Virtual School Meanderings

December 13, 2010

Dissertation Advice: K-12 Online Learning Support Services

A week or two (or maybe three) ago, a doctoral student left a comment on an entry I wrote some time ago entitled Methodology Advice For A Dissertating Student. She wrote:

Hi — I am a student working on a dissertation on the perceptions of school counselors and administrators regarding support services needed by the online students. I want to use a mixed methods approach with surveys of the entire pool of counselors in my district combined with a focus groups to get a richer discussion. Identifying my focus groups participants has me stuck in my methodology chapter I’m not sure how to select participants. Do I select persons who are in schools supportive of online learning, based on their surveys, or do I use participants in schools who are resistant to online learning? I’m writing all this in a round about way of saying, I really sympathize with the student Getting down to the nuts and bolts of the participants and methodology seems particularly challenging in virtual school research. Comments? :) Thanks again to Michael for all your interest and lively thought provoking discussions for the lonely dissertation writers out here in the world. :)

At the time I didn’t really respond to her question, as I told her that I’d try to write a complete entry on the topic (and I’m finally getting around to it now).

In all honesty, there isn’t any published research that I am familiar with that specifically focuses on the school counselors and/or administrators.  In looking at the broader topic of support services, there are two things I think are a starting point.

The first is the work that has been done by Margaret Roblyer on the Educational Success Predict Instrument (ESPRI).  The ESPRI was designed to predict student success in K-12 online learning courses, and has been shown to be a quite reliable measure.  The reason this is a good starting point is because the nature of the instrument looks at what factors affect student success – which is not directly focused on support services, but I believe gives us a sense of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions that students need (and the flip side of that means that if students don’t possess these knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions that school-based personnel need to help support the students in attaining or remediating).

Roblyer, M. D., & Marshall, J. C. (2002-2003). Predicting success of virtual high school students: Preliminary results from an educational success prediction instrument. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 35(2), 241-255.

Roblyer, M. D. (2005). Who plays well in the virtual sandbox? Characteristics of successful online students and teachers. SIGTel Bulletin, (2). Retrieved from ttp://

Roblyer, M. D. (2006). Virtually successful: Defeating the dropout problem through online school programs. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(1), 31-36.

Roblyer, M. D., Davis, L., Mills, S. C., Marshall, J., & Pape, L. (2008) Toward practical procedures for predicting and promoting success in virtual school students. American Journal of Distance Education, 22(2), 90–109.

The second area that I think is worth looking at as a starting point for this kind of topic is looking at the role of the site facilitator, mediating teacher, or other school-based personnel (which is also I think much closer to the original topic too, so I won’t go into why I think this is connected).

Barbour, M. K., & Mulcahy, D. (2004). The role of mediating teachers in Newfoundland’s new model of distance education. The Morning Watch, 32(1-2). Retrieved from

Compton, L. & Davis, N. (2010). The impact of and the key elements for a successful virtual early field experience: Lessons learned from a case study. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 10(3), 309-337. AACE. Retrieved from

Davis, N. E. (2007, November). Teacher education for virtual schools. A presentation at annual Virtual School Symposium, Louisville, KY. Retrieved from

Davis, N., Demiraslan, Y., & Wortmann, K. (2007, October). Preparing to support online learning in K-12. A presentation at the Iowa Educational Technology conference, Des Moines, IA. Retrieved from

Davis, N. E., & Roblyer, M. D. (2005). Preparing teachers for the “schools that technology built”: Evaluation of a program to train teachers for virtual schooling. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 37(4), 399-409.

Davis, N, Niederhauser, D., Compton, L, Lindstrom, D., & Schoeny, Z. (2005). Virtual schooling lab practice: Case studies for teacher preparation. Proceedings of the International Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (342-345). Norfolk, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. Retrieved from, N. E., Roblyer, M. D., Charania, A., Ferdig R., Harms, C., Compton, L. K. L., & Cho, M. O. (2007). Illustrating the “virtual” in virtual schooling: Challenges and strategies for creating real tools to prepare virtual teachers. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 27-39. Retrieved from

Davis, N. M. (2003). Creating a learning community in the virtual classroom. In D. R. Walling (Ed.), Virtual schooling: Issues in the development of e-learning policy (pp. 77-83). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

Harms, C. M., Niederhauser, D. S., Davis, N. E., Roblyer, M. D. & Gilbert, S. B. (2006). Educating educators for virtual schooling: Communicating roles and responsibilities. The Electronic Journal of Communication, 16(1-2). Retrieved from

Mulcahy, D. (2002). Re-conceptualizing distance education implications for the rural schools of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Morning Watch, 30(1-2). Retrieved from

Mulcahy, D. M., Dibbon, D., & Norberg, C. (2008). An investigation into the nature of education in a rural and remote region of Newfoundland and Labrador: The Straits. St. John’s, NL: The Harris Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

As always, I’d like to ask my research-focused colleagues…  Is there additional advice that you’d provide this student?


  1. WCET did some work in this area a few years ago for post-secondary. I haven’t seen much follow-up for K-12,although most of the concepts and practices seemed transferable. There is a “Guide to Developing Online Student Services” at , and a follow-up project “Beyond the Administrative Core: Creating Web-based Student Services for Online Learners.” This latter reference appears to have been pulled from WCET and WICHE sites, but it has been referenced in later research articles.

    Comment by Tim Winkelmans — December 13, 2010 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

    • Thank you so much for posting these references. They look very useful!

      Comment by Lisa Harrison Ross — December 21, 2010 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  2. Tim, thanks for the additional feedback. I’m sure this doctoral student is appreciative (as am I).

    Comment by mkbnl — December 13, 2010 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

  3. […] advice for one doctoral student and invited my colleagues to provide additional details (see Dissertation Advice: K-12 Online Learning Support Services).  Today, let’s help another student.  This particular student contacted one of my […]

    Pingback by More Dissertation Advice « Virtual School Meanderings — December 14, 2010 @ 1:38 pm | Reply

  4. Dissertation Advice: K-12 Online Learning Support Services…

    Dissertation Advice: K-12 Online Learning Support Services « Virtual School Meanderings…

    Trackback by Teaching and Developing Online — December 16, 2010 @ 10:07 am | Reply

  5. Michael: Thank you so much for posting of your comments. I am very appreciative of the effort! Happy Holidays!

    Comment by Lisa Harrison Ross — December 21, 2010 @ 9:35 am | Reply

  6. No problem Lisa… Happy to help!!!

    Comment by mkbnl — December 21, 2010 @ 9:57 am | Reply

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