AECT 2012 - The Landscape of K-12 Online Learning: Examining What Is Known

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Barbour, M. K. (2012, November). The landscape of K-12 online learning: Examining what is known. A paper presented at the annual convention of the Association for Educational Communication and Technology, Louisville, KY.

While the use of online learning at the K-12 level of growing exponentially, the availability of empirical evidence to help guide this growth is severely lacking. The presenter provides an overview of the nature of K-12 online learning today and a critical examination of the literature and – lack of research – supporting its use. The presenter further describes some of the methodological issues surround the limited among of existing research.

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  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • The research is based upon the best and the brightest.
  • However, we know from practice that this does not reflect all or even the majority of K-12 online learners. So the population of students the research focuses on is one of the main limitations of the usefulness (and even the believability) of much of that research.
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • American Journal of Distance Education (United States) - 8 US Journal of Distance Education (Canada) - 4 Cdn / 1 Aus Distance Education (Australia) - 2 Aus / 4 US Journal of Distance Learning (New Zealand) - 1 NZ / 1 Cdn / 1 US-Cdn Last five years - 24 articles out of a total of 262 related to K-12 distance education
  • Another problem is what we measure... 1. Correlation does not equal causality 2. Single studies measure if there is a difference between two groups beyond chance Need for meta-analysis...
  • Cavanaugh (2001) - developmental effects Cavanaugh et al. (2004) - reverse effects Means et al. (2009) - online = teacher effects & blended = developmental effects + teacher effects
  • But does this tell really tell the full story???
  • AECT 2012 - The Landscape of K-12 Online Learning: Examining What Is Known

    1. 1. The Landscape of K-12 Online Learning: Examining What Is Known Michael K. Barbour Assistant Professor Wayne State University
    2. 2. 2
    3. 3. Digital Learning Now1. All students are digital learners.2. All students have access to high quality digital content and online courses.3. All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.4. Students progress based on demonstrated competency.5. Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.6. Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.7. All students have access to high quality providers.8. Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content and instruction.9. Funding creates incentives for performance, options and innovation.10. Infrastructure supports digital learning.
    4. 4. Digital Learning Now1. All students are digital learners.2. All students have access to high quality digital content and online courses.3. All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.4. Students progress based on demonstrated competency.5. Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.6. Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.7. All students have access to high quality providers.8. Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content and instruction.9. Funding creates incentives for performance, options and innovation.10. Infrastructure supports digital learning.
    5. 5. Student Performance• performance of virtual and classroom students in Alberta were similar in English and Social Studies courses, but that classroom students performed better overall in all other subject areas (Ballas & Belyk, 2000)• over half of the students who completed FLVS courses scored an A in their course and only 7% received a failing grade (Bigbie & McCarroll, 2000)
    6. 6. Student Performance• students in the six virtual schools in three different provinces performed no worse than the students from the three conventional schools (Barker & Wendel, 2001)• FLVS students performed better on a non-mandatory assessment tool than students from the traditional classroom (Cavanaugh et al., 2005)
    7. 7. Student Performance• FLVS students performed better on an assessment of algebraic understanding than their classroom counterpart (McLeod et al., 2005)• CDLI students performed as well as classroom-based students on final course scores & exam marks (Barbour & Mulcahy, 2007; 2008)
    8. 8. Digital Learning is High QualityCavanaugh et FLVS students performed speculated that the virtualal., 2005 better on a non- school students who did mandatory assessment take the assessment may tool than students from have been more the traditional classroom academically motivated and naturally higher achieving studentsMcLeod et FLVS students performed results of the studental., 2005 better on an assessment performance were due to of algebraic understanding the high dropout rate in than their classroom virtual school courses counterparts
    9. 9. Barbour & Mulcahy – Ed in Rural Australia (2008)
    10. 10. Barbour & Mulcahy – ERS Spectrum (2009)
    11. 11. Enrollment - English Language Arts
    12. 12. Enrollment - Mathematics
    13. 13. Mulcahy, Dibbon and Norberg (2008)• study of rural schooling in three schools on the south coast of the Labrador• found two had a higher percentage of students enrolled in basic-level courses• speculated because the only way students could do academic course at their school was online, some students specifically chose the basic stream to avoid taking an online course Students who enroll in the basic stream are not eligible for post-secondary admittance!
    14. 14. The Students• the vast majority of VHS Global Consortium students in their courses were planning to attend a four-year college (Kozma, Zucker & Espinoza, 1998)• “VHS courses are predominantly designated as ‘honors,’ and students enrolled are mostly college bound” (Espinoza et al., 1999)
    15. 15. The Students• the preferred characteristics include the highly motivated, self-directed, self-disciplined, independent learner who could read and write well, and who also had a strong interest in or ability with technology (Haughey & Muirhead, 1999)• “only students with a high need to control and structure their own learning may choose distance formats freely” (Roblyer & Elbaum, 2000)
    16. 16. The Students• IVHS students were “highly motivated, high achieving, self-directed and/or who liked to work independently” (Clark et al., 2002)• the typical online student was an A or B student (Mills, 2003)
    17. 17. The Students• 45% of the students who participated in e- learning opportunities in Michigan were “either advanced placement or academically advanced” students (Watkins, 2005)
    18. 18. Literatureindicates K-12online learningstudents are...
    19. 19. Reality of most ora large segmentK-12 onlinelearningstudents?
    20. 20. Digital Learning is High Quality• “…it is evident that the poor test results for students in nonclassroom-based charter schools pull down the average performance of students in charter schools…” (California, 2003)• “Online student scores in math, reading, & writing have been lower than scores for students statewide over the last 3 years.” (Colorado, 2006)• “The estimates for the virtual charter schools are negative, substantial, and (in three of four estimates) statistically significant.” (Ohio, 2009)
    21. 21. Digital Learning is High Quality• “Virtual charter school pupils’ median scores on the mathematics section of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination were almost always lower than statewide medians during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.” (Wisconsin, 2010)• “The AYP ratings for virtual schools managed by EMOs were substantially weaker than the ratings for the brick-and-mortar schools. While only 27.4% of the virtual schools operated by for- profit EMOs met AYP, 51.8% of the brick-and-mortar schools met AYP.” (Nationally, 2011)• “The largest online schools in K-12 lag the state averages among all Arizona public schools in most standardized test scores and in graduation rates.” (Arizona, 2011)
    22. 22. Digital Learning is High Quality• “Online student scores on statewide achievement tests are consistently 14 to 26 percentage points below state averages for reading, writing and math over the past four years.” (Colorado, 2011)• “Of the 23 E-schools rated by the Ohio Department of Education for the 2009-2010 school year, only three rated “effective” or better on the state report card.” (Ohio, 2011)• “Compared with all students statewide, full-time online students had significantly lower proficiency rates on the math.” (Minnesota, 2011)
    23. 23. Digital Learning is High Quality• “During both years [2008-09 & 2009-10], full-time online students enrolled in grades 4-8 made about half as much progress in math, on average, as other students in the same grade. (Minnesota, 2011)• “While the performance of K12 schools on the AYP measure is poor, it is important to note that other EMOs that operate virtual schools have similarly weak performance levels…”• “…there are now more AYP ratings available for K12 schools and we have adjusted the AYP rate for K12 schools downwards to 27.7% which is almost identical to the average for all EMO-operated virtual schools (27.4%).”
    24. 24. Digital Learning is High QualityUniversity of Arkansas Internal Evaluation of the Arkansas Virtual Academy School (ARVA)There were methodological limitations in the sample (all of which favored the online students):• the online sample had several of its lowest performing students removed before they had repeated a grade or had dropped out over the two-year period.• the online sample was a more affluent group.• the online sample had significant fewer minority students.
    25. 25. Digital Learning is High QualityUniversity of Arkansas Internal Evaluation of the Arkansas Virtual Academy School (ARVA)When comparing student performance in mathematics, the researchers found:• students in the face-to-face group increased their performance by 1% more than the online group from grades 3 to 5 (not statistically significant)• students in the online group increased their performance by 5% more than the face-to-face group from grades 4 to 6 (not statistically significant)• students in the online group increased their performance by 2% more than the face-to-face group from grades 5 to 7 (not statistically significant)• students in the online group increased their performance by 16% more than the face-to-face group from grades 6 to 8 (statistically significant at the p=0.10 level)
    26. 26. Digital Learning is High QualityUniversity of Arkansas Internal Evaluation of the Arkansas Virtual Academy School (ARVA)When comparing student performance in literacy, the researchers found:• students in the face-to-face group increased their performance by 3% more than the online group from grades 3 to 5 (not statistically significant)• students in the online group increased their performance by 11% more than the face-to-face group from grades 4 to 6 (statistically significant at the p=0.10 level)• students in the online group increased their performance by 2% more than the face-to-face group from grades 5 to 7 (not statistically significant)• students in the online group increased their performance by 7% more than the face-to-face group from grades 6 to 8 (not statistically significant)
    27. 27. Customization
    28. 28. Analyzing Meta-Analyses Teacher Effects Zone of Desired EffectsDevelopmentalEffectsReverseEffects
    29. 29. K-12 Distance Education Meta-Analysis• Cavanaugh (2001) - 16 studies – +0.147 in favor of K-12 distance education• Cavanaugh et al. (2004) - 14 studies – -0.028 for K-12 distance education• Means et al. (2009) - 46 studies (5 on K-12) – +0.24 favoring online over face-to-face – +0.35 favoring blended over face-to-face*
    30. 30. Results of Interest• Programmed instruction (d=0.24)• Individualized instruction (d=0.23)• Student control over learning (d=0.04)• Second and third chance programs (d=0.50)• Computer assisted instruction (d=0.37)• Decreasing disruptive behavior (d=0.34)• Class size (d=0.21)• Charter schools (d=0.20)• Web-based learning (d=0.18)• Home-school programs (d=0.16)• Teacher training (d=0.11)• Teacher subject matter knowledge (d=0.09)• Distance education (d=0.09) 30
    31. 31. Are students really learning?
    32. 32. Does online learning = high quality?
    33. 33. What’s This Really About???
    34. 34. What Do We Know?What Do We Know?
    35. 35. What Else Do We Know?1. Teachers aren’t being trained.2. No validated standards to guide practice.3. Local support is critical to student success.
    36. 36. What Else Do We Know?4. K-12 online learning costs less.5. Smaller, targeted programs have shown best results.6. Managed growth has prevented academic missteps.
    37. 37. Potential Useful Models1. Requirement to target at-risk or dropped out students. (Michigan)2. Tying funding to completion and performance. (Arizona)3. Focus on quality assurance. (British Columbia/Texas)4. Limiting growth. (Multiple states)5. Funding full-time K-12 online learning at lower rates. (Multiple states)
    38. 38. YourQuestions andComments
    39. 39. Assistant Professor Wayne State University, USA mkbarbour@gmail.com http://www.michaelbarbour.comhttp://virtualschooling.wordpress.com

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