Virtual School Meanderings

March 1, 2018

Commentary – Virtual School Startups: Founder Processes In American K-12 Public Virtual Schools

Earlier this week I posted an article notice for a recent item in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL).

Brett Drushal Taylor, Delores E. McNair

Abstract

Traditional school districts do not have a lot of experience with virtual schools and have lost students to state and charter virtual schools. To retain students and offer alternative learning opportunities, more public districts are starting their own virtual schools. This study was an examination of foundational processes at three California virtual schools in traditional school districts.  An analysis of the findings revealed that sites perceived the establishing founder, preliminary research, district support, teacher and staff selection, financial evaluation, and curriculum decisions as keys to the founding process.  The analysis also led to surprising conclusions, including the need for virtual schools to constantly change and adapt and the focus in this study of organizations over technology.  The findings have implications for traditional districts starting virtual schools. The study also indicates that changes in policy could reduce the need for organizational adaptation among virtual schools in traditional school districts.

Keywords

virtual school, K-12 online learning, organizational structure, traditional public school districts, foundational processes

Full Text:

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i1.3205

As I have chatted with some of my colleagues about this article and expressed my concerns about the article, so I thought I would take some time to write some notes on this piece.

Let me begin by saying that I am surprised and disappointed that this article was published by the IRRODLIRRODL is a well received, well respected, and relatively high impact journal (at least compared to other distance education journals).  The fact that an article that was this weak and had this many fundamental flaws was published was disappointing – and I know I’m using this term a second time, but I can’t think of another to reflect how I feel about this.  I’m disappointed because while there is a growing literature based related to K-12 distance, online, and blended learning; there is still a limited literature based (particularly literature based on empirical research).  Due to this situation, at least in my opinion, there is an onus on us as researchers to ensure that what is published builds upon the existing knowledge base, is quality research, and situates the work within the larger field.  This piece fails on all three of these purposes.

For example, there are numerous problems with the literature review. First, there isn’t really a literature review – it is just kind of an extension of the introduction section.  Second, what they do have there is just a summary of the literature, where each piece of literature is presented with the same veracity – regardless of the quality or source of the literature. A literature review is designed to be a synthesis and critique of the literature.  Third, the field of K-12 online learning is an ever changing field, yet with the exception of one citation from the 2015 Keeping Pace report, all of the literature that the authors have used are 7+ years old. This is just not acceptable in any technology-based area, but particularly with cyber schools (where most of the literature has been published in recent years).  Fourth, the authors have little concept of the terminology that is dominantly used in the literature. K-12 online learning, virtual schooling, and cyber schooling – at least within the academic literature – are generally not seen as the same. K-12 online learning is generally used to refer to the larger field. Virtual schooling tends to refer to supplemental forms of K-12 online learning, while cyber schooling is often used to refer to full-time forms of K-12 online learning. The authors have conducted a study of cyber schools, yet much of the literature that the authors have used are focused on virtual schooling (minus the Keeping Pace reports).  This issue alone is a fatal flaw in this article, as it fails to adequately situate the study in the larger body of what is known in the literature (and thus fails to build upon what is already known).

Further, the methodology section should be written to a level of detail that a reader could replicate the study.  In this study, there is a brief paragraph about the fact that this is a case study – and a single, predictable citation.  This is followed by a single sentence to describe what appear to be three different data collection methods (e.g., “Data were collected through document analysis, interviews, and observations.”).  Then two sentence to describe what appears to be three phases of data analysis and two types of coding (e.g., “The data collection followed specific protocol pertaining to three phases of each school’s history: the foundational phase, the adaptation phase, and the current phase.  Data were analyzed through a double coding cycle utilizing descriptive and pattern coding.”).  Finally, a single sentence that describes two different methods to ensure the reliability and validity of the study (e.g., “The findings were validated through triangulation and member checking.”).  Based on these four sentences, I would argue that no individual would be able to replicate this study to any degree of validity at all!

Finally, the authors have a section titled “Findings and Discussion,” but the actual section is basically only a Results section. The purpose of a Discussion section is to discuss what was found in light of what was already known. To put it another way, how do the findings jive with the existing literature. Implicit in this purpose is that there would be specific references in the discussion section to relevant literature that has already been synthesized and critiqued in the literature review. In this article, the authors have a single statement that has two citations – and one of those citations isn’t even included in the literature review.  This is the sum total of their attempts to situate this study within the existing body of knowledge related to K-12 online learning.

I wanted to take the time to discuss this article – and its significant deficiencies that I believe should have prevented it from being published – because as an emerging and developing field of scholarship the publication of bad research hurts the field.  Over the past couple of months I came across an article entitled “The science that’s never been cited: Nature investigates how many papers really end up without a single citation.”  It was an interesting piece that actually tied into, or at least got me thinking about, another project that I had been working on with a group of doctoral students at a colleague’s institution (and this other project was looking at all of the journal articles that were published in the field from 1994 to 2016).  Given the fact that this article fails to build upon the existing knowledge base and fails to situate their work within the larger field, how useful is this article to the field – particularly for folks that don’t know our field well enough to do those things on their own.  As scholars in this field, and in particular as individuals who review for many of these general distance education journals, what is our responsibility to help be gatekeepers against this poor quality research?

February 27, 2018

Article Notice – Virtual School Startups: Founder Processes in American K-12 Public Virtual Schools

Yesterday I posted IRRODL Volume 19, Issue 1, which contained the following article:

Brett Drushal Taylor, Delores E. McNair

Abstract

Traditional school districts do not have a lot of experience with virtual schools and have lost students to state and charter virtual schools. To retain students and offer alternative learning opportunities, more public districts are starting their own virtual schools. This study was an examination of foundational processes at three California virtual schools in traditional school districts.  An analysis of the findings revealed that sites perceived the establishing founder, preliminary research, district support, teacher and staff selection, financial evaluation, and curriculum decisions as keys to the founding process.  The analysis also led to surprising conclusions, including the need for virtual schools to constantly change and adapt and the focus in this study of organizations over technology.  The findings have implications for traditional districts starting virtual schools. The study also indicates that changes in policy could reduce the need for organizational adaptation among virtual schools in traditional school districts.

Keywords

virtual school, K-12 online learning, organizational structure, traditional public school districts, foundational processes

Full Text:

HTML MP3 PDF EPUB

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i1.3205

February 26, 2018

IRRODL Volume 19, Issue 1

See this notice from the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning and the article focused on K-12 online learning.

IRRODL Issue 19(1)
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Hello IRRODL Readers,

Welcome to IRRODL in 2018! We are delighted to offer you this issue with articles on learner support, K-12, educational videos, MOOCs, and other subjects in our field.

Rory

Vol 19, No 1 (2018)

Table of Contents

Editorial

Editorial – Volume 19, Issue 1
Rory McGreal

Research Articles

Jui-Hung Chang, Po-Sheng Chiu, Yueh-Min Huang
Serpil Kocdar, Abdulkadir Karadeniz, Aras Bozkurt, Koksal Buyuk
Zhijun Wang, Terry Anderson, Li Chen
Jamie Costley, Christopher Lange
Hsiu-Mei Huang, Shu-Sheng Liaw
Michael Paskevicius, George Veletsianos, Royce Kimmons
Kennedy Hadullo, Robert Oboko, Elijah Omwenga
Judit T Nagy
Rebecca Yvonne Bayeck, Jinhee Choi
Raniah Adham, Pat Parslow, Yota Dimitriadi, Karsten Øster Lundqvist
Ahmad Samed Al-Adwan, Amr Al-Madadha, Zahra Zvirzdinaite
Olaf Zawacki-Richter, Aras Bozkurt, Uthman Alturki, Ahmed Aldraiweesh
Joy Fraser, Dorothy (Willy) Fahlman, Jane Arscott, Isabelle Guillot
Jingjing Lin, Lorenzo Cantoni
Konstantinos Chorianopoulos
Brett Drushal Taylor, Delores E. McNair

Field Notes

Hakan Özcan, Soner Yıldırım

Book Notes

The Sage Handbook of E-learning Research (2nd ed.)
Lauren Cifuentes

Full Issue

IRRODL Volume 19, Number 1
You are receiving this email because you subscribed to the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.
Our mailing address is:
Athabasca University
International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL)
1 University Drive
Athabasca, AB  T9S 3A3
Canada

December 1, 2017

IRRODL Announcement

Note this latest issue – no K-12 distance, online, and/or blended learning articles.

IRRODL Issue 18(7)
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As 2017 draws to a close, we are delighted to offer you this IRRODL issue with articles on mobile learning, OER, MOOCs, and other subjects in our field.

Rory

Vol 18, No 7 (2017)

Full Issue

View or download the full issue PDF

Table of Contents

Editorial

Editorial – Volume 18, Issue 7
Rory McGreal

Research Articles

Greig Krull, Josep M. Duart
Ruth Aluko
Hulya Avci, Tufan Adiguzel
Levent Cetinkaya
Vivien Rolfe
Santosh Panda, Sujata Santosh
Folashade Afolabi
Tarah K. Ikahihifo, Kristian J. Spring, Jane Rosecrans, Josh Watson
Inés Gil-Jaurena, Javier Callejo-Gallego, Yolanda Agudo
Tian Luo, Alexander Murray, Helen Crompton
Karel Kreijns, Marjan Vermeulen, Hans van Buuren, Frederik Van Acker
Dianne Forbes
Hanna Teräs, Ümit Kartoğlu
Marshall P. Thomas, Selen Türkay, Michael Parker
Mik Fanguy, Jamie Costley, Matthew Baldwin
Emilio Ferreiro Lago, Sara Osuna Acedo

Field Notes

Special Report on the Role of Open Educational Resources in Supporting the Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education Challenges and Opportunities
Rory McGreal
You are receiving this email because you subscribed to the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.
Our mailing address is:
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International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL)
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Athabasca, AB  T9S 3A3
Canada

September 27, 2017

IRRODL Announcement

From the inbox yesterday…

IRRODL Issue 18(6)
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Dear readers,

 

We are pleased to bring you another research-packed issue of IRRODL.  Believe it or not, there is one MORE issue that will come out this year!  Watch for it!

Best wishes

The IRRODL team

Vol 18, No 6 (2017)

Table of Contents

Editorial

Editorial – Volume 18, Issue 6
Dianne Conrad

Research Articles

Tali Kahan, Tal Soffer, Rafi Nachmias
Elia Fernández-Díaz, Carlos Rodríguez-Hoyos, Adelina Calvo Salvador
Carol Johnson, Laurie Hill, Jennifer Lock, Noha Altowairiki, Christopher Ostrowski, Luciano da Rosa dos Santos, Yang Liu
Ahmed Al-Azawei, Patrick Parslow, Karsten Lundqvist
Anders Norberg, Birgit Stöckel, Marta-Lena Antti
Elena Barbera, Iolanda Garcia, Marc Fuertes-Alpiste
Panagiota Altanopoulou, Nikolaos Tselios
Scott Woodward, Adam Lloyd, Royce Kimmons
Upasana Gitanjali Singh, Mary Ruth de Villiers
Briju Thankachan, David Richard Moore
Paul Henry Leslie, Celiane Camargo-Borges
Zhiqiang Ma, Jing Wang, Qiyun Wang, Lili Kong, Yajie Wu, Hao Yang
Roberto Salazar-Márquez
Lisa C. Yamagata-Lynch, Deepa R Despande, Jaewoo Do, Erin Garty, Jason M Mastrogiovanni, Stephanie J Teague
Juan-Francisco Martínez-Cerdá, Joan Torrent-Sellens
Chris Meintzer, Frances Sutherland, Dietmar Kennepohl

Field Notes

Anne-Mette Nortvig, René B Christiansen
You are receiving this email because you subscribed to the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.
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