Virtual School Meanderings

September 18, 2012

K-12 Online Learning And AECT 2012

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology is having their annual convention from 30 October to 03 November 2012.  I went searching through the program and here are the K-12 online learning sessions that I was able to come up with.

Wednesday October, 31

The Current Status of K-12 Online Learning in Turkey
Scheduled Time: Wed, Oct 31 – 1:00pm – 2:00pm Building/Room: East- Suite Tower, 3 – Jones
In Full Session: DDL-13 Learning Online in the International Community

Presenters/Authors: *Nuray Gedik (Akdeniz University)
*Yuksel Goktas (Ataturk University)

Short Description: The purpose of this study is to reveal the current status of K-12 online education in Turkey in terms of programs, initiatives, and related policies. The data were collected from interviews done with administrators of the Ministry of National Education (MoNE), a systematic search for empirical studies of the online learning in Turkish K-12, and reports and documents of MoNE that informed the online learning. The major initiatives and policies are discussed with related strategies.

Abstract: Having a remarkable history in distance education with increasing numbers of open/distance institutions in higher education level, Turkey placed emphasis to online learning in the Ministry of National Education (MoNE)’s strategic plan of 2010-2014 for lower levels including K-12 (EGITEK, 2011). Guiding students and teachers in using e-learning was suggested as a major strategy where MoNE takes the leadership in the initiatives and related regulations. Online learning in K-12 is a concept with many unknowns for the Turkish context, while big investments are planned and initiated for ICT integration. This study aims to investigate the current status of online learning in K-12 in terms of programs, initiatives, and related policies. The data collected in this study are derived from (a) semi-structured interviews done with administrators and managers of the MoNE, (b) a systematic search for empirical studies of the online learning in Turkish K-12, and (c) reports and documents of MoNE that informed the use of online learning. These activities were undertaken to address two main research questions: 1. What is the current status of K-12 online learning in program and course levels? 3. What policies/initiatives are undertaken for K-12 online learning? Open primary school (OPS) and open secondary school (OSS) programs are distance learning programs and offer online learning facilities for their students. There are 389.948 students in OPS, 421.646 students in OSS, and 179.392 students in Open Vocational Technical Secondary School with a total of 990.986 students as of 2009-2010 academic year. In public education, the initiation of open public schools can be considered a great milestone for online learning. The aim of OPS is to offer distance learning opportunities to individuals who were not otherwise able to complete their primary education (OPS, 2011). These schools educate people from all provinces of the country and citizens living abroad (i.e., Western Europe, Mekke, Riyad, Trablus). The basic technologies to be used in the program were identified as television and radio programs, print books, CDs, and Internet facilities. The online learning facilities are rapidly growing with Internet/TV, online, or radio broadcasts that present instructional content. There are also other forms of free online content (i.e., e-books, tests, etc.). The online contents are in video format and named as tv programs and audios named as radio programs (MoNE Internettv, 2011). The books are also given in pdf format. There are not, however, any interaction opportunities among students or tutors. EGITEK as a unit in MoNE offers in-service trainings on online content development to teachers with a blended learning approach. The example online facilities for these trainings include data access portal (e.g., Global Gateway, Portal,, Microsoft Collaboration in Education Program, Intel Teacher Education Program, Project of Innovative Teachers, and Program of CISCO Networking Education Academy (Eurydice, 2010). In 2010 and 2011 trainings, almost 30.000 teachers who will be potential leaders of online and blended learning in their schools were trained. Currently, there are no predefined establishments or requirements for teaching online. Teachers are required to teach in their F2F classes. Therefore, when teachers aim to use the online environment for courses, blended courses seem to be relevant in the context. The use of computers is usually done during class hours and there are teachers who assign online tasks for their students. There are several online portals designed for primary and secondary education by private institutions and given to teachers and students free of charge. With assigned passwords, there are teachers using these online programs (tutorials, drills, games, etc) in their courses. MoNE is currently developing proficiencies and skill sets for online teaching, but no real implementation exists in practice in controlling or regulating the online teaching yet. The proficiencies and skill sets are given importance in terms of basic ICT usage but no special emphasis is given to e-learning in current regulations. The authorities stated that they are currently working on related establishments and regulations. The new FATIH project which stands for “increasing the opportunities and improving technology act” is big in scope and anticipates an extensive restructuring and construction for ICT and e-learning use in K-12 programs. It is a three-year project that aims to integrate the ministry’s current ICT integration efforts and establish new ones. Parallel to this project is the EBA-Education-ICT Network that is an extensive web project for educational purposes. It aims to systematically disseminate the ICT use via dynamic web tools and emerging technologies. The main tools include a viable search engine, electronic encyclopedia, e-courses, e-books, web-tv, web-radio, a sharing platform educational news and scientific and research projects, school informatics system, question-answer, and a game platform. The authorities respect this project for enabling opportunities with an open, sharing, and flexible e-learning platform. The new “Safer Internet Service” is supported by MoNE, which has recently become a controversial issue. The service aims to identify harmful and appropriate content on the Internet based on ‘child’ and ‘family’ profiles and allows the access to only appropriate content. There are also online resources supplied in the ministry web page for teachers` use. Teachers are free to use the online education resources in their courses. offer instructional materials on the use of computer application programs such as MS Word, Excel, Adobe Photoshop, Swish Max, and 3D Max. There are also e-content in the form of learning objects (i.e., simulations, games, documents, etc) and video or audio. The new EBA project aims to offer variety of open education resources to teachers. Content is mainly developed within the ministry, but schools are free to purchase and use content from the market approved by the ministry. Based on the findings, it can be asserted that the extensive previous experience of higher education institutions with distance education via print and broadcasting technologies can allow a smooth transition to online learning with the use of the Internet technologies. In the case of primary and secondary levels, online learning can be regarded to be at its infants. It is aimed to discuss related strategies in presentation and full paper.

Sustainability and Maturity of K-12 Online Learning Organizations in New Zealand
Scheduled Time: Wed, Oct 31 – 1:00pm – 2:00pm Building/Room: East- Suite Tower, 3 – Jones
In Full Session: DDL-13 Learning Online in the International Community

Presenters/Authors: *Michael Barbour (Wayne State University)
*Derek Wenmoth (CORE Education)
*Niki Davis (University of Canterbury)

Short Description: This session describes a study into the development of K-12 online learning in New Zealand, specifically the obstacles e-learning clusters face to achieve sustainability and maturity through the lens of the Learning Communities Online Handbook. Using a variety of data collection methods, the researcher identified three common barriers and four examples of networked schools. Based on these findings, it is recommended e-learning clusters encourage greater collaboration between clusters and greater consistency of activities.

Abstract: The purpose of this research was to study the development of primary and secondary online learning or virtual schooling in New Zealand, specifically how the Learning Communities Online (LCO) Handbook was used in that development. The project activities were guided by a desire to understand the common barriers that e-learning clusters faced in their development towards maturity and sustainability, along with how mature and sustainable clusters overcome those barriers. There was also an interest in identifying examples of how networked schools are emerging in the New Zealand context through the activities of the e-learning clusters.

While the use of distance education at the primary and secondary levels began in New Zealand around 1922 with the introduction of the Correspondence School, the use of virtual learning and the e-learning clusters began with the creation of the Canterbury Area Schools’ Association Technology (CASAtech) project in 1993 (Wenmoth, 1996). As the CASAtech project became the Canterbury Technology Schools Project in 1996, and the introduction of the OtagoNet e-learning cluster in 2002 with the vision “to create a broadband [network] linking the Otago Secondary and Area Schools, to strengthen existing relationships and collaboration of these rural and geographically dispersed schools.” (Pullar & Brennan, 2008), the roots of the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) began. In 2003 the VLN was officially established as a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and the various clusters that had been independently developing throughout the country. The primary focus of the VLN was to provide a brokerage service for the sharing of courses and programs between clusters.

Through successive information communications and technology strategies implemented by various ministries, the physical infrastructure and human expertise was developed to allow the VLN to eventually grow to 18 geographic e-learning clusters providing virtual learning (Dewstow & Wright, 2005; Powell & Barbour, 2011; Roberts, 2010; Wright, 2010). Parkes, Zaka and Davis (2011) even describe the development of a super cluster that has come together to explore the potential of blended learning in the CantaNet and WestNet clusters (i.e., the Southern Central Divide ICTPD cluster).

The proposed data collection methods included site visits with a selection of clusters to perform semi-structured or unstructured interviews with 10 former & current ePrincipals, 8 VLN cluster member school Principals and Deputy Principals, 12 eTeachers, eDeans & Facilitators, and 18 Students. In addition to the interviews, there was observation of 12 video conferencing classes and tutorials, along with students working during 10 of their scheduled asynchronous virtual learning time. Finally, documents, images and other physical artifacts from the individual schools and clusters were also to be collected (e.g., ePrincipal reports and other data collected by individual clusters, VLN-C documentation, asynchronous course content, school newsletters, and digital images from site visits).

The data indicated there were three common barriers, including a lack of a coherent vision, difficulty in securing the necessary funding and resources (particularly concerning the role of the ePrincipal), and a lack of collaboration and cooperation within clusters and between clusters. In addition, there were several examples of ways in which the e-learning clusters have acted as a change agent to reform the way in which classroom instruction is designed and delivered, along with how schools are organised. There were many instances where the act of teaching in the virtual learning environment changed that teachers’ classroom pedagogy, and in some instances the classroom teaching of other teachers at their school. There were other examples where the strategies that had evolved to connect different schools together for the purposes of distance education were being applied within the school environment to allow students to enroll in courses regardless of when the course was being “taught” by the teacher. At a structure level, there were some schools that had transformed the role of the school-based teacher from a subject matter specialist responsible for teaching a course to generalist responsible for facilitating students’ learning of courses being taught by virtual teachers. Finally, there was at least one example of a school that was re-considering the physical learning space to accommodate student learning in a twenty-first century networked school.

Based on these findings, it was recommended that individual e-learning clusters develop specific strategies to encourage greater collaboration between clusters and work towards greater consistency between their activities, including professional and organizational development and also of the approaches to virtual learning. Second, the Ministry of Education continue to provide and expand synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning tools the e-learning clusters are able to use free of charge. Third, the VLN lead the creation of a central repository of asynchronous course content that all e-learning clusters and any school in New Zealand could adopt and adapt. Fourth, the Ministry of Education explore providing some support for the administration and coordination of e-learning based on larger geographic regions. Finally, virtual learning stakeholders in New Zealand consider supporting national research to examine the activity, scope, participation, administration, management, and success of all of the different distance education providers for the schools sector.


Dewstow, R., & Wright, N. (2005). Secondary school students, online learning, and external support in New Zealand. Computers in the Schools, 22(1), 111-122.

Parkes, S., Zaka, P., & Davis, N. (2011). The first blended or hybrid online course in a New Zealand secondary school: A case study. Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, Teaching, Technology, 23(1). Retrieved from

Powell, A., & Barbour, M. K. (2011). An Examination of Government Policies for E-Learning in New Zealand’s Secondary Schools. Journal of Open, Flexible, Distance Learning, 15(10). Retrieved June 28, 2011 from

Pullar, K., & Brennan C. (2008). Personalising learning for secondary students working in a blended (distance/face to face/vocational) learning environment. Computers in New Zealand Schools, 20(2), 6 – 16.

Roberts, R. (2010). Increasing access for learners: The Virtual Learning Network. In V. Ham & D. Wenmoth, (Eds.). e-Learnings: Implementing a national strategy project for ICT in education, 1998-2010 (144–152). Christchurch, New Zealand: CORE Education.

Wenmoth, D. (1996). Learning in the distributed classroom. SET Research Information for Teachers, 2(4). 1–4.

Wright, N. (2010). e-Learning and implications for New Zealand schools: A literature review. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.

CNIE: Does Experience with Online Learning in High School Impact Distance Education Experiences in Higher Education?
Scheduled Time: Wed, Oct 31 – 3:30pm – 4:30pm Building/Room: East- Suite Tower, 2 – Carroll Ford
Title Displayed in Event Calendar: CNIE: Does Experience with Online Learning in High School Impact Distance Education Experiences in Higher Education?

Presenter: Michael Barbour (Wayne State University)Short Description: Enrollments in K-12 online learning in the US have increased dramatically, an average of 30% annually over the past decade and projections indicate that up to 50% of secondary school courses could be delivered online by 2019. Similar levels of growth have been found in Canada. The expansion of online instruction in secondary school has been rationalized in a variety of ways, one of which is the argument that K-12 students need to engage in online learning to prepare them for future online learning opportunities. This research study was carried out to investigate if there are differences between students who complete secondary school courses exclusively in traditional classrooms and those who complete in an online environment with regard to their perceptions of self-regulatory skills, experience with online learning, expectations of online learning, their perceptions of online courses, and satisfaction with learning online. The results indicated when the high school online learners were compared to the other university students who did not have any prior online learning experience there were no significant differences between them on any of the measures included in this study. It is notable, however, that the construct measuring student perception of distance course communication and collaboration was very close to statistical significance. A significant finding would have indicated that the university students in the high school online learner group had a more positive attitude toward communication and collaboration in the distance education course format. These findings suggest high school students do not gain independent learning skills and attitudes through learning in an online environment.

Thursday November, 1

Panel Discussion: Mobile Computing Devices and Applications for Teaching & Learning
Scheduled Time: Thu, Nov 1 – 1:00pm – 2:00pm Building/Room: East- Suite Tower, 3 – Stanley
In Full Session: TED09 – Mobile Computing Devices and Applications for Teaching & Learning

Presenters/Authors: *Michael Grant (University of Memphis)
*Michael Barbour (Wayne State University)
*Hui-Yin Hsu
*Yu-Chang Hsu (Boise State University)
*Florence Martin (University of North Carolina – Wilmington)
*Shiangkwei Wang
*Cindy York (Northern Illinois University)

Short Description: Mobile learning offers promise as an instructional strategy that leverages both formal and informal learning opportunities. Due to its nascency, little confirmed research and few stable guidelines exist. The purpose of this panel is to present a wide variety of courses, projects, and research experiences with mobile teaching and learning across varying contexts and theoretical perspectives.

Abstract: There has been a push to introduce technology into the K-12 and higher education classrooms since the 1980s. Over the past decade that technology push has taken the form of online learning, and most recently, the potential of teaching and learning with mobile computing devices. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in society, particularly with youth. Recent research indicates that 22% of young children, 60% of tweens, and 84% of teens own a cell phone (Center on Media and Child Health, 2007). In addition to this market penetration, “cell phones are not just about calling or texting — with expanding functionality, phones have become multimedia recording devices and pocket-sized internet connected computers” (Lenhart, 2010, p. 5). Yet that same research indicated, “most schools treat the phone as a disruptive force that must be managed and often excluded from the school and the classroom” (p. 4). Even in its infancy, mlearning projects have begun to proliferate in educational environments. For example, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has created interactive curriculum apps for algebra and geometry, while K-12 online learning programs such as the Florida Virtual School and K12, Inc. have created mobile apps to accompany their virtual school offerings. Similar mobile campaigns have also occurred on college campuses. The Educause Center for Applied Research (2010) Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology states that over 62% of undergraduate college students own an Internet capable handheld device. Moreover, Ball State University’s Institute for Mobile Media Research (Hanley, 2010) reports that nine in ten college students access the Internet with their smart phones and 97% of students send/receive text messages. To leverage this ubiquity, many institutions have created applications for mobile devices (i.e., mobile apps), and a growing number is exploring how these devices may be used for teaching and learning. The purpose of this panel is present a variety of perspectives and contexts on how mobile computing devices are being implemented in K-12 and higher education. Six panelists will briefly present their experiences with projects aimed to integrate mobile computing devices and application (app) development with courses, technology integration, teaching and learning, K-12 schools, and undergraduate and graduate courses. The participants who have agreed to participate in this panel are listed below. In addition to the following list of panelists, each participant has provided a brief biography, short descriptions of their projects with mobile computing devices, and a list of relevant presentations and publications. Additional materials are offered in an appendix.

Friday November, 2

CNIE: The Landscape of K-12 Online Learning: Examining What Is Know
Scheduled Time: Fri, Nov 2 – 9:15am – 10:15am Building/Room: East- Suite Tower, 1 – Laffon
Title Displayed in Event Calendar: CNIE: The Landscape of K-12 Online Learning: Examining What Is Know

Presenter: Michael Barbour (Wayne State University)Short Description: While the use of online learning at the K-12 level of growing exponentially, the availability of empirical evidence to help guide this growth is severely lacking. The presenter will provide an overview of the nature of K-12 online learning today and a critical examination of the literature and – lack of research – supporting its use. The presenter will also describe some of the methodological issues surround the limited among of existing research. Finally, the presenter will propose two methodological approaches for future K-12 online learning research and examine some examples of studies that have followed these approaches.

Going the Distance in Global Education: Research Is the Key
Scheduled Time: Fri, Nov 2 – 10:30am – 11:30am Building/Room: East- Suite Tower, 3 – McCreary
In Full Session: DDL-23 Online Distance Education Research

Presenter/Author: *Carol A. McGehe (K12, Inc.)

Short Description: Designing effective curriculum for a global market begins with an earnest study of relevant research. Development teams must be willing to challenge their own assumptions about education and maintain flexibility while working within prescribed mandates. The presenter will facilitate a discussion that promotes the sharing of resources, identifies challenges in global curriculum development and addresses strategies to overcome limiting factors.

Abstract: Many who create curricula for today’s distance learners begin by looking at competitors’ products to decide what to do differently. These products may be yesterday’s ideas or iterations of formerly ineffective products. This approach is akin to tinkering with dial-up modems when the research could lead to lightning-speed Internet access. Many developers rely solely on the experience of classroom teachers and professors to guide their content and pedagogy. The predominant mindset seems to be that interweaving the experience of educators with that of creative designers will lead to an effective curriculum. While knowledgeable content specialists and talented designers are necessary for any compelling curriculum, they are not the primary catalyst. The true key to success in creating effective and dynamic curricula is to allow innovations to emerge from the research, free from the lenses of what others have done. Within the past decade, research has outpaced product development and transformed our ability to create effective blended (online/offline) curricula. Developers now have access to the most recent research in more relevant fields than ever before: cognitive science, instructional design, and content-specific research. Studies may support what developers know from personal practice or may potentially alter developers’ personal misconceptions. To base new development on others’ products, or past learning experiences, is short-sighted in today’s market. One team of developers forged into unknown territory to design a curriculum with steadfast attention to current research. This blended kindergarten through grade six (K–6) mathematics curriculum took American developers four years to create and is currently used in multiple and diverse educational settings across the globe. The developers allowed the research to serve as the firm foundation from which all the content, pedagogy, and design were built. The team entered this process with different backgrounds and beliefs about how curriculum should be developed. Development was actually delayed at times because current research countered some of the team’s work. However, team members realized that these new courses would change how research-responsible curriculum should be developed. The presenter will provide a roadmap for other teams that addresses the methodology for developing a research-based curriculum, including: • changes in reviews of literature and application of research • key questions to consider when reviewing and narrowing the scope of the research • strategies to cultivate a research-focused mindset • constraints and mandates that may limit full application of best practices • issues related to global marketing The examples shown and the ensuing discussion will benefit anyone who has a hand in developing distance-learning curriculum on any topic: • evaluation, research, and content specialists • instructional, Flash, animation, and print designers • writers, editors, and reviewers • virtual administrators and teachers • chief executive officers of distance-learning companies When research is a primary catalyst for curricular planning, the first key question to address is which studies to consider and how to narrow the scope of the research. Setting criteria and synthesizing research in mathematics, mathematics education, cognitive science, and instructional design were essential in the development of this K–6 mathematics curriculum. The developers sought a balance between the philosophies of those engaged in the so-called “math wars.” Educators on one extreme of the confrontation purport a return to the basics through teacher-guided instruction, while educators on the other extreme emphasize almost exclusive student-centered discovery learning. Research, as the basis for development, provides a unique way to avoid such dogmatisms. The timing of the development of this pioneering curriculum and the release of the findings of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP) was fortuitous. In 2006, President Bush established and charged this panel to investigate the best scientific evidence available and formulate strategies and guidelines to improve K–6 math education for students preparing for algebra. The panel combed the research for 20 months before releasing its final report in 2008. In an effort to make the “math wars” obsolete, the NMAP report aligned with the curriculum developers’ stance for a balanced approach to mathematics pedagogy. In addition to implementing the research findings of the NMAP, the developers’ own evaluation and research group provided team members with the latest cognitive science research and direct access to key researchers in the fields of mathematics and e-learning, including: • Dr. Liping Ma of the University of California at Berkeley • Dr. Richard Clark of the University of Southern California • Dr. Robert Siegler of Carnegie Mellon University • Dr. Micheline Chi of Arizona State University • Dr. David Williamson Shaffer of the University of Wisconsin at Madison • Dr. James Paul Gee of Arizona State University The entire team of content specialists, designers, and reviewers studied and applied this research. With the K–6 math team having made a commitment to a research-based curriculum, they still had to be mindful of constraints that arise when developing curriculum for global use. One of the primary constraints in the United States is fully aligning to each state’s standards, as well as the Common Core State Standards, and providing the optimal sequence of material to promote student success on high-stakes exams. States vary widely in which standards they include and emphasize. Similarly, adaptations for other countries must be made, even for English-speaking countries. For example, when adapting for the United Kingdom, developers must address the UK’s government-mandated curriculum standards, assessments, and inspections, while also tailoring the curriculum to the British measurement, culture, and language. Even certain mathematical terms must be defined differently, such as the definition of a trapezoid. Such adaptations for globalization present numerous and varied challenges. Early data from comparison studies on performance by students who use this research-based mathematics curriculum demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach to curricular development. Curriculum developers can learn how to establish their own paradigms within the bounds of solidly-proven evidence and established mandates, while empowering students locally and around the globe.

“Judging Me by What I Do”: Comparing Special Education and General Education Cyber School Students
Scheduled Time: Fri, Nov 2 – 10:30am – 11:30am Building/Room: East- Suite Tower, 3 – McCreary
In Full Session: DDL-23 Online Distance Education Research

Presenters/Authors: *Dennis Beck (University of Arkansas)
*Robert Maranto (University of Arkansas)

Short Description: Some virtual schools have identified special needs students as a market niche. We surveyed parents (n=159; 39% response) and students (n=339; 65% response) at a school where special education students accounted for 26% of the student body. Findings indicate that special education parents and students are more likely to choose their cyber school because of learning needs, as well as behavioral and bullying issues at their previous schools; they also give it higher relative ratings.

Abstract: School choice in general is growing and cyber schooling, which typically involves parental choice, is growing rapidly. A cyberschool is an institution that teaches courses entirely or primarily through online methods. Cyber schooling offers potential advantages. It enables schools to offer a broader range of courses than would normally be feasible, employing teachers who are not tied to a geographic location. Cyber schooling can serve students who have physical or other disabilities that may hinder them from regularly attending classes. Asynchronous cyber schooling means that lessons can be offered at a student’s convenience, empowering students with young children or jobs to continue their education. It can also offer a refuge for students who have been bullied in traditional public schools. By limiting commuting demands and reducing the need for brick and mortar facilities, cyber schooling can increase efficiency and promote the green economy (Watson et al. 2011; Peterson 2010; Glass and Welner (2011), who are critical of online learning generally, nonetheless admit that major meta-analyses by four different research teams, summarizing 27 experimental and quasi-experimental studies, found that student learning in online K-12 and higher education courses was similar to or slightly better than in traditional classes, usually at comparable or somewhat lower costs. While most traditional public schools offer online courses, charter schools dominate the movement since their autonomy allows innovation without the support of school boards, traditional bureaucracies, school superintendents, and unions, all of which often view cyber learning with suspicion. Cyber schools have made the greatest inroads in states with relatively weak teachers unions (Moe and Chubb 2009; Peterson 2010; Jacob 2011). Further, as schools of choice, charters have some ability to depart from the traditional model of what Tyack and Cuban (1995) call a “real school,” that is, the sort of school attended by teachers and by the parents of current students. Indeed, it is likely that custom and public opinion have played the greatest role in limiting the spread of cyber schooling (Vander Ark 2012). Since cyber schooling can be conducted at one’s home, relatively free of distractions, there are reasons to think that it may appeal to certain special education students. To study this, we surveyed students and parents at SunTech, a pseudonym for a grade 7-12 cyber charter school with roughly 700 students, 26% of whom are identified as needing special education services. We will test whether special education students and parents select SunTech for different reasons than general education students and parents. We pre-tested our 125-item on-line survey in August 2001, and implemented it September 10-November 15 2011. Respondents were given $10 gift cards in payment for their participation. Non-participating subjects were emailed two follow-up reminders, followed by an automated call from the school. In addition, a small number of parental respondents who lacked email access were mailed paper surveys with stamped, addressed return envelopes. Participants and non-participants were assigned individual identifier numbers to ensure that researchers could not identify individual respondents. SunTech administrators and employees did not receive access to the raw data to assure respondent confidentiality. The survey received a 39% return rate for parents (n=159), 65% for students (n=339). Parents and students typically give SunTech a grade of A-, compared to C- or below for their previous school. Special education parents and students, in particular, rate SunTech better, assigning it mean GPA’s of 3.54 and 3.65 respectively, compared to 1.15 and 1.29 for their prior schools. About 22% of parents and 19% of student respondents report special education status. General education parents and students give SunTech mean grades of 3.33 and 3.52 respectively, compared to 1.98 and 1.63 for their previous school. Generally, parents and students report choosing SunTech for its flexible schedule, an on-line format that suits learning needs, the curriculum, and the teachers. Compared to their previous schools, parents and students rank SunTech higher on 12 of 13 items, including extra-curricular activities and opportunities to interact with peers. The single exception is the opportunity to play sports. Special education parents and students are somewhat more likely to report choosing SunTech because of learning needs, as well as behavioral and bullying issues at their previous schools. In short, it appears that at this school, the cyber learning environment is indeed somewhat more attractive for special education than general education students.

Works Cited

Glass, Gene V. and Kevin G. Welner. 2011. Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S.: Uncertain Private Ventures in Need of Public Regulation. Boulder: National Education Policy Center.

Jacob, Anna (2011) Benefits and Barriers to the hybridization of schools. Journal of Educational Policy, Planning, and Administration: Vol. 1, no 1.

Moe, Terry M. and John E. Chubb (2009). Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Peterson, Paul E. (2010) Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Tyack, David B. and Larry Cuban (1995). Tinkering Toward Utopia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Vander Ark, Tom. 2012. Getting Smarter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., and Rapp, C. (2011). Keeping pace with K-12 online learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen Education Group, creative commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. Mountain View, California.

Saturday November, 3

Virtually Unprepared: Examining the Preparation of K-12 Online Teachers
Scheduled Time: Sat, Nov 3 – 9:15am – 10:15am Building/Room: East- Suite Tower, 2 – Carroll Ford
In Full Session: TED11 – Online Teaching and Learning for K-12 Teachers

Presenter/Author: *Michael Barbour (Wayne State University)

Short Description: Over the past decade, K-12 online learning or virtual schooling has grown as an exponential rate. However, this is still a neglected aspect of teacher education. This session will explore virtual schooling and provide participants with exposure to a variety of existing teacher education models and open access resources that they can adopt or adapt for their own use.

Abstract: In the United States, the first K-12 school to begin using online learning was the private Laurel Springs School in California around 1994. This was followed by the Utah eSchool in 1994-95, which primarily used a correspondence model, but did offer some online courses (Barbour, 2009). In 1996-97, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) and Virtual High School Global Consortium (VHS), which were created using state or federal grants, came into being (Clark, 2007). At the turn of the millennia, Clark (2001) estimated that there were between 40,000 and 50,000 virtual school enrolments. Almost a decade later, Picciano and Seaman (2009) indicated that there were over 1,000,000 students enrolled in online courses, while Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp (2010) reported significant online learning activity in 48 states, and the District of Columbia. In 2006, Michigan became the first state in the US to require that all students complete an online learning experience in order to graduate from high school (a move that has been followed by other states, such as New Mexico, Alabama and Florida). Finally, some have gone so far to predict that the majority of K-12 education will be delivered using online learning by the year 2020 (Christensen, Horn & Johnson, 2008).

Wood (2005) stated there was a “persistent opinion that people who have never taught in this medium [i.e., online] can jump in and teach a class, [however], a good classroom teacher is not necessarily a good online teacher” (p. 36). Roblyer and McKenzie (2000) indicated that many of the factors that make a successful online teacher, such as good communication and classroom organization skills, were similar to those for any successful teacher, yet Davis, Roblyer, Charania, Ferdig, Harms, Compton and Cho (2007) discovered “effective virtual teachers have qualities and skills that often set them apart from traditional teachers” (p. 28). Some of the skills necessary for teaching in an online environment are consistent with those provided by traditional teacher education programs, but there are other necessary skills that are largely absent (Davis & Roblyer, 2005).

At present, there are very few examples of the preparation of teachers for the online environment in teacher education. Even more unfortunate is that Rice and Dawley (2007) found that less than 40% of all online teachers in the United States reported to receiving any professional development before they began teaching online. While some virtual schools provide some training to their own teachers, in most instances no such training is provided to the school-based personnel. This is unfortunate, as Aronson and Timms (2003) indicated that K-12 student success in online learning environment required support from both the online teacher and the local school-based teacher. Clearly there is a need for teacher education programs to equip all teachers with initial training in how to design, deliver, and – in particular – support K-12 online learning.

Existing pre-service teacher education initiatives for future teachers that attempt to support K-12 online learning are faced with a variety of challenges such as a lack of research and few models to guide their development. Other critical barriers to effective pre-service K-12 online learning teacher education arise from constrictive geographic regulations around the teacher certification process that vary from state to state. Such policies and procedures are more suited to traditional brick and mortar environments and complicate the reach of K-12 online learning’s broad development. It is generally agreed that teacher education is currently unprepared for the burgeoning demand for K-12 online learning (Kennedy & Archambault, 2011). Given such consensus, how has pre-service teacher education prepared teachers for K-12 online learning? The first comprehensive attempt at designing a national model for pre-service teacher education with an emphasis on K-12 online learning was the Teacher Education Goes Into Virtual Schools project developed at Iowa State University. Next, in the Fall 2008 the University of Central Florida formed a partnership with the FLVS to establish a pre-service student teaching internship to provide an option to education majors to complete their student teaching in this innovative environment (which was also later replicated at the University of South Florida).

In much the same way that there are few examples of pre-service teacher education initiatives related to K-12 online learning, the number of examples of in-service teacher education programs are also quite small. The existing initiatives that are targeted to in-service teachers tend to focus on universities that offer graduate level certificates in online teaching with some kind of K-12 focus (e.g., Arizona State University, Boise State University, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of Wisconsin-Stout, and Wayne State University) and/or universities that offer in-service teachers the opportunity to gain an endorsement to their existing teacher certification (e.g., Idaho, Georgia, and Michigan). The graduate certificates that are offered to educators who would like to learn more about how to teach in an online environment range from certificates that are part of a graduate curriculum and, in some instances, can be used towards a Master’s degree to certificates offered by continuing education divisions to certificates offered by K-12 online learning programs that have partnered with universities. In addition to graduate certificates offered by academic departments, there are a couple of examples of graduate certificate programs that are offered by Continuing Education or Extension divisions within the university environment (e.g., California State University, East Bay and University of California-Irvine). Finally, in much the same way that FLVS has partnered with universities to better prepare teachers for K-12 online learning, the VHS also has long standing relationships with several universities. VHS offers its own six-week professional development courses as a part of its 21st Century Teaching Best Practices series, but has partnered with various universities to allow teachers who complete these professional development courses to obtain graduate credit by paying an additional fee to the participating institution and receive two to four graduate level credit hours depending on the course (Endicott College, Plymouth State University, Framingham State College, Northwest Nazarene University, Salem State College, and North Dakota State University).

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Kennedy, K. & Archambault, L. (2011). The current state of field experiences in K-12 online learning programs in the U.S. In M. Koehler & P. Mishra (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2011 (pp. 3454-3461). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

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