The twenty-fifth session that I am blogging from the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference is:
CyberTruancy: Exploring Issues of Attendance in the Online Classroom
Leanna Archambault, Arizona State University, United States, Arizona State University, United States
Stacy Bender, Minnesota Virtual High School, United States, Minnesota Virtual High School, United States
Kathryn Kennedy, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, United States, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, United States
Friday, March 29 1:50-2:10 PM in Bayside B
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Although mandatory attendance is easily determined in a traditional, brick-and-mortar school, monitoring and enforcing attendance and truancy in an online environment is perplexing. Despite the challenge, virtual schools have a duty to ensure that students who are enrolled are actually logging on, completing lessons, and “attending” classes in an online setting. This paper describes how attendance and truancy laws apply to online students and explores the notion of cyber-truancy using a policy analysis. Within the context of Minnesota Virtual High School, one of the first schools to develop online attendance policies, we explore the impact and significance of enforcing cybertruancy policy.
Kathryn introduced the session, and then – because she was mainly the methodologist on the paper – she played a recording of Stacy, who was the lead researcher. CyberTruancy is essentially students who have unexcused absences from their online courses (i.e., not attending to their online course work – however that may be defined). Each state, and in some cases each county, has different rules for what is truancy and what should happen if a student is truant.
In her recording, Stacy described why attendance was important – regardless of context or delivery model. In the case of Minnesota Virtual High School, they use a “progress-based model” – essentially that students need to meet weekly progress expectations that is determined based or judged on a mathematical formula. In the case of MVHS, progress in the online environment still needs to be translated into days to meet with the traditional statute requirements (based on the brick-and-mortar environment guidelines). If students are not meeting expectations, specific and individual interventions are implemented. Since implementing this process, MVHS has seen a positive impact on their course completion rate.
Stacy then provided examples of a specific student, using a pseudonyn to provide their stories and how this process helped those students.
They have developed a website to outline their policy and process (see http://mnonlinetruancy.weebly.com).
In terms of how to go about this…
- Write an attendance policy that reflects progress-based attendance.
- Create a tracking system
- Implement interventions based on progress rather than time online
- Get baseline data and compare as years go by
- Education students and parents
- Education other educators
- Education county attorneys (and any others that get pulled in based on the statutes)
As for teacher education, Kathryn indicated that we need to education in-service and pre-service teachers about competency-based education (as opposed to seat-time models – a favourite item of iNACOL), the importance of tracking student progress and the ability to intervene when necessary, and attendance policies in each state and how these might be applied in an online environment.