Virtual School Meanderings

March 5, 2012

SITE 2012 – An Examination of Educational Leadership Program Field Experiences in K-12 Virtual Schools

The fourth session from the Virtual Schooling SIG at the annual Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference was:

An Examination of Educational Leadership Program Field Experiences in K-12 Virtual Schools

Dennis Beck, University of Arkansas, USA
Jason LaFrance, Georgia Southern University, USA

Virtual and blended experiences are an emerging trend in education. K-12 virtual schooling was first utilized in the 1990s and continues to grow. Currently 48 of 50 states offer some virtual experience in K-12 education. Of these, 39 states have state virtual schools. Professional development is beginning to be available for virtual school teachers, however, little information is available on professional development for administrators. This study will provide a status report on the state of school administrator preparation for K-12 online and blended learning in the U.S.A. This research will be conducted by surveying Educational Leadership certification programs regarding the extent which pre-service administrators are being exposed to K-12 online and blended learning. Important ramifications exist for the field of K-12 online learning as well as for Educational Leadership programs that are preparing educators to lead fully online and blended learning programs.

Dennis began with the potential of online learning – and immediately went to the rhetoric about being a disruptive force that could break the factory model of education – and that policy hasn’t kept pace to allow for K-12 online learning to reach its full potential. He then transitioned to focus upon the role of leaders in K-12 online learning, but skipped over some of his slides in the interest of time.

He looked at 348 NCTATE institutions that offered leadership and administration preparation to see what they were doing with regards to K-12 online learning (and he had a little better than ~40% response rate).

There were 14 institutions that offered virtual field experiences in educational leadership (8 private universities and 6 public universities). Some findings:

  • all experiences were with private or charter virtual schools
  • 50% of the experiences began in the [ast three years
  • most experiences included face-to-face and online experiences

There was only one university that mentioned previous virtual school experience in the potential students. Sixty-four percent of the respondents that had field experiences indicated that the field experience was limited to 0-4 hours of time in the online environment.

The descriptions of what school leaders did in these virtual field experiences matched what they would have done in a face-to-face field experience. The method that these universities used to assess leadership students in these virtual field experiences also matched what we’d find in the face-to-face field experience (with the exception of one university that used login and other LMS tracking data as part of their assessment).

Interestingly, of those institutions that did not offer a virtual field experience, 36% indicated that they should and 24% indicated that they were in the process of developing one.

Dennis’ future research will dive into the existing 14 programs to pick apart the models that are in use. As well as looking at some of the experiences that those students who are going through these virtual field experiences actually possess.

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