I received a citation alert yesterday off of one of my own articles, which alerted me to the following recently article:
Paul Kim, Flora Hisook Kim and Arafeh Karimi
American Education Research Journal 2012 vol. 49 no. 3 pp. 521-545
Abstract – There has been a steady growth of the K-12 student population taking courses online. This study examined reasons for students to choose a public online charter school program and their perceptions of online discussion. A survey was sent to 1,500 students newly enrolled in a statewide public online charter school program. From those who responded, 44% indicated that the online discussion component is not helpful in achieving their academic goals. Also, further analysis suggested that those who drop out of traditional schools probably would not stay even in an online program unless the program adequately supported the students. In this report, interrelationships among perceptual measures along with traits and preferences of online students are discussed and suggestions are made for educators.
It is always interesting when new scholars publish in this field, to see how they use or misuse the existing literature. I think what struck me the most about this article was the fact that the authors – in 10 pages of discussing the literature – make no attempt whatsoever to actually provide any critique or context of what they are citing. It is shocking that this was published in this state, as it provides a VERY misleading perspective. For example, on page 528 in a section on group work the authors write:
Cavanaugh, Gillan, Kromrey, Hess, and Blomeyer (2004) also share the same view in that such physical detachment could possibly affect students’ learning and the overall process of knowledge construction and acquisition in online learning. However, Watson (2007) disagrees with the earlier views while Barbour and Plough (2009) argue that students enrolled in K-12 online charter schools could overcome such limitations (e.g., physical isolation from peers and instructor).
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Cavanaugh et al. (2004) was a NCREL funded meta-analysis, Watson (2007) was an opinion piece authored on behalf of iNACOL (who never have anything negative to say about K-12 online learning), and Barbour & Plough (2009) was a descriptive piece (note that the Barbour in this citation is me). So we have one piece of research, one opinion piece, and one look-and-see piece – all being presented with the same authority to the reader. Nothing about the fact that Watson’s work is his own opinion, informed as it may be, written on behalf of an organization that is essentially the lobby group for K-12 online learning. Nothing about the fact that the Barbour and Plough piece is based on Plough’s personal experience with his own school, coupled with my reading of the relevant literature. Yet, these two items are contrasted against a systematic piece of research conducted by five scholars – all of whom have lengthy credentials in the field – over an extended period of time. Which of these three do you think provides the most relevant, accurate, supported perspective? Based on the way Kim, Hisook Kim and Karimi have written it; you’d never know there was any difference is the authority of any of these sources.