Virtual School Meanderings

April 1, 2010

SITE 2010: Correlations Between Teacher-Student Interaction And Student Academic Performance In A Large Virtual High School

SITEThis morning represents the first full session that the Virtual Schooling SIG has had here at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) conference. The session contains two full papers, both by one of my doctoral students. The description for the first full paper reads:

Correlations between teacher-student interaction and student academic performance in a large virtual high school

Abigail Hawkins, Brigham Young University, USA
Charles Graham, Brigham Young University, USA

Teacher-student interaction is a significant factor in perceived learning, satisfaction, and academic achievement in postsecondary distance education. However, less is known about the role of teacher-student interaction in K-12 online learning programs. Surveying 76,982 students in courses at Utah’s Electronic High School, researchers examine correlations between students’ perceptions of quality and frequency of teacher-student interaction and students’ academic performance. The potential results and significance of the study are discussed.

Abby began the session with an overview of the state of virtual schooling in the United States, relying mainly upon the Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning reports.  She outlined the problem of attrition in K-12 online learning and, while there hasn’t been much unpacking of the why at the K-12 level, at the post-secondary level teacher-student interaction has been identified as one of the factors that contribute.  She also chose to focus on teacher-student interaction because it was something that virtual schools could focus on and actually do something about – something they had control over essentially.

Her research took place at the Electronic High School in Utah, which is the oldest state-wide virtual school in the United States.  It has 47,932 student enrollments (in 2008), with 75 part-time teachers and 92 unique courses.  It has a rolling enrollment model, which allows students to start their courses at any time – which means there is very little student-student interaction because all students are at different points in the course.  Two new policy initiatives that will affect the rolling enrollment model, include implementing a a six month time limit for students to complete the course and that students must be active every 30 days or they are dropped.  Although a student that doesn’t complete a course within the 6 month time period, can re-enroll in the same course and if the teacher allows the student can pick up at the same point they were when they reached their 6 month limit.

One of the interesting tidbits that I picked up was this notion of starters and non-starters that Abby and I have discussed in the past.  Non-starters are those that register for the course, but then never do anything in their online course – they don’t submit an assignment, they don’t complete any of the tasks, etc..  If you look at the data for the Electronic High School over a three year period, it indicated:

Year Total Completion Rate Completion Rate When Non-Starters Removed
2006 11.3 15.8
2007 19.8 34.5
2008 31.1 52.3

Note that in the 2008 data that the completion rate jumps over 20% if you remove the non-starters.

Some of the findings that I did catch:

  • non-completers expressed greater difficulty in contacting and/or getting help from their teachers
  • non-completers had a lack of understanding of the expectations at the assignment level
  • the frequency of interaction was not significant in student performance

1 Comment »

  1. […] began with some of the same background that she started her presentations yesterday with (see here and here).  After discussing some of the methodological issues with current K-12 online learning […]

    Pingback by SITE 2010: A Comparison Study Of How Teachers With High And Low Completion Rates Interact With Virtual High School Students « Virtual School Meanderings — April 2, 2010 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

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