Im at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, taking place from 27 April to 01 May 2013 in San Francisco, and as best I can I will be blogging the K-12 online learning presentations that I identified from searching the program. The ninth and final session I am blogging is:
The Nature of Online Teacher Engagement at the Open High School of Utah
Presenters/Authors: Jered Borup (Brigham young University), Charles R. Graham (Brigham Young University)
Scheduled Time: 8:00am – 10:00am
Building/Room: Parc 55, Fourth Level – Mission I
In Session: K-12 and Community College Online Environments
Abstract: This research analyzed 22 interviews with 11 instructors at the Open High School of Utah—an online charter school with an overall course pass rate of 80% and higher than average standardized test scores. It was found that OHSU’s premade curriculum allowed teachers to spend the majority of their time tutoring and interacting with students. In most cases the curriculum was developed in house, allowing teachers to easily modify it to better fit student needs. In addition, teachers used a variety of strategies to motivate students. However, all teachers indicated some difficulty in engaging reluctant students because of teachers’ physical separation from students and the lack of visual cues.
Jered began with some background into K-12 online learning – as much of the audience wasn’t from a K-12 environment. Jered’s interest was the teacher and the role that the online teacher can play in improving success and retention in the online environment. He looked at the role of the online teacher through the Community of Inquiry framework. The original framework was created focused on discussion forum postings in higher education, so Jered was interested in focusing on K-12 environment and the holistic role of the online teacher – specifically the teacher presence aspects (e.g., designing and organizing, instructing, facilitating discourse, nurturing, motivating, and monitoring); which they re-named teacher engagement (as the final three of those items were things Jered added to the CoI).
The study was conducted at the Open High School of Utah – a full-time, cyber charter school that has been recognized at the state and national level. The data consistent of two interviews each with 11 of the approximately 20 teachers at OSHU.
Of the six items, the one that was the most prominent theme was facilitating discourse with students and, interestingly, with parents too. Jered went through some of the specific examples of types of discourse that the teachers had with their students and parents. There was also discourse that occurred between teachers. Jered went through the other five topics kind of quickly – providing some specific examples of each of the five remaining items (e.g., developing caring relationships under nurturing, identifying dishonesty under monitoring, or using positive praise under motivating).
Overall, the concept of teacher engagement proved useful. But there were several caveats.