Virtual School Meanderings

July 16, 2018

EDTECH537 – Commentary Entry: Reflecting On Why Understanding Research Methodology Matters

As I mentioned in the Week 4 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course earlier this morning, I wanted to post a sample of a commentary entry.

As I prepared to write this commentary entry, the first thing I did was a search for “commentary entry” on my blog to see what I wrote about last year.  It was interesting as I reflected on all of the commentary entries that I have posted in the past as a part of my sample entries for this class.

HMH Fuse Pilot Study Will Fissle (2011)

  • this entry discussed on the flaws in the research design of a mobile learning initiative, which stemmed from a press release from the company claiming promising/wonderful results during the pilot

Comparing Apples To Apples (2011)

  • this entry focused on the fact that comparisons that are generally made between students learning online and students learning in the classroom are often like comparing apples and oranges because the samples from each population are so different

Dissecting The Arkansas Virtual Academy Study (2012)

  • this entry examined the methodological flaws of a single cyber charter school study, and how that called into question the positive results that the researchers found in favour of the cyber charter school

Examining The Neo-Liberal Response To The North Carolina Cyber Charter School Case (2012)

  • this entry looked at the way in which proponents of cyber charter schools attacked the decision in North Carolina to limit their numbers, focusing primarily on the lack or misuse of research in their arguments (as well as a healthy dose of dishonest marketing)

Examining The “Understanding And Improving Virtual Schools” Report And The Response To The Report (2013)

  • this entry described a National Education Policy Center report on cyber charter schools that found that they performed quite poorly, while serving a demographically more elite group of students – and the response from cyber charter school proponents exhibit their lack of understanding of or simple misuse of the research (as well as a healthy dose of dishonest marketing)

Complete Guide to Online High Schools: Distance Learning Options For Teens & Adults (2013)

  • this entry was actually a review of a book that Ton Nixon sent to me, which did a good job of providing a thorough listing of full-time online learning options for students (without commenting on the performance or calibre of any of the programs)

Examining Full-Time Online Student Performance in Michigan (2014)

  • this entry examined the MEAP data from Michigan (i.e., their standardized testing data) for all of the cyber charters in the state, and then questioned why policymakers would decide to expand full-time K-12 online learning based on this data)

Marketing Cyber Schooling (2015)

  • this entry simply described the marketing experience that I had with one cyber charter school

What Theory Fits A Comparison Of Virtual And F2F Learning Environments? (2015)

  • this entry outlined a request I had received from a doctoral student about their studies, and I felt the need to respond to describe to the student why their proposed study was not a methodological reliable or valid study

Online Learning And At-Risk Students (2016)

  • this entry examined the potential, based on recent research, of online credit recovery as a useful tool for student learning, and how the earlier claims were not supported by that research

The Problem With the Media Coverage of K-12 Online Learning (2017)

  • this entry dissected what I described as the intellectually dishonest and biased media coverage around cyber charter schools, and how proponents of cyber charter schools (and the media too) generally use a healthy dose of dishonest marketing to counter a lack of research evidence to support their cause

As I look through these items, you’ll notice some themes.  The first theme is that there is a general focus on how research is use, misused, and ignored within the realm of K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning by supporters of technological initiatives, policymakers, legislators, and -at times – journalists.  The second theme is that much of what is written about and the actions taken around cyber charter schools is not supported by the available research.

I’d like to say that these observations are no longer the case, but unfortunately they are.  The current state of affairs can still be summarized as I wrote in my 2017 commentary entry:

…you have some expert that talks about the unrealized potential, and the fact that the research shows that these programs often do incredibly poorly compared to the traditional brick-and-mortar learning.  You often have some legislator or policy person or traditional brick-and-mortar personnel that is advising caution, maybe even complaining to some extent about the situation – but never to the level that is being called for by the academic [and is never willing to actually do anything about it beyond pay lip service].  Countering these positions, you have some combination of an online school official (or someone connected with the online program), a parent of an online student, and/or an online student themselves.  Invariably these three individuals are lauding the online program as being some kind of saviour for them and students like them.

And this sums up the debate around K-12 distance, online, and blended learning in the United States – and I do say in the United States specifically, because once you look outside of the US, there is a very different perception and conversation that happens around the practice of K-12 distance, online, and blended learning.  Interestingly, the main differences in the field between what occurs in the US and what occurs everywhere else is the nature and level of involvement of for-profit corporations in the education system.  And while I often advise students that correlation does not equal causality, I believe that this might be an exception to that rule!

EDTECH537 – Week 4

Today begins week four of my EDTECH537 – Blogging in the Classroom (see EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom). The students this week have a couple of blog entries that they have to complete by the end of the week (i.e., midnight on Sunday).

  • a Commentary Entry (which I described as “exactly as they sound – entries where the blogger provides a commentary about something. The ideas for these commentaries can come from any variety of places, including current events, a blog entry that someone else has posted, a comment that someone left on your blog, something you have read, etc..”
  • a Guest Blog Entry (which I described as potentially taking “the form of any kind of blog entry. So it could be a links entry or discussion question entry or a commentary entry or a list entry or anything really. The key is that it is written by someone other than the blog owner – ideally someone the blog owner solicited because they valued their perspective and wanted to share it with their readers.”)

The readings for this week included:

  • Mortensen, T., & Walker, J. (2002). Blogging thoughts: Personal publication as an online research tool. In A. Morrison (Ed), Researching ICTs in context (pp. 249–278). Oslo: InterMedia, University of Oslo.
  • Williams, J. B., & Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.

Later today I will post an example of a commentary entry, and tomorrow I will post an example of a guest blog.

July 11, 2018

EDTECH537 – Discussion Entry: Why Do They Get Away With It?

On Monday, in my Week 3 entry, I indicated that today I would post a discussion entry to model for my EDTECH537 students. So…

Last week some time I came across a blog entry entitled “No, educators and policymakers shouldn’t just ‘do what the research shows’” by Rick Hess. The entry itself basically says that the vast majority of research out there on educational interventions are small scale studies or have not been replicated or are geographically/demographically limited; and because of this he advises policymakers (and educators themselves) to not follow act simply based on the latest statistically significant results they are presented with.  I agree 100%.

Now for folks who are unfamiliar with the parties involved, Rick Hess is a major supporter and promotor of school choice initiatives.  Also, for folks that are unfamiliar, the vast majority of research has shown that school choice is no more effective than traditional public schooling (but often results in the traditional public school doing worse because of a lose of resources) – and that small body of research that has found positive results have been small scale studies or have not been replicated or are geographically/demographically limited.

So the irony in this is that this educational reformer, like so many educational reformers out there, are basically promoting one thing themselves, while at the same time asking us not to do the exact same thing.  My question for today is why we continue to allow educational reformers to promote this ‘do as I say, but not as I do’ agenda?  It has been happening for years when it comes to testing.  The statewide standardized testing regime that they pushed for is regularly used to tells us that our traditional public schools are failing.  However, when we use those same measures to indicate that their school choice alternatives are no better, they tell us that these are flawed measures.  They have no problem with the virtual twinning methodological model when it skews the data in favour of a school choice initiative, but when that same organization uses that same model and finds that cyber charter schools are among the worse form of educational reform out there it becomes a flawed methodology.

Why do we allow educational reformers to get away with such hypocrisy?

July 10, 2018

EDTECH537 – List Entry: My Five Most Cited Articles On Google Scholar

Yesterday, in my Week 3 entry, I indicated that today I would post a list entry to model for my EDTECH537 students. So…

Following the theme I established yesterday, today I wanted to focus on a list of my five most cited articles based on Google Scholar.

1. Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education52(2), 402-416.

This article was a general literature review and has been cited 468 times over the past nine years.

2. Cavanaugh, C. S., Barbour, M. K., & Clark, T. (2009). Research and practice in K-12 online learning: A review of open access literature. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning10(1). Retrieved from

This article was a literature review of open access literature and has been cited 318 times over the past nine years.

3. Barbour, M. K. (2007). Principles of Effective Web-Based Content for Secondary School Students: Teacher and Developer Perceptions. Journal of Distance Education21(3), 93-114. Retrieved from

This article was based on a small study that I did with course developers at the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation, and has been cited 122 times over the past eleven years.

4. Murphy, E., Rodríguez‐Manzanares, M. A., & Barbour, M. (2011). Asynchronous and synchronous online teaching: Perspectives of Canadian high school distance education teachers. British Journal of Educational Technology42(4), 583-591.

This article was based on the responses to a single from an interview that was conducted with dozens of interviews with K-12 distance and online teachers across Canada, and has been cited 113 times over the past seven years.

5. Molnar, A. (Ed.); Rice,J. K., Huerta, L.,Shafer, S. R., Barbour, M. K., Miron, G., Gulosino, C, Horvitz, B. (2014). Virtual schools in the U.S. 2014: Politics, performance, policy, and research evidence. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from

This report was the second in a series or reports, the first one that I was involved with, and has been cited 102 times over the past four years.

July 9, 2018

EDTECH537 – Links Entry: My Five Most Downloaded Articles On

Earlier this morning, in my Week 3 entry, I indicated that today I would post a links entry to model for my EDTECH537 students. So…

Today I decided to focus my interests on my account, specifically I wanted to take a look at my five most viewed articles.

1. Barbour, M. K. (2013). The landscape of K-12 online learning: Examining what is known. In M. G. Moore (Eds.), Handbook of distance education (3rd ed.) (pp. 574-593). New York: Routledge.

Interestingly, this is a book chapter that has received 3,160 views since I first uploaded it (and there is no way for me to determine when I uploaded it, other than memory – so it is a hopeless cause).  This is also my most downloaded article, with 917 downloads.  It is worth noting that the next edition of the handbook, which features an updated version of this chapter, should be out in the next 6-12 months.

2. Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers and Education, 52(2), 402-416.

I was actually a little surprised that this was number two with only 2,270 views and 640 downloads, as it has always been my most cited piece in just about any other scholarly metric.  I was also surprised that it was almost a full 1,000 views lower than my Handbook of Distance Education chapter.

3. Barbour, M. K. (2012). Virtual schools are more cost-effective compared to traditional, brick-and-mortar schools? In K. P. Brady (Ed.), Technology in Schools: Debating Issues in American Education (pp. 84-90). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

This was actually a debate-style chapter that I contributed for a friend and colleague, I took the affirmative and she argued that the two mediums cost the same.  I’m a little surprised that this took the third spot with 1,553 views and 85 downloads (note the significant drop in downloads from the number two spot), but upon reflection it makes some sense given the topic.  I can imagine that a lot of people Google whether online learning is more cost effective than face-to-face learning, and this chapter is one of the first attempts to look at a variety of evidence on the topic (so it also has a lot of good citations).  Interestingly, I don’t consider it one of my stronger pieces.

4. Siko, J. P., & Barbour, M. K. (2013). Game design and homemade PowerPoint games: An examination of the justifications and a review of the research. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 22(1), 81-108.

This article was an interesting find, as it doesn’t really have anything to do with the main focus of my research – i.e., K-12 distance, online, and blended learning.  However, it is the literature review portion of my first doctoral student’s dissertation.  So I am sure that he is pleased to see this appear so high on my list with 737 views and 57 downloads.

5. Barbour, M. K. (2012). Teachers perceptions of iPads in the classroom. MACUL Journal, 32(4), 25-26.

Now this one is kind of funny, but really does underscore the value of these academic social networks for posting one’s research.  The MACUL Journal is a small, practitioner-focused magazine from the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning that publishes these one to three page articles.  This particular article, which has 555 views and 123 downloads, was based on a small internal grant that I wrote while I was at Wayne State University that allowed me to buy myself an iPad with a bunch of accessories.

So that’s my list.  For my academic colleagues out there, what does your’s look like?

Next Page »

Blog at