Virtual School Meanderings

March 23, 2016

SITE 2016 – Supporting Virtual Students: Ensuring Success For All

As I mentioned in the entry entitled SITE 2016 And K-12 Online Learning, the the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) 2016 annual conference is occurring in Savannah, Georgia this week, and SITE is home to the K-12 Online Learning SIG.  That means that I will be blogging many of the sessions throughout the week.  The fifteenth – and final – session for this second day I am blogging is:

Supporting virtual students: Ensuring success for all

  1. Keryn Pratt, University of Otago, New Zealand
  2. Leanna Archambault, Arizona State University, United States
  3. Jered Borup, George Mason University, United States
  4. Kathryn Kennedy, Michigan Virtual University, United States
  5. Joe Freidhoff, Michigan Virtual University, United States
  6. Justin Bruno, Michigan Virtual University, United States
  7. Kristen DeBruler, Michigan Virtual University, United States
  8. Rebecca Stimson, Michigan Virtual University, United States

Wednesday, March 23 3:00 PM-4:00 PM in Regency E View on map

Discuss  Download Paper

This panel explores three aspects of how we can best support the increasing numbers of students involved in some form of virtual learning. Archambault et al. report on conversations surrounding accountability specific to K-12 online learning that have taken place amongst education stakeholders in the state of Michigan, and the key recommendations made to inform policy and practice across the state. Borup then reports on one approach to the on-site provision of support for virtual students. He explores the perceptions and experiences of successful on-site mentors, identifying their areas of responsibility, and the implications of his findings for future research and practice. Pratt reports on the development of a framework aimed at helping those working in virtual learning within the New Zealand context. She discusses how the issues these teachers and support staff face are both similar to and different from those involved in virtual learning elsewhere.

K-12 Online Learning

Jered began the symposium with some background on what the nature of learning online is like from a structural standpoint, outlining and explaining the role of the mentor teacher (also known as the virtual school facilitator).  The study that Jered is currently working on is focused on the following research question:

  • How do teachers and mentors work together to support students learning online?

At present, they have only obtained data from the mentors.

  • 8 mentored full-time
  • 4 mentored part-time
    • 2 classroom teachers
    • 1 vice principal
    • 1 counsellor

The average student load for these mentors was 95 students – but the standard deviation was 79.62 and the range was from 50 to 300 students.  The data to date includes just the surveys of the mentors (the interviews are still in progress.

  • communicating with parents, teachers, and others (9/16)
  • supplying and troubleshooting technology (9/12)
  • organizing and managing time and space (8/13)
  • monitoring behaviour and progress (7/9)
  • instructing and tutoring (didn’t catch any more numbers)
  • motivating
  • orienting
  • there were two or three more

Next up in the symposium was Keryn, who began with some background on New Zealand in general and on virtual learning in New Zealand.  The current project was focused on creating a framework for ‘deep support’ – “empowers those involved to look honestly at what is happening, celebrate the achievements and identify areas in which improvements could be made.”  Initial findings have included:

  • using new technologies
  • adapting their pedagogy
  • learning how to support distance students, in multiple schools
  • teachers have no/limited professional development/training in online learning

Currently trying to convert the framework into a web-based resource and then involve various stakeholders within NetNZ.

The symposium finished with Leanna and Kathryn.  After introductions, Leanna gave a brief overview of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute.  The study was focused on who is accountable for the students when they are enrolled online from a provider other than the brick-and-mortar school, as well as how online teachers, mentors, and teachers of record were evaluated.  Kathryn than gave some information about the MVLRI’s annual Virtual Learning Effectiveness Report.  For example, there were over 76,000 students enrolled in almost 320,000 enrollments during the 2013-14 school year.  Half of these enrollments resulted in a score of 90% or higher, while a third of these students scored less than 10%.  The number of courses taken were important.  For example, if a student took one course online, there was a two third chance they would pass.  Similarly, if a student took 6 or more courses (i.e., pretty much full-time), almost 90% failed all of their courses.  Leanna then went over some of the key recommendations to the legislature that were contained in the report.


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