming chapter in the third edition of the Handbook of Distance Education:
While little has been written about the various roles facilitators or mentor teachers undertake, limited research has indicated this individual has a critical role on students’ success in online learning (Barbour & Mulcahy, 2004; Roblyer, Freeman, Stabler, & Schneidmiller, 2007). Barbour and Mulcahy (2004) found that teachers at the school level provided substantial levels of support in a wide range of areas, including supervisory and administrative duties, technical troubleshooting, and providing content-based assistance. However, these findings were based on only five teachers performing this role in the first year of operation for a single, Canadian virtual school. In a follow-up to that initial study, Barbour and Mulcahy (2009) found that the amount of time these school-based teachers spent supporting the students engaged in online learning had actually increased. The authors also found that as students with a wider range of abilities are enrolling in online courses the local school-based teachers have to spend more time monitoring students’ progress and assisting the academically weaker students. Similarly, in their evaluation of a statewide virtual school, Roblyer et al. (2007) found that school-based teachers “directly working with students day by day [were] key to the success of the [K-12 online learning] program” (p. 11).
The problem is that beyond the findings in these two individual province-wide/statewide supplemental programs (and the work that Matt Irvin and his colleagues have conducted – as described by the content for this topic), there has no been additional research into the role of local teachers in supporting K-12 students engaged in online learning.
Barbour, M. K., & Mulcahy, D. (2004). The role of mediating teachers in Newfoundland’s new model of distance education. The Morning Watch, 32(1-2). Retrieved from http://www.mun.ca/educ/faculty/mwatch/fall4/barbourmulcahy.htm
Barbour, M. K., & Mulcahy, D. (2009). Beyond volunteerism and good will: Examining the commitment of school-based teachers to distance education. In I. Gibson et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (779-784). Norfolk, VA: AACE.
Roblyer, M. D., Freeman, J., Stabler, M., & Schneidmiller, J. (2007). External evaluation of the Alabama ACCESS initiative: Phase 3 report. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved from http://accessdl.state.al.us/2006Evaluation.pdf
Roblyer, Freeman, Stabler, & Schneidmiller, 2007)