Virtual School Meanderings

March 19, 2014

SITE 2014 – Factors Influencing Teacher Satisfaction At An Online Charter School

This is the eighth session for Tuesday session I am blogging from the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education 2014 conference. The program details for this session were:

Factors Influencing Teacher Satisfaction at an Online Charter School

Jered Borup, George Mason University, United States
Mark Stevens, George Mason University, United States

Wednesday, March 19 2:15-2:45 PM in Grand Ballroom 2

The need for qualified teachers is increasing as teachers from the baby boom generation retire and student population grows. This need is especially heightened for online learning as student online enrollments grows rapidly. Not only does there need to be a greater effort to prepare online teachers, online schools should work to retain the qualified teachers that they have. This case study examined factors that influenced teacher satisfaction at an online charter high school. Analysis of 22 interviews from 11 teachers, identified five primary influences of teacher satisfaction: (1) flexibility, (2) support, (3) communication, (4) control and design, and (5) student performance.

I missed the first few minutes of Jered’s session, as I was running from room to room from the previous session.  He was giving an overview of Mountain Heights Academy when I walked in and commented that one of the reasons that he selected this online charter school was because of the high level of interaction that occurred at this school.

The teaching staff were relatively junior, with an average of six years of teaching experience and most of the teachers being in their second year at the online charter (n=6) and the next largest group in their first year (n=4).  In fact there was only one teacher that had been there for all three years the school was open.

The teachers were all extremely or very satisfied with teaching at Mountain Heights Academy (n=12/15).  However, there was less satisfaction with students (extremely or very satisfied n=5) and parents (extremely or very satisfied n=7).  It appears that the reasons the teachers were satisfied were due to: flexibility (e.g., could teach at home, could modify – or tweak – what they taught, etc.); support and success (e.g., teachers felt that student success appeared to be more closely related to student success, the school was small enough that teachers felt they could still have meaningful impacts, and the support provided by parents); and communication and community (e.g., enjoyed interacting with students, but missed the face-to-face connection).

Jered went through the downside of some of these issues that came out of the data, but my fingers weren’t quick enough to capture them all (particularly as I was dealing with some administrative work back in the office).  His conclusions and implications included:

  • set clear expectations for teachers
  • teachers need help balancing work and life
  • curriculum should be designed to allow for modifications
  • provide teachers with
    • time for personalized interactions
    • regular in-service training
    • tech support
  • more research is needed in a variety of contexts

October 23, 2013

Commentary – The Global Race For Online Learning: How Does America Compare?

Earlier this week an Education Week blogger posted an entry entitled “The Global Race for Online Learning: How Does America Compare?”  It was an interesting, American-centric piece.  Basically, it was a look at the United States – we’re leading the way; without really much in the way of evidence.  In response, I left the following comment:

I’m not sure I buy your premise (or your facts). You use England (a small geographic, densely populated country) and China (a country that has sizable populations in regions that have little to no infrastructure).

The Canadian comparison is a fair one, but the facts are off. Teachers unions are not hindering the development of K-12 online learning in Canada. The vast majority, including are supportive (additional evidence of this can be found in the second half of ). Teachers unions just want to make sure that online learning doesn’t become a dumping ground for hundreds of students for a single teacher or a teacherless environment and that online learning is adequately supported at the local level – both lessons that the “leading” United States should learn to improve the somewhat dismay performance of many of their programs.

Further, you indicate that there are about 2 million K-12 students engaged in one form or another of online learning in the United States. There are about 55 million K-12 students in the United States, which means that there are about 3.6% of K-12 students engaged in some form of online learning. Now correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the 4.2% of students reported in Canada higher than the 3.6% in the United States?

So it looks to me that Canada is leading the United States. There are a higher proportion of students involved and they appear to have found ways to establish K-12 online learning systems in such a way where all stakeholders – including teachers unions – are supportive of the process.

If you want a fair comparison, I would look to comparing the United States to jurisdictions like Singapore, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The United States is far from a leader in this group!

Interestingly, the author of the entry simply thanked me for my comment – as he did anyone else who challenged his premise or spoke in a negative fashion about K-12 online learning.  Granted, it seems like I’m the only one who actually left a comment that was on topic, with everyone else either bestowing the virtues of K-12 online learning or questioning the value of K-12 online learning.  So, I encourage you to go over there and add to the discussion.

October 10, 2012

Reminder – iNACOL’s 2012 Virtual School Symposium

Another item from Tuesday’s inbox…

To view this email as a web page, go here.

Dear Michael:We are just two weeks away from the start of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL’s) Virtual School Symposium. Registration is filling up quickly, but there is still a chance to reserve your spot at the conference.

And for an even more in-depth experience, join us on Sunday, October 21st for our pre-conference workshops covering blended learning, competency-based education, advocacy, and much more.

VSS is the leading conference focused solely on K-12 online and blended learning providing comprehensive sessions for experts, advanced and beginning practitioners and policy makers in K-12 education interested in new learning models. VSS provides the highest-level of knowledge-sharing of best practices for practitioners and policy-makers seeking to develop e-learning programs within educational institutions in the United States, Canada, Mexico and abroad.

This year’s VSS will bring together over 2,000 representatives and leaders from next generation learning programs to attend the premier K-12 online and blended learning conference. Experts in K-12 education will have robust networking opportunities; learn about the latest trends, challenges and opportunities; interact in session presentations; and gain access to the latest research and best practices reports.

We hope that you will be able to join your colleagues for insight from thought-leaders across the fields of online and blended learning such as: Louisiana’s Superintendent of Schools John White; Karen Cator of the U.S. Department of Education; Stacey Childress of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; John Bailey of Digital Learning Now!; and Michael Horn of the Innosight Institute.

Already registered? Please take a moment to share with us the sessions you plan on attending through this survey.

Not registered yet? There’s still time. Please visit the VSS 2012 website for more information.

We are looking forward to seeing you there!

Best regards,

Susan Patrick
President & CEO, iNACOL

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January 26, 2012

EdTech Leaders Online – Digital Learning Day

In case you were looking for something to do on Digital Learning Day, this scrolled through my Twitter stream late last week.

Click on the image to visit the link.

Could have the potential of actually not being an ideologically driven, pat each other on the backs as we dismantle public education, kind of conversation…

January 4, 2012

ICDE 2009/2010 And K-12 Online Learning

So a couple of days ago in ICDE And K-12 Online Learning I reviewed all of the K-12 or primary and elementary presentations at the 2011  ICDE conference.  In that entry, I also indicated that I was going to look back through the 2010 and 2009 conferences – as it appeared that both were housed on the ICDE website (see  However, when I tried to visit the 2010 it appears that the host university has taken it down – as I get a file/site not found error.

In looking at the 2009 conference website, I don’t believe it is a full conference.  The actual title was “ICDE Standing Conference of Presidents” and when you examine the agenda, it appears to be more of a planning and visionary meeting than a full conference. I should note that you can view these plenary sessions at

So it looks like I won’t be able to examine the 2010 and 2009 ICDE conferences for K-12/primary and secondary content after all.  Hopefully I’ll have more luck tomorrow with their journal.

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