Virtual School Meanderings

August 3, 2016

7 Day Groove Challenge – Answers A FAQ: What Do We Know From The Research?

As I mentioned on Monday, Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger has issued a 7 Days to Getting Your Blogging Groove Back challenge.  I told my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom students that I would do my best to participate in this challenge fully – as a way to model different things you can do to ensure that you have a consistent stream of original blog entries.

So Darren has posted the second task, Create Content That Answers a FAQ.

Probably the question I am most often asked has something to do with what do we actually know about [insert some aspect of K-12 online learning] from the research.  What do we know about delivering K-12 online learning from the research?  What do we know about the design K-12 online learning from the research?  What do we know about supporting K-12 online learning from the research?  What do we know about at-risk or special education students engaged in K-12 online learning from the research?  And so on…

One of the things I always tell people is that research is contextual.  What has been shown to have success in a full-time program in urban Michigan, may not be effective for a supplemental program designed for accelerated students (e.g., Advanced Placement courses) in rural Florida or a blended/hybrid program with a high enrollment of at-risk students in suburban Colorado.

Having said that, there are some things that we can generally say that have been shown to be important from empirical studies:

  • programs that have synchronous components (either regular synchronous online or required face-to-face) seem to have greater retention and student performance
  • programs that have student to teacher ratios consistent with brick-and-mortar schools generate better student outcomes
  • programs that have active and involved local support have significantly better outcomes
    • in the supplemental environment this means a school-based facilitator/mentor
    • in the full-time environment this means the learning coach (i.e., the parent or guardian)
    • and there has been some research that a specific professional development for these personnel can have a significant impact on student retention and outcomes (although this research, while very reliable and valid, was limited by subject area and student demographics)
  • full-time programs generally produce poor outcomes
    • the exception to this has been self-motivated, self-directed students or students with active and involved learning coaches
  • teacher to student interaction is important in the K-12 online learning environment
    • in particular, non-content related interaction

While I’m sure that there are other things that we can say in a general sense, when I think about the body of reliable and valid literature and the researchers that I know, these are some of the general lessons that I share with the K-12 online learning individuals and programs that I work with.

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