Virtual School Meanderings

December 31, 2012

iNACOL 10 Weeks of Activities for Better Blogging: Reflections on the Virtual School Symposium

As the folks from iNACOL were getting caught up on putting the weekly activities online, one of the things that developed as a part of this 10 Weeks of Activities for Better Blogging group was the idea of posted related blog entries each week (more on that on Wednesday).  The first one that was:

Hi Everyone – One of the highlights for many people who attended VSS in person or from afar was the student panel.  Joy Nehr wrote a nice blogpost reflecting on the student panel.  Please take a moment to comment on Joy’s blogpost or create one based off of hers.

iNACOL VSS Student Panel

In keeping with that spirit…

I’ll be honest and say that I always find this panel interesting – but not for the reasons that most people find it interesting.  As Joy describes it:

If you’re not familiar with the concept, the gist is you get a group of students together who are either full-time online students or who are participating in a blended model where they attend some classes live in a traditional setting and some classes online in the virtual environment. iNACOL always ties to make sure that both models are well-represented, and they always have a range of students from the very young to the recently graduated. The students come and speak about their experiences- the good, the bad, and the ugly (and, trust me, there’s always some ugly).

The thing that she leaves out is that the students that iNACOL select are always ones that find success in the online or blended environment.  This is what always strikes me the most.  Based on the available research we know that most of these full-time online learning programs have a success rate that ranges from 25% to 40% of the students.  We also know, based on the available data that – contrary to the claims that the providers of these programs make (as well as many of the proponents/apologists) – in most instances these full-time online programs have a student population that is representative of the statewide averages for almost all of the at-risk categories.

We also know from the research that these full-time online programs often have a greater proportion of gifted or high ability students, at least higher than the statewide averages.  If you look at the promotional material displayed on the websites of many of these programs and the students that often get featured in news items, they tend to fall into this group.

What would truly interest me – at least when it comes to the student panel – is to hear the voices of students that haven’t been successful in the online and blended environment.  I think that would tell the educators sitting in the room much more about what could be done to provide a quality education to the students that have been let down by the online system (at least in comparison to those who are excelling in this environment).

And who are these students that are excelling?  Well, the research indicates that they generally fall into one of two categories: 1) they possess many of the independent learning skills that would allow them to be successful in the online environment (e.g., self-directed, self-motivated, self-regulated, etc.), or 2) they have parents/guardians who are actively involved in their child’s education.

Think about those two groups of students for a minute…  Kids that are simply good learners or kids that have involved parents…  Sounds like students that are likely to be successful in most learning environments.  And that’s the rub!

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