SITE 2011 - Strictly Business: Teacher Perceptions of Interaction in Virtual Schooling


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Hawkins, A., Barbour, M. K., & Graham, C. (2011, March). Strictly business: Teacher perceptions of interaction in virtual schooling. A paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, Nashville, TN.

This study explored the nature of teacher-student interaction from the perspective of eight virtual school teachers in an asynchronous, self-paced, statewide, supplemental virtual high school. Teacher interviews revealed the majority of interactions were student-initiated and instructional in nature. The main procedural interactions focused on notifications sent to inactive students. Social interactions were minimal and viewed as having little pedagogical value. Institutional barriers such as class size and an absence of effective tracking mechanisms limited the amount and types of interaction teachers engaged in. Study implications and future research are discussed.

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  • How many of you have heard of K12 online learning. Virtual high schools or even elementary schools?Virtual schooling is a relatively recent phenomenon in K-12 distance education (Cavanaugh, Barbour, & Clark, 2009). Spawned by federal legislation and funding, goals of educational equity, dreams of cost reductions, and research supporting its effectiveness (Barbour & Reeves, 2009), virtual schooling has, in a short amount of time, spread across 48 states (Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, 2010), reached an estimated 1,030,000 students (Picciano & Seaman, 2009), and penetrated to all grade levels (Watson et al., 2010). In as little as fourteen years, virtual schooling has become a viable alternative in the United States K-12 educational landscape.
  • Mason, R. (1991). Moderating educational computer conferencing. DEOSNEWS, 1(19) .Heinemann, M. H. (2005). Teacher-student interaction and learning in online theological education part II: Additional theoretical frameworks. Christian Higher Education, 4(4), 277-297.
  • The context of study was the same for all of the articles: Utah’s Electronic High School.It was established in 1994 and is one of the oldest and largest in the US.Several aspects of EHS make it distinct among virtual schools:Self-paced (students proceed at own pace with little or no interaction between students).Supplemental (vast majority of students us EHS to supplement their either brick and mortar or home school curriculum)Open Entry: start and stop at any time. Not tied to any calendar. Again impacts interaction.There are high student ratios: 1:233.With ranges from 2 (apenglish) to 3024 (financial literacy)Curriculum: 66 unique courses at time of study across 11 disciplines
  • Utah’s Electronic High School…Oldest and largest in U.S.Singular in natureSelf-pacedSupplemental (primarily)Open-entry/open-exit modelHigh student-to-teacher ratiosDiverse curriculum and student body
  • Steady increase in completion rates as the program ages
  • Least common
  • Least common
  • High student teacher ratios make it difficult for teachers to be anything more than reactive/responsive to student actions only.The absence of a robust tracking system makes it difficult for teachers to keep track of who is and isn’t progressing before it gets too late and they are notified of being dropped.
  • What are teachers and students actually doing online? Ethnographic methods would shed light on this.This study focused solely on teachers’ experience. Future research could examine interaction from the student’s perspective and what is valuable.Since non-completers are such a large population at EHS it would be good to uncover reasons fo disengagement, withdrawal and stopping out. Understanding the experience from the point of view of students can assist in modifying the design and delivery on online instruction that should benefit all students.
  • SITE 2011 - Strictly Business: Teacher Perceptions of Interaction in Virtual Schooling

    1. 1. Strictly Business: Teacher Perceptions of Interaction in Virtual Schooling Abigail Hawkins, Brigham Young; Michael Barbour, Wayne State; Charles Graham, Brigham YoungSITE 2011
    2. 2. K-12 online learning....Really? States with virtual schools/online initiatives, full-time programs, or both 2,000,000 students Kindergarten > HS 1997: 3 States 2010: 48 States Keeping Pace with K12 Online Learning, 2010 2
    3. 3. Background Literature Relative little research in K-12 virtual schooling Higher education research  Interaction tied to satisfaction, perceived learning, academic performance  Problematic to generalize K-12 virtual schooling research  “Paucity” of research examining relationships  Teacher role critical yet few studies examining what that role is precisely. 3
    4. 4. Interaction Types Procedural Instructional Social 4
    5. 5. Research Question1. How do teachers perceive their interactions with students? 5
    6. 6. The CaseUtah’s Electronic High School… Oldest and largest in U.S. Singular in nature  Self-paced  Supplemental (primarily)  Open-entry/open-exit model High student-to-teacher ratios Diverse curriculum and student body Webcam 6
    7. 7. Dimensions of EHS None
    8. 8. Completion Rates: All enrollments 35 30 High attrition rates 31.1 25 % completion 20 19.8 15 10.5 11.3 10 5 0 2005 (n=802) 2006 (n=4493) 2007 (n=32,065) 2008 (n=47937) years
    9. 9. MethodsComponent DescriptionParticipants… 8 teachers 4 disciplines (Math, Science, English, Social Science) Equal class sizes (62-985 students) Avg. years teaching F2F: 18 Avg. years teaching online: 6.9 Part time (exception 1 full time EHS employee)Data Collection… Case method Intensity sampling (high and low completion rates) Semi-structured interviewsData Analysis… Theme analysis Constant comparative method 9
    10. 10. Findings: Instructional Interactions Majority of interactions Majority of teacher’s time Student initiated Class size = Reactive If they ask for extra help. That’s not a problem. If they do that, I’ll give them the extra help that they need. But if they don’t let me know that they are having a problem, I treat them like any other student. Carl, Social Science 10
    11. 11. Findings: Instructional Interactions Absence of Face-to Face Feedback  One thing that I miss is the face-to-face exchange because I see in their eyes or in their facial expression or body language if they have given up on this. . . . If a student doesn’t get it [at EHS], I don’t see that. And I’m not sure, or I just proceed on, or they proceed on through the course, and I think that they have understood it.  Mark, U.S. History Teacher 11
    12. 12. Findings: Procedural Interactions Notification of inactivity 12
    13. 13. Findings: Social Interactions Paradoxical view of value They want to get through it and not chit-chat with the teacher. So I try to keep it professional and business approach to their online education. 13
    14. 14. Findings: Social Interactions Paradoxical view of value • I care if they are passing. I care if they are understanding. But I don’t know them to care. So it’s not a personal caring. It’s a generalized, “I hope you do well.” … I kind of feel hopeful that they make it through and survive and accomplish those goals. But I don’t actually put a face to anybody. They don’t know me and I don’t know them. We’re just connecting through a cyber space here. 14
    15. 15. Structural Barriers Make Interaction Difficult 1 : 233 Tracking System
    16. 16. Implications for Teachers• Proactively reach out to struggling students.• Institute smaller class sizes to give teachers time to interact• Implement onsite mentors• Self-disclose more as teachers— humor, personal self, informal tone• Show students alternative forms of communication to promote more social interaction
    17. 17. Future Research Use ethnographic methods Capture students’ voice Focus on experience of non-completer 17
    18. 18. Questions Abby Hawkins Sr. Instructional Designer, Adobe Systems Inc Michael Barbour Assistant Professor, Wayne State University Charles R Graham Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University