Virtual School Meanderings

January 10, 2014

More Dissertation Research Ideas

Earlier this week, Misty-Dawn James commented on Dissertation Research Ideas?.

Dr. Barbour,

Do you have any suggestions on researching sub-groups of virtual high school students? Specifically, special education students. I am in the early stages of forming my dissertation questions and so far, I have found very limited research on how well these students are performing compared to their peers at traditional brick and mortar schools. What are your thoughts on this topic or suggested authors who may have articles on this topic?

Thank you a ton in advance!

I responded to her on that thread that I would post an entry to highlight her query and allow others to comment.

Right now there is a wealth of topics that could be researched, and there is very little published in this area.  Right now Article Notice – Virtually Forgotten: Special Education Students in Cyber Schools is one of the few research articles on special education available.  Beyond this single entry, you might just use the “special education” tag on my blog to see what else you might find.

In terms of actual publications that you might want to check out, might I recommend:

Cavanaugh, T. W. (2004). Distance learning as a form of accommodation. In C. Cavanaugh (ed.), Development and management of virtual schools: Issues and trends (pp. 84-115). Hersey, PA, Idea Group, Inc.

Crow, K. L. (2008). Four types of disabilities: Their impact on online learning. Tech Trends, 52(1), 51-55.

Grabinger, S. R, Aplin, C. & Ponnappa-Brenner, G. (2008). Supporting learners with cognitive impairments in online environments. TechTrends, 52(1), 63-69.

Keeler, C. G., & Horney, M. (2007). Online course designs: Are special needs being met? American Journal of Distance Education, 21(2), 61-75.

Keeler, C. G., Richter, J., Anderson-Inman, L., Horney, M. A., Ditson, M. (2007). Exceptional Learners: Differentiated Instruction Online. In C. Cavanaugh & R. Blomeyer (Eds.), What works in K-12 online learning (pp. 125−178). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

Müller, E. (2010). Virtual K-12 public school programs and students with disabilities: Issues and recommendations–A policy forum proceedings document. Alexandria, VA: Project Forum at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

Repetto, J., Cavanaugh, C., Wayer, N., & Liu, F. (2010). Virtual high schools: Improving outcomes for students with disabilities. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 11(2), 91-104.

Rose, R., & Blomeyer, R. L. (2007). Access and equity in online classes and virtual schools. Vienna, VA: North American Council for Online Learning. Retrieved from

Smith, S. J. & Meyen, E. L. (2003). Applications of online instruction: An overview for teachers, students with mild disabilities, and their parents. Focus on Exceptional Children. 35(6), 1-15.

Watson, J., & Gemin, B. (2008) Promising practices in online learning: Using online learning for at-risk students and credit recovery. Vienna, VA: International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Retrieved from

I might also suggest looking at the Center for Online Learning and Students with Disabilities (although note the following caveat – see the bottom).


  1. another resource… Dave Glick conducted a couple of surveys through iNACOL of disaggregated enrollment data… but the voluntary participation response was low, Dave’s life has taken a different direction, so the last resport was from 2011.

    OCR will, on the next School Census survey, be asking for student demographic data for distance education programs. I don’t know what the final format will be. Their initial proposal wouldn’t have provided the type of detail I’d like to see, both iNACOL and I did provide comment on the proposal.

    from ASCD Capitol Connection Dec 23
    New Civil Rights Questions Proposed

    The U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights will likely require schools to report results for 10 new survey questions beginning in fall 2014. The new questions include whether the school has students enrolled in distance education, whether the school employs civil rights coordinators and sworn law enforcement officers, and the request for disaggregated student data on chronic absenteeism. Nine of the 10 new questions are either yes/no or multiple choice.

    Schools will have an additional two years before they must submit more detailed information as part of the Mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection.

    The department’s office for civil rights has collected data from a selection of school districts to monitor civil rights policies since 1968 and expanded the collection to include all school districts nationwide during the 2011–12 survey period. In June 2013, at the request of civil rights and education groups, the department proposed more data points to add to the survey (PDF). However, a 60-day comment period garnered nearly 300 comments, which made clear that districts need more time to produce the more detailed and disaggregated data.

    In response, the department announced the two-year delay (Word doc) for some questions and stated that the additional time will be used “to provide intensive technical assistance to schools and school districts so they will be prepared to provide accurate data when required for the 2015–16 collection.” Final approval of all proposed questions for data collection comes from the federal Office of Management and Budget and is expected in early 2014.

    Comment by raymond rose — January 10, 2014 @ 11:09 am | Reply

    • Thanks Ray!!! I’m sure Misty-Dawn appreciates this additional feedback.

      Comment by Michael Barbour — January 10, 2014 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

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