Good morning everyone and welcome to our state board meeting. My name is Zoe Brown, Online Learning Project Director, and I will be presenting information about effective K-12 Online Learning.
Picture a time when you were seated in a classroom as a child. What sensations do you get? What images do you recall? What was your experience like? Many of us have vivid images and reminders of our classroom experiences as children. More than likely our paradigm of education is focused on what happened then…10, 15, 20, 25 or maybe even 30 years ago. The landscape of education has changed over the past 20 years. What is happening now is the tremendous growth of online learning.
For the purposes of this presentation, it helps to define what we mean by online learning and here is a definition from the U.S. Department of Education. Does anyone else have another definition that might shed light on this growing phenomenon?
According to the United States Department of Education (2010), “Online learning—for students and for teachers—is one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology”.
In fact, in the report, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, the U.S. Department of Education cited statistics from The National Center for Education Statistics (2008) which “estimated that the number of K-12 public school students enrolling in a technology-based distance education course grew by 65 percent in the two years from 2002-03 to 2004-05.”
The report also notes another survey indicating that more than 1 million K-12 students took an online course in 2007-2008. That being said, online learning is hard to ignore.
In ourstate, there are 3 main reasons why an online learning program should be considered.Student demand is increasing. According to a recent district survey of middle and high school students from across the state, 70% of the student population is interested in taking online courses. Although their reasons vary, from access to AP college courses to retaking failed courses, students clearly would like to have more control over their learning experience.There needs to be a wholehearted commitment from the entire district to build 21st century skills in students. Online learning provides an opportunity for students to build skills like self direction/regulation, autonomy, critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning skills. It would benefit our community and society on a whole to ensure that our students were prepared to live and work in the global society.Lawmakers and officials in the Ohio Department of Education have expressed an interest in exploring online learning due to initiatives in others states – Florida, Michigan and Alabama – which have implemented successful online learning programs and virtual schools. There also seems to be some pressure from around the state in various communities to explore online learning for districts, particularly those in rural communities.
Cathy Cavanaugh, an industry expert and co-editor of the book, What Works in K-12 Online Learning provides helpful insight. Based on her book, I extracted five components – student characteristics, course design factors, instructional factors, technological approaches, and administrative practices that lead to the successful implementation of K-12 online learning programs. This presentation recommends guidelines to address these 5 components and the risks that may emerge if these recommendations are not followed.
Let’s start by looking at the guidelines for students.
Our guidelines need to address the needs of all students regardless of their purpose for taking online courses. Students taking remedial courses online will probably need different support from those students taking AP courses. Also, learning styles are an important aspect to consider when devising guidelines in order to meet the needs of the spectrum of students who will be taking online courses. Planning to use data from student learning style inventories may provide useful information for course design and instruction. Lastly, we need to develop guidelines that encompass an evaluation process about course quality from a student perspective. By focusing on these guidelines, we will ensure that our online learning program is student centered. If not, we run the risk of investing in a program that ignores the needs of our students, which ultimately could impact student outcomes.
Now let’s consider guidelines for course design.
Guidelines for course design need to focus on how to make online courses rich in interaction, collaboration and support. These have been identified as key success factors in online learning programs. They also have implications for teacher professional development because teachers need to know how to create such courses and right now, pre-service preparation of teachers seems to be lacking in online course design. Additionally, online course design needs guidelines that ensure students expand their conceptual and experiential backgrounds through the use of the various online communication tools. According to Cavanaugh et. al.,(2004), Online learning environments, when designed to fully use the many tools of communication that are available, is often a more active, constructive, and cooperative experience than classroom learning (p.8). Lastly, guidelines for developing stimulating online materials must be established, according to Cavanaugh. These materials must be user-friendly, downloadable, and interactive within the context of appropriate permission and copyright use. By focusing on these guidelines, we can ensure learning effectiveness and student success. If we ignore course design principles, we run the risk of setting up our students for failure.
Let’s look at instructional approaches next.
Teacher quality and professional development in an online learning program are key indicators of success for students. Our guidelines must ensure that we focus on professional development that addresses the unique nature of online instruction. Researchers at the University of Florida studied 16 virtual school teachers from the Michigan Virtual School in 2008. They identified thirty seven best practices among teachers in general characteristics, classroom management, and pedagogical strategies all of which have practical application toward the professional development of teachers and the direction of future research. We would risk the quality of our online learning program if we didn’t focus on making sure that our teachers were prepared to instruct in an online environment. Also, contributing to research in this area will help to advance the field of online learning in K-12 environments.
Our next guideline for consideration is technological approaches.
We cannot debate the value of the internet and the world wide web in education. Not only does it provide a wealth of information for students to use, it provides a platform for technology used in online learning programs. We need guidelines that provide us direction on how to leverage the internet and keep up with its growth. Cultivating information and communication technology skills in our students are important to cultivating 21st century skills in them. Online learning provides a platform for students to grow in these skills and ultimately compete in a larger global society. We must make it a point to address information and communication technologies in our guidelines. Additionally, research has shown that blended learning environments that use a combination of asynchronous (e.g., e-mail, threaded discussion boards, newsgroups) and synchronous (e.g., webcasting, chat rooms, desktop audio/video technology) learning tools report more positive effects than environments that focused on just one tool. Our guidelines must include direction on which tools are most appropriate to use in different learning contexts. If we overlook the importance technology in our guidelines, we run the risk of obsolescence.
Next let’s consider administrative services.
Administrative guidelines will provide the backbone to our online learning program. All students need support so that they have a successful experience and demonstrate positive outcomes. Mentoring, peer groups, and technical support are just a few of the ways that we can provide students with strong support services. Lastly, adopting sound data management practices will allow us to collect meaningful data, report findings to key stakeholders, and engage in data driven decision making. Without administrative guidelines, we risk jeopardizing the backbone of our online learning program.
In summary, developing online learning guidelines focused on these 5 components lead to the successful implementation of K-12 online learning programs. The guidelines that I introduced for each component are important, but perhaps just the tip of the iceberg. There is a so much more to consider, but at least we have a starting point. We need to enlist the support of all key stakeholders in this effort, including students, parents, educators, administrators, and policy makers. During our next meeting, we will be introducing the task force that has been assembled to take on this effort. If you are interested and have any suggestions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your attention this morning. I hope that the presentation gave you something to think about. Do you have any questions at this time?
1 million students<br />in<br />2007-2008<br />
Why an Online Program in our District?<br />Student demand is increasing<br />AP college level courses<br />Remedial courses<br />Failed courses<br />Need to build 21st century skills in students<br />Self direction/regulation<br />Critical thinking<br />Problem solving<br />Reasoning<br />A new interest is emerging<br />Several states have adopted policies for virtual schools<br />Constituent pressure<br />
Guidelines: Student <br />Address the needs of students who are at different ends of the academic continuum <br />Address the different learning styles of students<br />Evaluate the quality of the course from a student perspective<br />
Guidelines: Course Design<br />Create courses that are rich in interaction, collaboration, and support<br />Ensure that online courses allow students to expand their conceptual and experiential background<br />Develop stimulating online materials <br />
Guidelines for Instruction<br />Consider teacher professional development that addresses the unique nature of online instruction<br />Engage in and contribute to research about the teaching and learning process <br />
Guidelines: Technological Approaches<br />Make the world wide web a central focus<br />Immerse students in information and communication technologies<br />Combine asynchronous and synchronous communication tools<br />
References<br />Cavanaugh, C. , & Blomeyer, R. (Eds.). (2007). What works in k-12 online learning. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.<br />Cavanaugh, C., Gillan, K.J., Kromrev, J., Hess, M., & Blomeyer, R. (2004). The effects of distance education on k-12 student outcomes: A meta-analysis. Napersville, IL: Learning Point Associates. Retrieved from www.ncrel.org/tech/distance/k12distance.pdf <br />DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R.E., Black, E.W., & Preston, M. (2008). Best practices in teaching k-12 online: <br />Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 7<br />(1), 12-35. Retrieved from www.ncolr.org/jiol <br />Kay, R. (2010, November). A model for evaluating online learning in secondary school environments. Paper session presented at the meeting of 16th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning, Orlando, FL<br />
References<br />U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf<br />