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The Landscape of K-12 Online Learning: Examining What Is Known

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While the use of distance and online learning at the K-12 level of growing exponentially, the availability of empirical evidence to help guide this growth is severely lacking. The author of this chapter provides an overview of the nature of K-12 distance and online learning today and a critical examination of the literature and-lack of research-supporting its use. The author further describes some of the methodological issues surround the limited among of existing research, and calls for researchers in this field to adopt practices that have been employed by their colleagues investigating adult populations over the past decades. Biography: Michael Barbour is an Associate Professor of Instructional Design for the College of Education and Health Sciences at Touro University California in Vallejo, California. He has been involved with K-12 online learning in a variety of countries for well over a decade as a researcher, teacher, course designer and administrator. Michael's research interests focus on the effective design, delivery, and support of online learning to K-12 students in virtual school environments, particularly those in rural jurisdictions.
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The Landscape of K-12 Online Learning:
Examining What Is Known
Michael K. Barbour
Touro University California
Abstract: While the use of distance and online learning at the K-12 level of growing exponentially, the
availability of empirical evidence to help guide this growth is severely lacking. The author of this chapter
provides an overview of the nature of K-12 distance and online learning today and a critical examination of
the literature and lack of research supporting its use. The author further describes some of the
methodological issues surround the limited among of existing research, and calls for researchers in this
field to adopt practices that have been employed by their colleagues investigating adult populations over
the past decades.
Keywords: cyber school, K-12 distance learning, K-12 online learning, literature, research, virtual school
Biography: Michael Barbour is an Associate Professor of Instructional Design for the College of Education
and Health Sciences at Touro University California in Vallejo, California. He has been involved with K-12
online learning in a variety of countries for well over a decade as a researcher, teacher, course designer and
administrator. Michael’s research interests focus on the effective design, delivery, and support of online
learning to K-12 students in virtual school environments, particularly those in rural jurisdictions.
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The Landscape of K-12 Online Learning:
Examining What Is Known
Michael K. Barbour
The use of distance and online learning at the K-12 level is growing dramatically.
However, the literature – and, in particular, the research – to support the effective design,
delivery and support of K-12 distance and online learning has not kept pace. This statement is a
common phrase used by scholars in the field as they lament the state of research into K-12
distance and online learning. While there is some truth to this statement, the amount of research
included in the overall body of literature continues to grow. It has become an unfortunate reality
within the field that this growing body of research is largely unknown to practitioners (and, in
many instance, scholars themselves). The use of non-research-based literature and tools to guide
practice, as well as scholars failing to build upon the existing body of research, has been
generally due to a lack of knowledge of the full corpus of research available.
The purpose of this chapter is to explore the literature and, in particular, the research in
the field of K-12 distance and online learning. While this exploration is not designed to be a
complete or comprehensive examination of the research in the field, it should provide the reader
with an overall understanding of the current state of the field and the general themes within the
literature. Astute readers, particularly those that are reading this chapter as a part of the overall
handbook, will notice specific takeaways based on the omissions or absence of themes they have
become familiar in the more generalized chapters or those chapters that focus on adult
populations. Finally, while the field of K-12 distance and online learning is often referred to as
K-12 online and blended learning or K-12 distance, online, and blended learning; this chapter
will focus primarily on K-12 distance and online learning, with only passing reference to K-12
blended learning.
This chapter begins with a discussion of the history and evolution of K-12 distance
learning, concluding with an overview of the current state of K-12 online learning. Next, the
chapter will provide a short description of how K-12 distance and online learning is classified
within the literature. Finally, the chapter will provide an overview of some themes from the
literature and research, using a selection of representative literature. These themes will focus on
the significant body of non-research literature, the continued use of media comparison studies by
scholars, and the research into the design, delivery, support, and administration of K-12 distance
and online learning.
History and Evolution of K-12 Distance Learning
The reality is that distance education at the K-12 or primary and secondary level has a
history that is almost as long as distance education within higher education. Since the first
edition of the
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Handbook of Distance Education (Moore & Anderson, 2003), readers have had the opportunity to review the
history and of K-12 distance education at least in the United States. In the absence of Tom Clark’s chapter in
this edition of the Handbook of Distance Education, this chapter begins with a brief description of the history
and evolution of K-12 distance learning. For a more detailed description of the history of K-12 distance and
online learning in the United States, please consult Clark (2003, 2007, 2013).
The first documented use of K-12 distance learning in the United States was the use of instructional
film around 1910 (Saettler, 2004). This initial distance medium was followed by the use of correspondence
education in a program Nebraska around 1923 (Broady, Platt, & Bell, 1931), and the use of educational radio
through the Ohio School of the Air in 1921 (Saettler, 2004). While some educational radio programs continued
to serve K-12 distance education students for some time, such as the Wisconsin School of the Air (Bianchi,
2002); as technology evolved, so did the medium for K-12 distance education. For example, Bramble (1988)
described the use of an educational telephone system as the basis for the Learn Alaska Network. During the
1930s there were several instances of educational television programming (Kurtz, 1959), although according to
Clark (2000) it was rare for programs using this medium to offer full courses. In the 1960s, the use of
educational satellites emerged as another generation of technology used for the delivery of K-12 distance
learning (Jajkowski, 2004), which was used by programs in a variety of states to serve primarily rural areas
(Howley & Harmon, 2000; Kirby, 1998; Pease & Tinsley, 1986). Beginning in the 1980s, audiographics or
telematics networks began to be developed by several states, such as Iowa, Maine, and Utah (Hezel Associates,
1998).
K-12 online learning is a more recent phenomenon. In the United States the first K-12 online learning
program was developed by the private school Laurel Springs School, which began their online program around
1991 (Barbour, 2011a). Berge and Collins (1998) described how many K-12 distance learning programs, as
well as some traditional face-to-face schools, were using various Internet tools to provide aspects of online
classes. One of these earlier programs that experimented with these online tools was the Utah Electronic High
School, although the majority of the Electronic High School’s offerings were still delivered in a
correspondence model (Clark, 2003). The first full-time cyber charter school, Choice 2000 in California, was
established around 1994 (Darrow, 2010). The first entirely online supplementali virtual schools were the
Virtual High School Global Consortium (VHS) and the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), both created in 1997
(Friend & Johnston, 2005; Pape, Adams, & Ribeiro, 2005). Three years later Clark (2000) reported there were
three existing statewide virtual schools (i.e., Florida, New Mexico, and Utah), and three more in the planning
stages (i.e., Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan). The following year Clark (2001) indicated there were at least
fourteen states with existing or planned virtual schools. The growth in students participating in K-12 online
learning has increased in a similar fashion. Clark (2001) estimated that there were approximately 40,000 and
50,000 students representing less than 0.001% of the K-12 student population enrolled in one or more K-12
online learning courses during the 2000-01 school year. Ten years later Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin and
Rapp (2011) reported K-12 online learning activity in almost all 50 states, while Ambient Insights (2011)
indicated that there were now approximately four million students representing approximately 6% of the K-
12 student population enrolled in K-12 online learning courses during the 2010-11 school year. K-12 online
learning activity for the 2016-17 school year range from conservative estimates of two million students to
generous estimates of eight million students.
Jurisdictions outside of the United States have seen similar patterns of development and growth.
Barbour (2018) outlined how the K-12 distance learning technologies evolved from correspondence-based
education to educational radio to instructional television to audiographic systems to online learning in
countries such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In fact, Barbour argued that the evolution of K-12
distance education is one of the familiar narratives in the United States that is mirrored in many international
contexts. In terms of growth, in the first national examination
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of K-12 online learning in Canada as an example, the Canadian Teachers Federation (2000) estimated
there were approximately 25,000 K-12 students representing approximately 0.005% of the K-12 student
population enrolled in one of more online course during the 1999-2000 school year. Just over fifteen
years later, Barbour and LaBonte (2017) indicated there were approximately 277,603 students
representing approximately 5.4% of the K-12 student population students enrolled in one or more
distance education coursesii during the 2016-17 school year. These figures were proportionally on par
with the American estimates provided above.
Classifying K-12 Online Learning
Historically in the United States there have been clear and specific descriptors for K-12 online
learning. For example, traditionally virtual schools have been programs where students took one or more
courses in a supplemental manner, while cyber schools were programs that had students engaged in full-
time online instruction (although the recent iNACOL Online Learning Definitions Project uses the terms
synonymously). Over the past two decades, there have been several classifications of K-12 online
learning programs, many of which have been based on the entity responsible for the administration of the
program (Clark, 2000, 2001; Watson, Winograd, & Kalmon, 2004). However, even within the United
States, it is becoming more difficult to place K-12 online learning programs into specific categories.
Beginning with the 2009 edition of the Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning report, Watson,
Gemin, Ryan, and Wicks (2009) introduced a matrix of dimensions for describing K-12 online learning
programs (see Table 1).
At present it is these dimensions that are generally used to describe K-12 online learning
programs (in both the United States and internationally according to Barbour [2018]). It should be noted
that while these dimensions are also often used to describe different types of K-12 blended learning
programs, there is still a great deal of uncertainty and confusion about how to both define and describe K-
12 blended learning (Molnar et al., 2017).
Literature and Research Related to K-12 Online Learning
While the use of K-12 online learning at the K-12 level has been practiced for approximately two
decades, the availability of literature and, in particular the published research, to inform that practice has
not kept pace. For example, Barbour (2011a) reviewed 262 articles from the main distance education
journals for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States from 2005 to 2009, only 24 articles
Table 1.
Watson et al.’s (2009) dimensions for describing K-12 online learning programs.
Dimension
Variables
Comprehensiveness Reach
District; multi-district; state; multi-state; national; global
Type
District; magnet; contract; charter; private; home
Location
School; home; other
Delivery
Asynrchonous; synchronous
Operational control
Local board; consortium; regional authority; university, state;
independent vendor
Type of instruction
Fully online; blending online and face-to-face; fully face-to-face
Grade level
Elementary; middle school; high school
Teacher-student interaction
High; moderate; low
Student-student interaction
High; moderate; low
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(or less than 10%) related to K-12 distance and online learning. However, this lack of published research
is changing. Cavanaugh, Barbour, and Clark (2009) indicated that of the 226 publications included in
their review of the literature there were only 29 items were from 1997 to 2000, but there were 69 items
published from 2006 to 2009.
Yet, it should be noted that much of the published literature and research that has been conducted
into K-12 online learning has focused on the experience in the United States. Barbour’s (2011a) review
found that a little more half of the 24 articles focused on K-12 distance and online learning in the United
States. More recently, Barbour (2018) reported the results of his analysis of the Journal of Online
Learning Research, which was established in 2015 by the Association for the Advancement of
Computing in Education (and managed by the leadership of the Society for Information Technology and
Teacher Education’s special interest group focused on K-12 Online Learning). While the journal claims to
focus on K-12 online and blended learning worldwide (Kennedy & Archambault, 2015), Barbour’s
(2018) analysis found that only two of the 38 articles that had been published focused on research
conducted in other countries while one other article had a generalized, global focus and a second article
was a conceptual article with no geographic focus. The remaining approximately 90% of the articles that
had been published by the Journal of Online Learning Research had focused on the United States.
At present, the former “Virtual Schools and Colleges” project (more commonly referred to as the
VISCED project, which was funded by the European Commission) represents the largest international
effort to explore K-12 online learning.iii Additionally, the International Association of K-12 Online
Learning (iNACOL) conducted international surveys of K-12 online and blended learning (see Barbour,
Brown, Hasler Waters, Hoey, Hunt, Kennedy, Ounsworth, Powell, & Trimm, 2011; Barbour, Hasler
Waters, & Hunt, 2011; Powell, & Patrick, 2006), although Barbour (2018) argued that these were based
on American-dened understandings of the field. Beyond these isolated instances, much of the published
literature and research has focused on the United States.
Literature on K-12 Online Learning
In their review of the open access literature, Cavanaugh et al. (2009) stated that the published
literature related to K-12 online learning was primarily “based upon the personal experiences of those
involved in the practice of virtual schooling” (¶ 5). They further indicated this literature was largely based
on focused upon the opinions and/or experiences of those involved with K-12 online learning, such as
online teachers or administrators of online programs. Within this largely practitioner-focused literature,
Cavanaugh et al. described it as being mainly literature about “statewide and consortium/multi-district
virtual schools, the roles of teachers and administrators, the promise of virtual schooling and its initial
rationale for implementation, administrative challenges, the technology utilized, and interact with
students” (Conclusions and Implications, ¶ 1). Although, as noted above, Cavanaugh et al. also indicated
that the proportion of published research in the four most recent years of their analysis had substantially
increased, as compared to the more general, practitioner-focused literature.
Having said that, in their book Virtual Schools: Planning for Success, Berge and Clark (2005)
described five potential benefits of and five challenges facing to K-12 online learning.
Potential benefits: higher levels of motivation; expanding educational access; providing
high-quality learning opportunities; improving student outcomes and skills; allowing for
educational choice; and administrative efficiency
Challenges facing: high start-up costs associated with virtual schools; access issues
surrounding the digital divide; approval or accreditation of virtual schools; and student
readiness issues and retention issues
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It is important to point out, as Barbour and Reeves did themselves, that the benefits listed were only
potential benefits. As Barbour (2010) further underlined:
[Barbour and Reeves] were careful to remind readers that while online learning may allow for
educational improvements such as a high levels of learner motivation, high quality learning
opportunities or improvement in student outcomes, it certainly did not guarantee any of these
potential benefits would be realized simply by the introduction of online learning. (p. 7)
As the research to date has clearly shown, none of these potential benefits have been proven by empirical
studies using reliable and valid methodology.
It is important for those in the field of K-12 online learning to distinguish between the published
literature in the field and the literature that is actually based upon research. While there is a growing body
of literature, Barbour and Reeves (2009) wrote that “there [had] been a deficit of rigorous reviews of the
literature related to virtual schools” (p. 402), and that “much of the research [was] only available in
unpublished Master’s theses and Doctoral dissertations” (p. 403). This was similar to the conclusions
draw by DiPietro, Ferdig, Black and Preston (2008), who stated “research-based investigations into the
teaching and learning process in this medium and at this level are still lacking” (p. 10). Finally, Rice
(2006) was likely the most direct in her assessment of the research into K-12 online learning when she
lamented that “a paucity of research exists when examining high school students enrolled in virtual
schools, and the research base is smaller still when the population of students is further narrowed to the
elementary grades” (p. 430). However, Cavanaugh et al. (2009) indicated:
in many ways, this [was] indicative of the foundational descriptive work that often precedes
experimentation in any scientific field. In other words, it is important to know how students in
virtual school engage in their learning in this environment prior to conducting any rigorous
examination of virtual schooling. (Literature Review, ¶ 1)
While this may be the case, given that K-12 online learning is now two decades old, has more than 4
million students enrolled in one or more courses, and has been adopted in the United States by the
educational reform movement (Bush & Wise, 2010); shouldn’t we expect there to be more evidence of
the success of K-12 online learning and, in particular, the factors that ensure student success in the online
environment.
There is general agreement about the themes that have been dominant in the limited amount of
research conducted on K-12 online learning to date. Rice (2006) described the research into K-12 online
learning as either being comparisons of student performance between those enrolled in online and face-to-
face environments or examinations of the qualities and characteristics of the online learning experience;
with the comparative research being the dominant of the two groups. Similarly, Cavanaugh et al. (2009)
also indicated that the research into K-12 online learning fell into two categories: effectiveness and issues
related to student readiness and retention. Cavanaugh and her colleagues also indicated that the majority
of the research had focused on the effectiveness category.
Research on the Effectiveness of K-12 Online Learning
Given the amount of K-12 online learning research focused on comparing the student
performance of students in various K-12 online learning environments to students in the traditional, brick-
and-mortar classroom, it is important to critical examine this body of research. For example,
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an examination of the findings related to comparison of student in supplemental K-12 online learning
environments and the traditional classroom has been mixed (see Table 2).
However, these general findings do not tell the complete story. For example, Mulcahy and
Barbour (2010) later speculated that weaker students may have been self-selecting a less rigorous
curriculum in order to avoid taking online courses (a finding that was also supported by Mulcahy, Dibbon
and Norberg [2008]). This kind of skewing of the potential sample from the K-12 online learning is quite
common in the studies listed above (see Table 3).
This kind of student selectivity in the K-12 online learning samples should not be surprising to
anyone familiar with its practice. With the exception of the past three to five years, the literature related to
K-12 online learning has provided a fairly consistent description of K-12 online learners (see Table 4).
Rice (2006) summarized this problem by indicating the research into the effectiveness of K-12
online learning as being “challenged with issues of small sample size, dissimilar comparison groups, and
differences in instructor experience and training” (p. 431, emphasis added). She concluded “that the
Table 2.
Summary of research related to the effectiveness of supplemental K-12 online learning
Study
Ballas & Belyk (2000)
Bigbie & McCarroll (2000)
Barker & Wendel (2001)
Cavanaugh et al. (2005)
McLeod et al. (2005)
Barbour & Mulcahy (2008)
Barbour & Mulcahy (2009a)
Chingos & Schwerdt (2014)
Table 3.
Methodological issues with the supplemental K-12 online learning samples in comparative studies
Study
Ballas & Belyk (2000)
Bigbie & McCarroll (2000)
Cavanaugh et al. (2005)
McLeod et al. (2005)
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Table 4.
Description of supplemental K-12 online learner from the research
Study
Kozma et al. (1998)
Espinoza et al., 1999
Haughey & Muirhead (1999)
Roblyer & Elbaum (2000)
Clark et al. (2002)
Mills (2003)
Watkins (2005)
effectiveness of distance education appears to have more to do with who is teaching, who is learning, and
how that learning is accomplished, and less to do with the medium” (p. 440, emphasis added). While
Cavanaugh (2013) concludes that the research into the effectiveness of K-12 online learning “suggests
that as distance education is currently practiced, student learning on average in well-designed online
elementary and secondary environments appears to be equivalent to learning in a well-designed classroom
environment” (p. 172). Essentially, it is the differences in how K-12 online learning is designed,
delivered, and supported along with the characteristics of the individual student that account for
whether the online students perform at comparable levels as traditional classroom students.
The issue of the student selectivity in the comparative studies focused on supplemental K-12
online learning is particularly true when many have indicated a growing segment of online learners who
fall into the category of at-risk students (Barbour, 2009; 2011a; Klein, 2006; Rapp, Eckes & Plurker,
2006; Watson, Gemin & Ryan, 2008). Many students identified as at-risk students are engaged in online
credit recovery, which has seen several recent studies examining the performance of students enrolled in
online credit recovery situations (see Table 5).
While each of these studies found that online credit recovery could be an effective way for at-risk
students to make up courses that they had initially failed (or at least as effective as other forms of credit
recovery), both Heppen et al. (2016) and Stallings et al. (2016) found that the online credit recovery was
actually hindered students long-term understanding or success. These findings continue the pattern that it
is often who is learning online or how that online learning is designed, delivered, and/or supported that
account for whether the online learning is as effective as face-to-face instruction.
While this discussion thus far has focused on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of supplemental
forms of K-12 online learning, it is interesting to note that full-time forms of K-12 online learning have
been found to be even less effective compared to face-to-face instruction. Over the past five years, the
National Education Policy Center through their annual Virtual Schools in the US reports have
documented how full-time K-12 online learning have underperformed brick-and-mortar or traditional
face-to-face schools on a consistent basis (Miron & Gulosino, 2016; Molnar et al., 2013, 2014, 2015,
2017). These annual findings have been consistent with the existing research into the effectiveness of full-
time K-12 online learning regardless if that research has come from
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Table 5.
Research into student performance in online credit recovery
Study
Finding
Hughes, Zhou, & Petscher
(2015)
likelihood of a student earning a grade of C or better was
higher when a course was taken online than when taken face-
to-face
Heppen et al. (2016)
students stated online course more difficult and had more
negative attitudes about mathematics
online students had lower algebra assessment scores, grades,
and credit recovery rates
long-term outcomes were not significantly different
Stevens, Frazelle, Bisht, &
Hamilton (2016)
less than 60% of online students received passing grade
online students had lower passing rates than those who take
multiple courses in a semester
Stallings et al. (2016)
little difference between success rates of online credit
recovery and other credit recovery options
online students who did not subsequently drop out were more
likely than other credit recovery students to graduate on time
empirical studies, think tanks or policy centers, investigative journalists, or legislative audits. Even the
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (2016), an advocacy organization that supports school
choice initiatives, concluded that full-time online charters and the students that attend them perform
worse than traditional public schools.
Examining K-12 Online Learning Teacher Roles
Another area of K-12 online learning that scholars have agreed upon is the fact that the growth of
K-12 online learning has resulted in changes to the traditional role of the teacher. In a traditional
classroom environment, the teacher is responsible for designing the instructional activities that get
employed with the students, presenting the content or actually teaching the material, and helping to
facilitate students while they are completing any independent work. However, in an online environment it
is often the case that different individuals perform each of these tasks. The "Teacher Education Goes Into
Virtual Schooling” (TEGIVS) project introduced these diffused roles in the K-12 online learning
environment as: virtual school designer, virtual school teacher, and virtual school site facilitator (Davis,
2007). In a special issue of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education devoted to K-12 online
learning, Ferdig, Cavanaugh, DiPietro, Black and Dawson (2009) further delineated the different roles
that teachers might undertake in the K-12 online learning environment into eight separate responsibilities.
The Davis (2007) and Ferdig et al. (2009) K-12 online learning teacher roles are described, and
compared, in Table 6.
While the Ferdig et al. (2009) classification is the more developed, within the literature the Davis
(2007) has become the more commonly used. For the purposes of this chapter, the following sub-sections
will explore the literature related to K-12 online learning through the lens of the virtual school designer,
the virtual school teacher, the virtual school designer, and the virtual school administrator.
Research into the Design of K-12 Online Learning. There are still only a handful of studies
that have examined the design and delivery of virtual schooling, most with methodological limitations.
For example, Barbour (2005, 2007) first proposed ten and
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Table 6.
Teacher roles in online learning environments
Davis’
roles
Davis’ responsibilities
Ferdig et al.’s
roles
Ferdig et al.’ responsibilities
Designer
Design instructional materials.
Works in team with teachers
and a virtual school to
construct the online course, etc.
Instructional
Designer
The creator of the online course in
accordance with content standards
using effective strategies for the
learners and the content
Teacher
Presents activities, manages
pacing, rigor, etc.. Interacts
with students and their
facilitators. Undertakes
assessment, grading, etc.
Teacher
The educator with primary
responsibility for student instruction
within an online course including
interaction with students and assigning
course grades
Online
Facilitator
The person who supports students in a
virtual school program. The facilitator
may interact with students online or
may facilitate at the physical site
where students access their online
course.
Facilitator
Local mentor and advocate for
students(s). Proctors & records
grades, etc.
Local Key
Contact
The professional who assists students
in registering and otherwise accessing
virtual courses
Mentor
The academic tutor or course assistant
for students
Technology
Coordinator
The person who facilitates technical
support for educators and students
Guidance
Counselor
The academic advisor for students
Administrator
The instructional leader of the virtual
school
later seven principles of effective online course design for adolescent learners (such as those found in
K-12 online learning environments). These principles were developed based on interviews with six course
developers and teachers in a single Canadian virtual school. The researcher did not conduct an analysis of
any of the asynchronous course content to determine if the developers and teachers actually implemented
any of the “principles” that they discussed. The researcher also did not interview students to gauge their
opinions on whether the principles were actually perceived as effective by the adolescents themselves.
Essentially, Barbour did not undertake any additional data collection and analysis that would have
allowed him to triangulate his findings. It is also important to note the virtual school where Barbour
conducted this study used a primarily synchronous form of delivery (almost unique among K-12 online
learning programs in North America), where teachers and students rarely use the asynchronous course
content (Barbour & Hill, 2011). Similar complaints could be made about the set of instructional design
competencies defined by Rozitis (2017), which were based on a Delphi model using the perceptions of
practitioners, instructional design academics, university pre-service instructors, online school
administrators, and practicing instructional designers.
In a separate line of inquiry, Barbour and Cooze (Barbour & Cooze, 2004; Cooze & Barbour,
2005; 2007) examined the potential for designers of K-12 online courses to focus on specific student
learning styles. The researchers concluded that students who were visual learners (traditional modalities);
possessed interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, and visual-spatial intelligences
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(Gardner’s multiple intelligences), or were assimilators (Kolb’s theory of experiential learning) were
naturally the better online learning; and that course designers should focus on including course elements
that would assist learners who did not posses these characteristics. Unfortunately, research into learning
styles has been found to be quite unreliable (Coffield, Moseley, Hall & Ecclestone, 2004), and is seen by
most researchers as a form of pseudo-science (Reeves, 2008). Similarly, Keeler (2006) also focused on
the influence of learning styles on online course design for secondary students.
Further, Keeler, Richter, Anderson-Inman and Horney (2007) discussed the principle that online
learning should be accessible, and how differentiated instruction and universal design could be used to
create a course for students with learning disabilities. The following year, Grabinger, Aplin and
Ponnappa-Brenner (2008) also described how universal design in online learning environments could be
used to address the unique needs of students with cognitive impairments. In one of the few examples of
empirical research, Keeler and Horney (2008) conducted an analysis of 22 online high school courses
using the validated Instrument of Instructional Design Elements of High School Online Courses (Keeler,
2003). Their analysis found 38 design elements, from five categories (i.e., accessibility, web site design,
technologies used, instructional methodologies, and support systems) were important with online
instruction for students with disabilities (Keeler, 2004). However, their instrument was limited to
description of the online course (i.e., asynchronous curricular material), and failed to account for the
quality of that material.
To address these limitations, and the need to serve a wider range of students because of online
learning graduation requirements, iNACOL (as the professional association representing K-12 online
learning programs) conducted a review of published K-12 online course design standards that resulted in
the release of the National Standards for Quality Online Courses (iNACOL 2007a)iv. In the introduction
to these standards, it stated:
In partnership with the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), NACOL is adopting the
Standards for Quality Online Courses as a primary source, with an additional rubric for inclusion
of 21st century skills, with reference to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (p. 2)
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is in reference to a report on Virtual Schools and 21st Century
Skills that was commissioned by iNACOL and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills in 2006 (see
iNACOL & Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2006). To date, in the only research to test the validity
and reliability of the iNACOL standards, Adelstein and Barbour (2016a, 2016b, 2017a) found that the
standards and the associated rubric did not meet the threshold of a reliable and valid instrument based
on a review of research and literature, an expert review panel, and an application of the revised rubric
using existing K-12 online courses. However, even though these standards have not been subjected to the
rigorous process on multiple instances that most “national standards” undergo, jurisdictions such as
California, Michigan, and Texas have adopted these standards for the design of their K-12 online learning
programs (Adelstein & Barbour, 2016c).
Research into the Delivery of K-12 Online Learning. Interestingly, within the field of K-12
online learning there has been almost universal agreement that while there are some similarities, the
practice of teaching in an online environment is different and requires a different set of skills than
teaching in a traditional face-to-face environment (Davis, Roblyer, Charania, Ferdig, Harms, Compton, &
Cho, 2007; Easton, 2003; Lowes, 2005; Morris, 2002; Roblyer & McKenzie, 2000). Unfortunately, the
available research into the delivery of K-12 online learning has yet to fully define on what constitutes
effective online teaching. In her chapter in the third edition of this Handbook, Cavanaugh (2013)
described research into student characteristics, course design factors, teacher preparation and
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development, course facilitation, and technological approaches; all have implications for the effective
delivery of K-12 online learning opportunities. However, there has yet to be a volume of research into
teaching in a K-12 online learning environment that has been able to define the unique set of skills for K-
12 online teaching; even though this is the area of K-12 online learning that has probably seen the most
published research.
One of the reasons for this lack of definition is that the research into the delivery of K-12 online
learning has similar methodological limitations that were found in the research on effective design of K-
12 online learning. For example, DiPietro et al. (2008) reported best practices in asynchronous teaching
based upon the perceptions of online teachers at a single statewide, supplemental virtual school. These
perception self-reports were not validated through observation of their teaching or through student
performance in their courses. Also, the teachers who were interviewed were those that had been identified
by the virtual school itself as being “good online teachers.” Later, DiPietro (2010) described five beliefs
of “successful” asynchronous pedagogic practices based on interviews with virtual school teachers, along
with samples of course content shared by the teachers, at a single statewide supplemental virtual school.
Similar to the earlier study, there was no independent verification that the beliefs of these teachers were
actually acted upon in their online teaching, and students were again excluded from the data collection
process. Another example of this methodologically limited line of inquiry comes from the work that
Murphy and her colleagues have conducted on synchronous instruction in K-12 online learning
environments (Murphy & Coffin, 2003; Murphy & Rodríguez-Manzanares, 2009a, 2009b; Murphy,
Rodriguez-Manzanares & Barbour, 2011; Nippard & Murphy, 2007), while Archambault (2014) focused
on the self-reported practices from a group of K-12 online teachers from a cyber charter school.
In addition to standards for online course design, iNACOL also conducted a review of published
K-12 online teaching standards that resulted in the release of the National Standards for Quality Online
Teaching (iNACOL, 2007b)v. Like their other set of “national standards,” there has been no research
published to support the selection of the individual standards included. There has also yet to be any
attempt to validate these standards using empirical research methods. Recently, authors have attempted to
seek evidence from within the literature to support these national standards (e.g., Ferdig et al. 2009) or
have surveyed online teachers to determine their perceptions of these national standards (e.g., Smith,
2009). However, there still has not been a systematic validation of these standards or the associated
instruments to measure these standards released by iNACOL.
One of the few efforts to validate or ground the examination of in a larger theoretical or
conceptual framework, McCombs and Vakili (2005) developed a learner-centered framework containing
online learning practices based upon the American Psychology Association’s (APA) 14 learner-centered
principles (i.e., APA Work Group of the Board of Educational Affairs, 1997). In their review of the
research literature related to the delivery of education using online learning, McCombs and Vakili used
the APA’s original four domains to propose 37 online learning practices: metacognitive and cognitive (10
practices), affective and motivational (10 practices), developmental and social (9 practices), and
individual-differences factors (8 practices). However, like many of these proposed frameworks
particularly within the field of K-12 online learning there has yet to be empirical research to validate
any of these practices beyond the initial literature review.
One of the difficulties that these perception-based studies and online teaching standards or
frameworks that have yet to be validated is that they do not provide guidance for initial teacher
preparation and/or in-service teacher professional development. For example, both Archambault and
Crippen (2009, 2010) and Rice and Dawley (2007, 2009) investigated the characteristics of those who are
teaching online in different contexts; and each of these studies included aspects that focused on the
knowledge, skills, and abilities that these teachers perceived were required for the K-12 online learning
environment (Archambault, 2011; Dawley, Rice, & Hinck, 2010; Rice & Dawley, 2008). Similarly,
Kennedy, Cavanaugh, and Dawson (2013) examined the perceptions of pre-service
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teachers who undertook a field experience in a K-12 online learning environment. It is based on this kind
of research that the limited number of programs has even engaged in the preparation of pre-service or in-
service activities related to K-12 online learning. For example, Kennedy and Archambault (2012) found
that that only 1.7% of responding teacher education programs in the United States offered any type of
field experience in K-12 online learning environments; while a follow-up study found that number
increased to 3.5% (Archambault, Kennedy, Shelton, Dalal, McAllister, Huyett, 2016). Essentially, those
involved in the training of K-12 online learning professionals have little help on what should be included
based on the available research. Even more unfortunate is the fact that, even without research supporting
what constitutes effective K-12 online teaching, some states have begun to add online teaching
endorsement to their teacher certification or licensure system (Archambault, DeBruler, & Freidhoff, 2014;
McAllister & Graham, 2016).
Research into the Support of K-12 Online Learning. Consistent with the research into the
delivery of K-12 online learning, the research into effective strategies to support K-12 online learning has
also grown since the last edition of the Handbook of Distance Education; although it also has some of the
same methodologically limitations. One of the early lines of inquiry in this area was undertaken by
Roblyer and her colleagues, who developed an instrument designed to predict whether an online learning
student will be successful in their online course. The Educational Success Prediction Instrument (ESPRI),
initially reported by Roblyer and Marshall (2002-2003), was developed to "help predict which high
school students would be likely to succeed in online courses and provide a basis for counseling and
support for other students interested in becoming online learners to help them become more successful"
(p. 241). Roblyer and Marshall conducted a validation study of the ESPRI and found that the instrument
had a reliability level of 0.92 with a sample of 135 online learning students, which included students with
disabilities. In a follow-up to their initial study, Roblyer, Davis, Mills, Marshall and Pape (2008) again
found the ESPRI had a reliability level of 0.92, this time with a sample of 4100 online learning students,
which again included students with disabilities. Roblyer (2005) stated that the next step in this line of
inquiry was "to develop preparation materials to help students whose ESPRI results indicate potential for
problems in online learning" (¶ 8). While the development of this validated instrument represented a
positive step, and is still one of the few validated instruments within the field of K-12 online learning,
Roblyer et al. (2008) also found GPA to be as reliable a predictor of student success in the K-12 online
learning environment as the ESPRI.
While there is a limited amount of research into the various roles facilitators or mentor teachers
undertake, the research has indicated this individual has a critical role on students’ success in online
learning (Barbour & Mulcahy, 2004; Roblyer, Freeman, Stabler, & Schneidmiller, 2007). For example,
Barbour and Mulcahy (2004) found that teachers at the school level provided substantial levels of support
in a wide range of areas, including supervisory and administrative duties, technical troubleshooting, and
providing content-based assistance. However, these findings were based on only five teachers performing
this role in the first year of operation for a single, Canadian virtual school. In a follow-up to that initial
study, Barbour and Mulcahy (2009b) found that the amount of time these school-based teachers spent
supporting the students engaged in online learning had actually increased. The authors also found that as
students with a wider range of abilities are enrolling in online courses the local school-based teachers
have to spend more time monitoring students’ progress and assisting the academically weaker students.
Similarly, in their evaluation of a statewide virtual school, Roblyer et al. (2007) found that school-based
teachers “directly working with students day by day [were] key to the success of the [K-12 online
learning] program” (p. 11). However, beyond the findings in these two individual province-
wide/statewide supplemental programs, there has no been additional research into the role of local
teachers in supporting K-12 students engaged in online learning.
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The most systematic investigation into the support for students engaged in K-12 online learning
was lead by the National Center for Rural Education Support at the University of North Carolina Chapel
Hill. A team of researchers explored the impact of web-based professional development for school-based
facilitator personnel and whether that training affected student performance and retention in the
supplemental K-12 online learning environment. The online professional development focused on several
issues identified as common challenges for virtual school facilitators (e.g., the first day of school, how to
talk about and support online assignments, potential student fears, helping to develop time management
skills, assisting with the problem of too much work, what to do when students become disengaged, how
to ease students who are worried about their grades, etc.) (Irving, Hannum, Farmer, de la Varre, & Keane,
2009). The multi-year study included students enrolled in a variety of K-12 online learning programs
from multiple states. The researchers found online students that had facilitators who completed the
professional development had a higher level of retention (Hannuma, Irvin, Lei, & Farmer, 2008). Finally,
the researcher also stated that effective facilitators should have “a good, working relationship, who were
consistently responsive in their interactions with the teacher, and engaged with and interested in their
students” (de la Varre, Keane, & Irvin, 2010, pp. 202-203); and facilitators should also assist the online
teacher by projecting teacher presence (de la Varre, Keane, & Irvin, 2011).
In one of the few inquiries into the full-time K-12 online learning, Borup, Graham, and Davies
(2013a, 2013b) explored interaction as a variable to describe the types of support students in online
environments. This initial exploration led to the development of the Adolescent Community of
Engagement (ACE) framework (Borup, West, Graham, & Davies, 2014), which has allowed Borup and
his colleagues to examine the role of online teachers, parents (i.e., who perform the mentor or support role
for students in the full-time online environment), and fellow students (Borup, 2016a, 2016b; Borup,
Graham, & Drysdale, 2014; Borup & Stevens, 2016). Additional research using the ACE framework has
explored support provided to both full-time and supplemental K-12 online learners (Borup & Stevens,
2017; Borup, Stevens, & Hasler Waters, 2015; Drysdale, Graham, & Borup, 2014; Drysdale, Graham, &
Borup, 2016; Freidhoff, Borup, Stimson, & DeBruler, 2015; Oviatt, Graham, Borup, & Davies, 2016).
One of the unique aspects of the work by Borup and his colleagues is the fact that it is grounded in a
particular conceptual framework, a trait not seen in most K-12 online learning research.
Research into the Administration of K-12 Online Learning. Prior to the publication of the last
edition of the Handbook of Distance Education, there was very little literature related to the
administration of K-12 online learning at least from the perspective of school leaders in the K-12 online
learning environment. In fact, one of the sole sources that explored the perceptions of school leaders in
relation to K-12 online learning were the Sloan Consortium’s reports based on surveys of U.S. school
district administrators (Picciano & Seaman, 2007a, 2009). These surveys were designed explore the
nature of online learning in K12 schools based on the perceptions of school leaders, as well as their
impressions of online learning planning, operational difficulties, and providers. The authors indicated that
K-12 online learning might provide opportunities for small rural schools, and “that the blended model
may prove to be attractive to K-12 schools, especially those that are struggling with issues of online
learning quality, student readiness, and teacher professional development” (Picciano & Seaman, 2007b,
31). This lack of literature may explain the reason why even though Ferdig et al. (2009) had identified the
virtual school administrator, this sub-section was not included in this chapter in the previous edition of the
handbook.
Since the last edition of the handbook, there have been studies into how virtual school teachers
perceived school personnel practices and leadership (Beck & Maranto, 2014), the challenges faced by
virtual school leaders (Richardson, LaFrance, & Beck, 2015), and the perceived differences between
being a school leader in a virtual school environment compared to a brick-and-mortar environment
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(Quilici & Joki, 2011; Richardson, Beck, LaFrance, & McLeod, 2016). Simply put, as McLeod and
Richardson (2014) described, “there… are a few reports and studies that address the practices and
preparation of leaders of virtual schools. These articles are insufficient, however, to paint a rich picture of
virtual school leadership” (p. 290). This reality likely explains why LaFrance and Beck (2014) found that
only 9% of school leadership programs provided exposure to K-12 online learning settings, and greater
than 75% had no plans to provide opportunities for field experiences in online settings.
However, if the concept of the ‘administration of K-12 online learning’ is expended to include
how K-12 online learning is administered at the local, district, and state level than it opens itself up to a
wider body of literature focused on issues related to the governance and policy of K-12 online learning.
For example, the annual Virtual Schools in the US reports published by the National Education Policy
Center feature a complete section that examines the legislative initiatives related to K-12 online and
blended learning (Molnar et al., 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017). The Michigan Virtual Learning Research
Institute has explored policies related to the initial approval and on-going evaluation of K-12 online
learning programs (Barbour, Clark, DeBruler, & Bruno, 2014), as well as undertaking case studies to
examine state level policy related to K-12 online learning (Archambault, Kennedy, Freidhoff, Bruno,
DeBruler, & Stimson, 2015; Barbour, Miron, & Huerta, 2017; Clark, 2016). It should be noted that most
of this literature has been descriptive in nature, and has tended to focus on full-time K-12 online learning
(and in particular online or cyber charter schools).
Conclusions and Recommendations
The purpose of this chapter was to provide an overview of the state of research into K-12 distance
and online learning, While not comprehensive in nature, the chapter describes many of main themes as
well as limitations present in the research; in addition to many takeaways from the current body of
literature. The first takeaway is that there is a growing body of literature and research, but the practice of
K-12 distance and online learning is still outpacing both the availability and use of that research. The
second takeaway is that there is still a significant body of literature that is not research based, or that is
contrary to what is known based on the research, that guides practice. The third takeaway is that
comparisons of student performance in the online environment vs. a face-to-face environment (i.e., media
comparison studies) continue to a significant aspect of K-12 distance and online learning research. The
final takeaway is that much of the published research is methodologically limited or the findings are
limited to the individual program(s) where the research occurred.
At this stage of the development of the field, the continued focus of research on media
comparison studies does little to further our understanding of K-12 online learning both due to the
skewed samples found in most of the online learning samples and because of the inherent difficulties in
comparing student performance based solely on method of delivery without controlling for any additional
factors. Beyond this body of comparative research, much of the research has been qualitative in nature
(which can be quite useful for understanding K-12 online learning in a specific setting, but by definition
are not generalizable to other jurisdictions). Further, a significant portion of the body of research suffers
from issue of over reaching (e.g., interviewing a group of hand picked teachers or developers and using
their opinions to generate “best practices”). These shortcomings in the current body of research provide
scholars in the field with a specific path forward.
Future research in the field of K-12 distance and online learning needs to find ways to overcome
these methodological limitations. For example, an astute reader of this chapter will have noticed that in
describing the current body of research that there are numerous exploratory studies, but there is an almost
complete absence of the use of validated instruments. In the previous edition of this handbook, Saba
(2013) wrote that “as needed and important as these [exploratory] studies are, their results are seldom
subjected to experimental data-based research for determining the validity of newly surfaced constructs
beyond their initial exploration” (p. 51). In addition to the use of validated
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instruments, the use of theoretical and conceptual frameworks such as those described in the first part of
this handbook can be used by researchers to help explain the relationships within an individual program
or a specific system within that program. Again, a keen reader of this chapter would have also noticed few
examples of research that was based on or that utilized theoretical or conceptual frameworks to explain
relationships or guide the exploration of different variables. All of these shortcomings provide researchers
with guidance for future research within the field of K-12 online and distance learning.
Notes
1 Terms such as full-time, supplemental, virtual school, and cyber school are described in the following section.
1 A significant portion of K-12 distance education in Canada is still delivered using correspondence, instructional televisions and
video conferencing delivery models.
1 See the VISCED Project website at http://www.virtualschoolsandcolleges.info/ and the VISCED Project wiki at http://virtual-
learning.referata.com/wiki/Main_Page
1 A second version of these standards has been released (see iNACOL, 2011a). These updated standards are supposedly based
upon research conducted in the States of Texas and California, however, the standards document does not mention any specific
details or findings from this research and there has yet to any formal presentation or publication of this “research.”
1 iNACOL has also released an updated version of these “national standards” (see iNACOL, 2011b).
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i Terms such as full-time, supplemental, virtual school, and cyber school are described in the following section.
ii A significant portion of K-12 distance education in Canada is still delivered using correspondence, instructional televisions and video conferencing delivery models.
iii See the VISCED Project website at http://www.virtualschoolsandcolleges.info/ and the VISCED Project wiki at http://virtual-learning.referata.com/wiki/Main_Page
iv A second version of these standards has been released (see iNACOL, 2011a). These updated standards are supposedly based upon research conducted in the States of Texas and California, however, the standards document does not mention any specific details or findings from this research and there has yet to any formal presentation or publication of this “research.”
v iNACOL has also released an updated version of these “national standards” (see iNACOL, 2011b).
... Within the field of remote teaching in educational research is an emergent call for theoretical foundations. The ambition is that such foundations can contribute to the theoretical development of knowledge in a field characterized by empirical contributions (Barbour, 2019;Borup & Stevens, 2016;Lokey-Vega et al., 2018;Pulham & Graham, 2018). Moreover, empirical and theoretical contributions on learning environments within remote, distance, and virtual teaching have primarily focused on the perspectives of remote teachers. ...
... In the 2000s, digital technologies became more advanced (and affordable), which made it possible to extend the provision of teaching to pupils in rural areas. In 2016-2017, about 8,000,000 American pupils participated in remote teaching courses (Barbour, 2018(Barbour, , 2019. The same development can be seen in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (for a more detailed account of remote and distance teaching, see Clark, 2003Clark, , 2007Clark, , 2013. ...
... To conclude, our aim in this paper has been to use theoretical development to contribute to a field that is otherwise mostly characterized by empirical contributions, and with a primary focus on the practice and perspectives of teachers (Barbour, 2019;Borup & Stevens, 2016;Borup, West et al., 2014;Lokey-Vega et al., 2018;Pulham & Graham, 2018). To theoretically understand the development and use of remote teaching, we have focused on the interaction between systems of human activity in education and the relationships enacted in practice through their interaction, with a focus on on-site facilitators' work. ...
Article
The aim of this paper is to contribute to theoretical development within a field otherwise mostly characterized by empirical contributions, with a primary focus on the practice and perspectives of on-site facilitators. To theoretically understand the development and use of remote teaching, we focus on the interaction between systems of human activity in education and the relationships enacted in practice through their interaction, with a focus on on-site facilitators’ work. In doing so, we use the concept levels of scale in situated learning. Through levels of scale, we conceptualize the historical development of remote teaching as the large scale and the remote learning environment as the small scale. Integrating the levels of scale and tracing the historical development of remote teaching in Sweden into the enactments taking place in a classroom of modern language teaching is the concrete theoretical development that our aim entails.
... While there has been recent growth in the research base on K-12 online learning (Arnesen, et al., 2019), Barbour (2018) argues that while "the use of distance and online learning at the K-12 level is growing dramatically…the literature -and in particular the research -to support the effective design, delivery and support of K-12 distance and online learning has not kept pace" (pg. 521). ...
... 3). And again Barbour (2018) reiterates this conclusion that "within the field of K-12 online learning there has been almost universal agreement that while there are some similarities, the practice of teaching in an online environment is different and requires a different set of skills than teaching in a traditional face-to-face environment" (p. 530). ...
... 12). The research has not yet fully defined effective online teaching strategies, providing little guide to those training online teachers and even where pieces have been defined, for many virtual teachers finding the intersection between best practices and practical application can be elusive (Barbour, 2018;Lewis & Abdul-Hamid, 2006). ...
Thesis
This dissertation consists of three papers. "Online Learning, Offline Outcomes: Online Course Taking and High School Student Performance." This paper uses fixed effects models to estimate differences in contemporaneous and downstream academic outcomes for students who take courses virtually and face-to-face, both for initial attempts and for students taking courses for credit recovery. We find that while contemporaneous outcomes are positive for virtual students in both settings, downstream outcomes vary by attempt type. For first-time course-takers, virtual course-taking is associated with decreases in the likelihood of taking and passing follow-on courses, and of a measure designed to proxy for graduation readiness. For credit recovery students, virtual course-taking is associated with increased likelihood of taking and passing follow-on courses, and of being in line for graduation. Supplemental analyses suggest that selection on unobservables would have to be substantial to render these results null. "Bridging School Data Use in Principle and in Practice." This paper seeks to better understand the practice of data use for improvement in schools, as well as how well research literature on school data use captures the process as it unfolds in practice. To do so, I first synthesize leading research literature to create a framework reflecting the “in principle” guidance for school data use. This framework is then used to describe and understand the practice of data use in a high-data-use school over a two-year case study. My primary finding is that while the “in principle” guidance for data use captures many important components of the process, it understates the complexity in the relationships between these components. The consequence of this understatement is a bifurcation of the supports required for data use and the process of school data use, belying the reciprocal interdependence that I argue better describes their connectedness. "Allocations and Expectations: Comparing Teacher Reports of Virtual and Face-to-Face Instruction." This paper relies on a teacher survey asking teachers to describe their experiences teaching both in face-to-face classrooms and in a well-established statewide virtual learning system. The responses are used to create two groups, face-to-face and virtual, made up of the same set of individuals. I then compare the similarities and differences between the two learning modalities. Statistically significant differences are found in the time allocated to several common teaching tasks, in several aspects of the work environment, in expectations for common materials and practices, and in the overall impression of the curriculum and materials. Ultimately, my findings point to a need for more research of this type to better understand the practice of virtual instruction and how it differs from traditional face-to-face instruction. For policy and practice, this work also suggests a need for greater recognition of these differences, and the strengthening of systems to support and prepare teachers and administrators to be effective in virtual instruction.
... L'uso didattico di video nella scuola dell'obbligo è documentato negli Stati Uniti già agli inizi del XX secolo (Saettler, 2004, citato in Barbour, 2018. Si tratta di un fenomeno con larga diffusione in Nord America ): nell'anno scolastico 2016-17 gli studenti in età dell'obbligo coinvolti in programmi di didattica online erano circa due milioni (Barbour, 2018). Gli studenti che fanno ricorso a tale modalità d'insegnamento possono avere ragioni diverse: studenti che vivono in aree remote, studenti ospedalizzati, atleti professionisti, studenti incarcerati, studenti che hanno bisogno di orari flessibili o con bisogni educativi speciali. ...
... La comunicazione può avvenire sia in modo sincrono, quando gli studenti comunicano con gli insegnanti in diretta, sia in modo asincrono o in una combinazione delle due modalità (Romiszowski & Mason, 2004). Sebbene le documentazioni di programmi d'istruzione online non scarseggino, la letteratura a disposizione è spesso di tipo aneddotico più che di ricerca , gli esempi legati alla scuola primaria sono pochissimi (Barbour, 2018;Cavanaugh et al., 2009;Di Pietro, 2010;Ferdig et al., 2009;Rice, 2006) e mancano studi specifici rispetto al contenuto d'insegnamento (Di Pietro et al., 2008). Per quanto riguarda la matematica, i corsi online documentati riguardano soprattutto l'algebra dato che molte scuole rurali nord-americane non avrebbero altrimenti accesso ad insegnanti qualificati (Kosko et al., 2014). ...
... Esistono studi che testimoniano, per la matematica, risultati migliori nel contesto a distanza rispetto a quello in presenza (si veda, ad esempio, Hughes et al., 2007), ma per via di limiti metodologici, tali risultati sono scarsamente generalizzabili (Rice, 2006). In generale, si osservano risultati particolarmente positivi nel caso di corsi di recupero, mentre la scuola online a tempo pieno sembra avere scarsa efficacia rispetto a quella in presenza (Barbour, 2018). Vari ricercatori concordano sul fatto che non è tanto il mezzo elettronico a fare la differenza nell'efficacia di un corso, quanto il ruolo del docente, dell'apprendente e delle modalità di apprendimento-insegnamento all'interno del particolare contesto dato dall'educazione a distanza Kosko et al., 2014;Rice, 2006). ...
Article
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Attraverso due studi di caso, si propone una riflessione sull’attività matematica individuale che i bambini della scuola primaria svolgono a casa e su come l’interazione con i genitori influenzi tale attività. Dopo aver presentato una breve rassegna della letteratura sul tema del “fare scuola a casa” e del rapporto dei genitori con i compiti di matematica dei figli, si analizzano qualitativamente dati raccolti durante il lockdown e relativi a due studenti di classe terza della scuola primaria italiana.
... But even while engaged in these individual online courses, this small number of students were still physically located in their brickand-mortar school -often under the direct supervision of a teacher or paraprofessional in an online learning or computer lab, the learning resource centre or library, or even the back of a classroom. This form of supplemental distance learning (Barbour, 2019), for a very small population of students, has been available in most jurisdictions since the late 1990s or early 2000s. ...
... However, during the 2020-21 school year, many jurisdictions gave parents/guardians the option to enroll their students in these full-time distance, online learning opportunities. For a variety of reasons (e.g., presence of immune-compromised family members in the household, general public health concerns about the community or region, concerns about the disruption from sudden school lock-downs and/or the back and forth between in-person and remote learning, etc.), parents/guardians decided to enroll their children in a model of learning where the student did not attend a brick-and-mortar school at all, but rather completed all of their learning at a distance online (Barbour, 2019). In most cases, these K-12 online learning opportunities were provided by existing distance and online learning providers -some of whom had a history of providing supplemental and full-time learning opportunities for over two decades. ...
Article
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While the use of distance and online learning had been used for over a century in the K-12 setting (including in isolated ways during previous pandemics and natural disasters), the complete worldwide closure of schools focused attention on the use of distance and online tools and content to provide continuity of learning in a remote context. The way in which both practitioners and scholars make sense of what has occurred over the past 18 months, and what is likely to continue into the future, will impact both regular schooling and how we prepare for future crisis. This article explores this pandemic pedagogy, with a goal of situating the events since March 2020 within the broader field and providing guidance on a path forward. Available online at https://jdsr.se/ojs/index.php/jdsr/article/view/107
... Även om utbildningsformen distansundervisning funnits sedan 1700-talet har de tekniska möjligheterna öppnat upp för utveckling av såväl fjärr-som distansundervisning. Forskningsartiklar inom området är fortfarande spridda i flera olika tidskrifter vilket kan göra att det är svårt att skapa sig en överblick och se mönster (Barbour, 2018). Studier som görs inom området är småskaliga och ofta utan teoretisk förankring (Arnesen et al., 2019). ...
Technical Report
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This is an electronic reprint of the original article. This reprint may differ from the original in pagination and typographic detail. Cite as: Åkerfeldt, A., Hilli, C., Bergdahl, N., & Hrastinski, S. (2022) [Design for learning in remote and distance education: a focus on presence and digital learning environments ]Att designa för fjärr- och distansundervisning med fokus på digitala lärmiljöer och närvaro. Published in: Anna Åkerfelt (Ed.). Digitala lärmiljöer – likvärdig utbildning med fjärr- och distansundervisning (Report series 2022:2) - Slutrapport från FoU-programmet DigiLi. (pp- 51-82)
... Izobraževanje na daljavo v običajnih okoliščinah, v katerih se posameznik vanj zavestno vključi, ima v primerjavi z izobraževanjem v živo tako prednosti kot pomanjkljivosti (Barbour, 2019 1) zagotoviti dostop do interneta ter potrebno opremo (računalniki, prenosniki, tablični računalniki); 2) vzpostaviti ustrezno virtualno učno okolje (Virtual Learning Enviroment, VLE), ki učencem omogoča dostop do učnih gradiv ter jih povezuje s sošolci in učiteljem in spodbuja učenje na daljavo; 3) ponovno premisliti o izobraževanju prek medijev, kot sta radio in TV; 4) izboljšati dostopnost učne tehnologije otrokom s posebnimi potrebami in/ali oviranostmi (SEND -Special Education Needs and/or Disabilities); 5) podpreti učitelje: spodbuditi jih k prilagoditvi lastne vloge potrebam in značilnostim poučevanja na daljavo, pri katerem je komunikacija z učenci možna zgolj s pomočjo tehnologije ter pri katerem tudi dobri učenci izgubljajo motivacijo za učenje; dvigniti njihove digitalne kompetence ter zagotoviti usposabljanje za smiselno rabo tehnologije v pogojih poučevanja na daljavo ali kombiniranih razmerah; ...
Book
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During the second wave of the covid-19 epidemic Slovenian primary schools switched back to distance education. The survey was carried out to investigate how distance learning in Slovenian language and mathematics worked from the perspective of the students and how was their social – emotional response to whole situation. The study involved students in grades 6 and 9 who completed a questionnaire. We found some interesting results about distance classes and also about students’ resiliency, self-regulation of learning Slovene language and math, self-efficacy of learning and social-emotional response during school closure.
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This paper explores synchronous remote teaching as a pedagogical practice and elaborates upon a framework with which to understand the practice theoretically. The empirical backdrop comprises remote teaching practice in Sweden, where this practice is implemented via digital technology and with an onsite facilitator who is present with the students. The pedagogical triangle is revisited, examined, and explored in relation to remote teaching as a new pedagogical practice. In the theoretical elaboration, the pedagogical triangle is reshaped into a pyramid due to the onsite facilitator’s participation in the remote teaching. This elaboration is a first step to establishing a theoretical understanding of remote teaching practice on its own terms.
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Την άνοιξη του 2020, κατά τη διάρκεια της πανδημίας Covid-19, εισήχθη στην Ελλάδα η σχολική εξ αποστάσεως διδασκαλία, πρακτική η οποία ανέτρεψε άρδην τα εκπαιδευτικά δεδομένα. Το γεγονός αυτό, σε συνδυασμό με τις συνθήκες της ψηφιακής εποχής, μετασχημάτισε συνολικά την εκπαίδευση, αναδεικνύοντας νέες απαιτήσεις και ρόλους για τους εκπαιδευτικούς. Με την παρούσα ποσοτική έρευνα, η οποία εκπονήθηκε τον Μάρτιο του 2021, μελετήθηκαν οι απόψεις διδασκόντων σε Γυμνάσια και Γενικά Λύκεια όλης της Ελλάδας (Ν=180), σχετικά με την έννοια του επαγγελματισμού. Παράλληλα, διερευνήθηκε η υλοποίηση της τηλεκπαίδευσης κατά τα σχολικά έτη 2019-20 και 2020-21 μέσα από τη σύγκριση των δεξιοτήτων και των πρακτικών τους, τόσο μεταξύ των δύο περιόδων, όσο και γενικότερα, πριν και μετά την εξ αποστάσεως διδασκαλία. Επιπλέον, εξετάστηκαν οι προθέσεις των συμμετεχόντων για μελλοντική αξιοποίηση των νέων ψηφιακών δυνατοτήτων, όχι μόνο σε έκτακτες περιπτώσεις, αλλά και συστηματικότερα, εντός της φυσικής τάξης. Στα αποτελέσματα αποκαλύπτεται η ετοιμότητα των εκπαιδευτικών να ανταποκριθούν στις προκλήσεις του επαγγέλματος και καταγράφεται η στάση τους απέναντι στις ΤΠΕ. Τέλος, αναγνωρίζεται η θετική επίδραση της όλης διαδικασίας στην επαγγελματική τους ανάπτυξη, δεδομένων και των εμποδίων που κατόρθωσαν να υπερβούν, ενώ αναδεικνύεται η σαφής πρόθεση ορισμένων να μεταβούν σε νέα σχήματα διδασκαλίας και επαγγελματικών πρακτικών. Σημείο – κλειδί για την εξαγωγή των συμπερασμάτων αποτελούν οι ιδιάζουσες ψυχολογικές συνθήκες που δημιούργησε η υγειονομική κρίση, κάτω από τις οποίες εργάστηκαν εκπαιδευτικοί και μαθητές.
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At-home learning initiatives arose as a response to school closures due to COVID-19. This study interviewed 17 secondary teachers to explore the implementation of at-home learning in the province of Ontario, Canada. Findings suggest four thematic areas arising from the data: growing equity disparities, poor policy communication, factors influencing successful emergency remote teaching (technological and pedagogical), and impacts to academic and socio-emotional/mental health. This article proposes an integrated model for school recovery that will engage three levels of the education system: (1) school-level efforts including high-dosage tutoring and teacher collaboration and teacher looping strategies, (2) building partnerships with community organizations for wrap-around support for the most marginalized communities, and (3) parental engagement through actionable messages and tips by text to help parents support student learning. In the end, Ontario teachers rose to the challenge of providing students with consistent learning during the pandemic.
Conference Paper
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This work presents the evolving definition, theoretical framework, and praxis of the i2Flex/blended methodology across the three schools of ACS Athens. It focuses particularly on the impact of the i2Flex culture for the teaching and learning on the Elementary School during the COVID-19 pandemic, discussing it through the qualitative lens of visual metaphors.
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Barbour, M. K. (2010). Researching K-12 online learning: What do we know and what should we examine? Distance Learning, 7(2), 7-12. https://www.usdla.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Vol.-7-No.-2-2010.pdf
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Many involved with the practice or study of K-12 online and blended learning are familiar with the American context. It surrounds us in the media and published research. However, online and blended learning is occurring in meaningful ways to address specific K-12 student needs all around the globe. There are several areas where the international practice is consistent with what we know about the United States (e.g., similar evolutions, early initiatives were government-funded, many of the labels are similar). At the same time, there are some key differences internationally. While far less is known about K-12 online and blended learning in international contexts, programs in these jurisdictions are just as keen to tell their own success stories and undertake cyclic research to improve the design, delivery, and facilitation of their programs. As American-based researchers, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that these research-based lessons are known to our various stakeholders. Retrieved from http://repository.cmu.edu/etcpress/82/
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This study identifies competencies specific and beneficial to online high school teachers that are modifying their own courses. Existing instructional design standards, available to guide online teachers, are not only too numerous, they are also inconsistent. Moreover, a lack of clarity exists about which specific standards benefit this emerging professional group in the process of developing and revising their courses. The Delphi design enabled participants in related fields and separated by physical distance to make and refine judgments without stress and with anonymity, to achieve consensus on specific competencies. Based on this consensus, online high school educators now have a clearly defined set of instructional design competencies that will support modifying learning objects within their classes.
Technical Report
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Over the last five years, the National Education Policy Center has published a Virtual Schools in the U.S.: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence report. As an extension of the data collected for the Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017 report (Molnar et al. 2017), the lead authors produced case studies for five states (i.e., Ohio, Wisconsin, Idaho, Washington, and Michigan). The goal of these case studies was to describe the enrollment, characteristics, and performance of virtual and blended schools in that state over the previous year; discuss the research related to the virtual and blended school characteristics and outcomes, as well as the legislative activities; and examine the legislation and policies that have been introduced (and enacted) over the past two years. These five case studies reveal a great degree of consistency between the different states. For example, most of the full-time virtual schools in each of the five states were independent (i.e., not run by EMOs). However, the vast majority of students attend a virtual school that is operated by an EMO. Virtual schools also had far more students for each teacher compared to traditional public schools. Further, virtual school students underperformed compared to their traditional public school counterparts. In addition to the similarities across the cases, when it came to student enrollment, student characteristics, and student performance, with the exception of Michigan there was a general lack of empirical research related to full-time virtual schools (and almost no research related to blended schools). Finally, with the exception of Idaho, there was also a general lack of legislative activity over the two years reviewed for this report. Given that each of these five case studies was generated using data from the latest Virtual Schools in the U.S.: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence report, it is important to examine the recommendations made by Molnar et al. (2017) based on the national data. However, based on the data from these five individual states, we recommend the following. - Policymakers need to slow or stop the growth in the number of virtual schools and the size of their enrollments until the reasons for their relatively poor performance have been identified and addressed. They should prioritize understanding why virtual schools perform poorly under a college- and career-ready accountability system and how their performance can be improved prior to expansion. - Policymakers need to create long-term programs to support independent research on and evaluation of virtual and blended schooling. - Policymakers need to develop new funding formulas based on the actual costs of operating virtual schools and new accountability structures for virtual schools, including guidelines and governance mechanisms to ensure that virtual schools do not prioritize profit over student performance. Further policymakers need to assess the contributions of various providers to student achievement, and close virtual schools and programs that do not contribute to student growth. - Policymakers need to define certification training and relevant teacher licensure requirements specific to teaching responsibilities in virtual schools, require research-based professional development to promote effective online teaching models, and work with emerging research to develop valid and comprehensive teacher evaluation rubrics that are specific to online teaching.
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Research suggests that collaborative learning designs, which require interaction with teachers and peers, can promote engagement and learning for online courses. Many K-12 students seek supplemental online courses to meet graduation requirements and desire flexibility, which often conflicts with required interactions. This paper asserts that online independent study learners may create a proximate community of engagement (PCE) to provide the benefits of collaboration and interactions. Using the adolescent community of engagement (ACE) framework as a lens for identifying interactions, this study surveyed K-12 independent study students to assess their perception of the need for interaction with a support community while completing an online course. Results showed that students perceive the benefits of such a community and plan to receive support from parents, teachers, and counselors proximate to their location. The perception of the need was significantly greater for students taking a course for credit recovery than those taking the course for the first time. Course providers can coach independent study students and family on how to create a proximate community of engagement.
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This study examined existing K-12 online teacher preparation programs in the United States to ascertain the degree to which teachers are prepared to function in online/blended classroom learning environments. This study used a content analysis approach. Research specifically targeted online teacher preparation programs implemented in institutions of higher education. The researcher collected data from state offices of education and institution deans through email surveys inquiring about the existence and capacity of K-12 online teaching endorsements, course descriptions, and other course documents.
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Student disconnectedness remains a serious concern in K-12 online learning—especially in programs where students take most or all of their coursework online. In this research we examined a “shepherding program” designed to encourage a sense of community among teachers and students at an online charter school. Every online teacher served as a “shepherd” for 20 to 25 students and worked to establish close relationships with each student. Data was collected through 5 teacher focus groups, 5 one-on-one teacher interviews, and 10 one-on-one student interviews. A qualitative analysis using Rovai’s sense of community framework examined how the shepherding program influenced shepherd-student relationships. The analysis found that the program was successful in establishing a sense of community and students and teachers shared experiences highlighting feelings of spirit, trust, interaction, and learning. © 2018, Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. All rights reserved.
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As enrollments in cyber charter schools grow, it becomes increasingly important to understand how parents engage in their students’ learning. Researchers have hypothesized that parental engagement is even more critical when online students learn from home, but few researchers have examined parents’ engagement behavior—especially parents of adolescent learners. In this case study we addressed this gap using parent and student interviews at a full-time online charter school. Our analysis of 19 interviews with 9 parents and 10 interviews with 10 students identified five primary types of parental engagement within this setting: (1) nurturing relationships and interactions, (2) advising and mentoring, (3) organizing, (4) monitoring and motivating student engagement, and (5) instructing. We also identified obstacles to effective parental engagement, and in this paper we discuss how programs can work with parents to foster more collaborative relationships.
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Efforts to identify K-12 online instructional best practices and standards have been limited because they largely ignored students’ voice—the primary stakeholder in any educational context. In this case study, we conducted 20 interviews among 10 students enrolled in a cyber charter high school. Qualitative analysis of interviews found that students valued teachers’ efforts to nurture caring relationships, facilitate sustained dialogue, design and organize engaging learning activities, and provide personalized instruction. However, students found that teachers varied in their abilities to effectively perform these activities and provided recommendations to improve how courses were designed and how teachers interacted with students. Although findings from this case study should not be generalized, these findings may prove insightful to those in similar contexts. Research should continue to obtain and understand online students’ voices and assist cyber schools as they work to respond to students’ needs.