This is a guest blog post by Jason Siko is an assistant professor of educational technology at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in K-12 technology integration. In a previous life, he taught high school biology and chemistry.
As I mentioned in the EDTECH537 – Week 4 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, I wanted to post a sample of a guest blog entry. As is the practice on this blog, this will be the only entry that is posted today.
We hear a lot about blended learning at the K-12 level and how it’s a ‘game-changer’ or ‘disruptor’. Depending on your definition of blended learning (Staker & Horn, 2012), the instructional process may not be the only factor to consider. A common thread through the definitions is a replacement of face-to-face time with screentime. What if that meant that students were not bound to their seat in the same manner that we’ve been accustomed to for centuries; that is, what if students simply came and went through the day? Would they remain on task? Are there safety concerns? What would the parents think? My research has focused on a few of these concerns.
Parent and Student Perceptions of Blended Learning
Studies examining student perceptions of blended learning reported that students were generally excited about the concept of being liberated from the traditional lock-step school day and reported a positive overall experience (Geçer, 2013). However, these studies also found that students wanted more communication, particularly through face-to-face methods. One area where the research seems to be lacking is an examination of parent perceptions of blended learning.
Parental support is a key component of student success in an online environment (Borup, 2016). However, providing support may be difficult because the parents may be unfamiliar with the format, as they themselves may never have been exposed to online learning. Even if they have taken a college course in an online or blended format, they most likely have never taken a course online at the K-12 level.
Further, in a K-12 blended environment, parents may also have to deal with logistical issues, namely transportation. Public education is, at its very least, affordable day care for many parents. Therefore, an environment where students may not be required to be present for the same block of time Monday through Friday presents challenges for working parents and parents of young students who are unable to look after themselves. Finally, unlike a post-secondary online or blended situation, parents are often forced to play the role of instructor, facilitator, tutor, or tech support (Stevens & Borup, 2015).
In my most recent study, I administered a survey to parents and students who were enrolled in an advanced biology class that was offered in a blended format. The students were in the school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, a rigorous two-year course of study where students took multiple advanced courses along with additional requirements for the diploma (e.g., community service, a research essay, etc.). These students would fit the description for whom online courses are designed as described by Barbour and Reeves (2009): motivated, independent, strong family support, and access to technology.
Student responses to the survey reflected an overall positive attitude. They enjoyed both the flexibility as well as the ability to work at their own pace most of the time. Given that these students could be categorized as having a relatively easy time through most of their schooling, they did find the amount of self-regulation involved with blended learning to be troublesome at first. Many admitted to falling behind, but were grateful for being forced to learn better time management.
Likewise, the parent perceptions were also mostly positive. While they had some apprehensions about their child’s ability to handle the self-regulation, as well as concerns about a dropoff in their child’s grades (n.b., analysis showed no significant change in grades from the semester where the course was face-to-face and the semester where the course was blended). However, some parents were not happy that their child, “…was able to get lazy,” because of the relaxed structure of the course (i.e., not having to attend and be responsible for assignments on a daily basis).
Both parents and students wanted the course to continue to be offered in a blended format, as the course did span over two years. Both groups also brought up concerns with the amount of communication from the teacher. The students expressed frustration over knowing when they had to be in class, as well as when and how assignments needed to be submitted. Parents expressed some frustration over knowing their child’s progress, despite the school having an online grading system that was updated very frequently and parents were able to access grades at any time.
For schools embarking on any online or blended endeavor, educating and communicating with parents will be a key factor for gaining support. In addition, courses and instructors should look to follow similar methods and patterns of communication with all stakeholders, as well as aligning policies regarding attendance and grading. Anecdotal evidence suggested that the students were overwhelmed with the number of platforms used in both the blended class and their other classes. While the course primarily used Edmodo and Moodle, their other classes utilized those two in addition to Ning, Facebook, and Twitter; the school used SchoolCenter for their mandated teacher websites, and the school utilized Google Apps for Education as well. Finally, students who may not fit the description of a typical successful online student may need additional support and training to develop self-regulation habits. There are several surveys that measure common traits of successful online students (see Farid et al.  for a list of 10 such instruments).
Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 52(2), 402-416.
Borup, J. (2016). Teacher perceptions of parent engagement at a cyber high school. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 48(2), 67-83.
Farid, A., Plaisent, M., Bernard, P., & Chitu, O. (2014). Student online readiness assessment tools: A systematic review approach. The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 12(4), 375-382.
Geçer, A. (2013). Lecturer-student communication in blended learning environments. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 13(1), 362–367.
Staker, H., & Horn, M. B. (2012). Classifying K-12 blended learning. Redwood City, CA: Innosight Institute.
Stevens, M., & Borup, J. (2015). Parental engagement in online learning environments: A review of the literature. In M. F. Rice (Ed.), Exploring Pedagogies for Diverse Learners Online (pp. 99-119). Bingley, United Kingdom: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
This is a guest blog post by Jason Siko is an assistant professor of educational technology at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in K-12 technology integration. In a previous life, he taught high school biology and chemistry. As is the pattern here at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry posted today.