Virtual School Meanderings

September 18, 2012

Virtual School MOOC – Research into K-12 Online Learning: Blogging Activity #1

The third topic in Introduction to K-12 Online Learning Research is “Research into K-12 Online Learning.” The first blogging activity for this topic is to respond to the following questions:

What did the report tell you about the current state of research in K-12 online schooling?
What surprised you? What was confirmed for you?

For me, I believe what Rick is trying to indicate that the research is telling us is that K-12 online learning can be effective with all students in all circumstances.  However,  the same method of design, delivery, and support will NOT be effective with all students in all circumstances.  One of the important things that researchers need to do is to investigate under what conditions will online learning work this type of students in that kind of circumstance.  This is why most cyber charter schools – particularly those statewide, for-profit one – produce such poor results.  They have a single method of course design, it is delivered in exactly the same way (although depending on their existing level of knowledge, some students may be delivered more of less of that content – what they refer to as personalizing or customizing the learning experience), and the same support structure for all students.  It is basically an electronic version of the classroom environment, with a bit better artificial intelligence so that students don’t have to complete work they already know.

I think the other thing that Rick has underlined for us is that the practice of K-12 online learning is still far out-pacing the availability of useful research.  What this means is that there are some K-12 online learning programs that are providing good learning experiences and others that are simply replicating failed experiments with our students.  At this stage, it is difficult to tell who falls into what category (particularly with all of the lobbying and marketing by the for-profit corporations).  Then there is all of the corporate-funded research, which often is methodologically flawed and always skewed in favour of the corporation.

As someone involved in this field, I’m not sure I can say that much – if anything surprised me.  I guess overall what was confirmed for me was the fact that I continue to be surprised – amazed even – that the for-profit corporations continue to rely upon “the research” to support their expansion, and the politicians and people in general continue to buy that snake oil.


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