VIRTUAL LEARNING

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The abstracts used in this resource were taken from the websites of organizations supplying the referenced documents.

Allen, I.E. & Seaman, J. (2011). Going the distance: Online education in the United States, 2011. Babson Park, MA: Babson College, Babson Study Research Group.
Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 is the ninth annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education. The survey is designed, administered and analyzed by the Babson Survey Research Group. Data collection is conducted in partnership with the College Board. This year's study, like those for the previous eight years, is aimed at answering fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education.
(pdf, 2.9mb)


Carey, R., Kleiman, G., Russell, M., Venable, J. D., & Louie, J. (2008). Online courses for math teachers: Comparing self-paced and facilitated cohort approaches. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 7(3).
This study investigated whether two different versions of an online professional development course produced different impacts on the intended outcomes of the course. Variations of an online course for middle school algebra teachers were created for two experimental conditions. One was an actively facilitated course with asynchronous peer interactions among participants. The second was a self-paced condition, in which neither active facilitation nor peer interactions were available. Both conditions showed significant impact on teachers' mathematical understanding, pedagogical beliefs, and instructional practices. Surprisingly, the positive outcomes were comparable for both conditions. Further research is needed to determine whether this finding is limited to self-selected teachers, the specifics of this online course, or other factors that limit generalizability.
(pdf, 278kb)


Foundation for Excellence in Education. (2010). Digital learning now! Tallahassee, FL: Author.
Preparing more than 50 million students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers is the greatest moral and economic challenge of our era. The stakes are high. A high quality education will narrow the achievement gap and subsequent income divide within our country. Producing more graduates with a mastery of math and science will ensure America maintains its lead in the global innovation economy. Digital learning has the potential to help educators meet this challenge -- to transform our educational system. This document offers ten elements of high quality online education as a guide for educators in the effort to provide online learning options for American students.
(pdf, 800kb)


Regional Education Laboratory-Southeast. (2011). Evidence Based Education Request Desk #791: Differentiated funding for virtual programs.Greensboro, NC: SERVE Center at UNC-Greensboro.
This document, from the SERVE Center, provides information on how states apportion funding to their virtual education programs.
(pdf, 1.5mb)


Regional Education Laboratory-Southeast. (2010). Evidence Based Education Request Desk #741: Funding for virtual schools . Greensboro, NC: SERVE Center at UNC-Greensboro.
This document from the SERVE Center contains a table outlining states' funding policies for virtual learning programs. It also addresses some policy issues relevant to virtual programs.
(pdf, 1.5mb)


Regional Education Laboratory-Southeast. (2011). Evidence Based Education Request Desk #845: Best practices in virtual learning environments for gifted students. Greensboro, NC: SERVE Center at UNC-Greensboro.
This document from the SERVE Center examines the potential of on-line learning for meeting the needs of gifted students.
(pdf, 205kb)


U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Washington, D.C: Author.
A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning. Analysts screened these studies to find those that (a) contrasted an online to a face-to-face condition, (b) measured student learning outcomes, (c) used a rigorous research design, and (d) provided adequate information to calculate an effect size. As a result of this screening, 50 independent effects were identified that could be subjected to meta-analysis. The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.
(pdf, 1.2mb)


Van Beek, M. (2011). Virtual learning in online schools. Midland, MI: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
This study [of virtual learning in Michigan public schools] analyzes the financial costs and academic benefits of virtual learning, and it explores how this innovation could further benefit Michigan public school students.
(pdf, 759kb)

WestEd. (2008). Evaluating online learning: Challenges and strategies for success. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement: Author.
Although online learning is a relatively new enterprise in the K-12 arena, it is expanding rapidly with increasing numbers of providers offering services and more students choosing to participate. As with any education program, online learning initiatives must be held accountable for results. To this end, rigorous evaluations are essential. The evaluations highlighted in this guide range from internal assessment to external, scientific research studies. All demonstrate how program leaders and evaluators have been able to implement strong evaluation practices despite some challenges inherent to examining learning in an online environment.
(pdf, 705kb)


Chubb, J. (2012). Overcoming the Governance Challenge in K-12 Online Learning. Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning (A Working Paper Series from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute). Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
Online learning and our current system of local education governance are at odds with one another, to say the least. In this paper, John Chubb examines how local school district control retards the widespread use of instructional technologies. He argues that the surest way to break down the system's inherent resistance to technology is to shift control from the local district--and thus the school board--and put it in the hands of states. He then outlines ten steps to get us to this brave new governance system: (1) Set K-12 Online-Learning Policy at the State Level; (2) Create a Public Market for K-12 Online Learning; (3) Provide Students the Right to Choose Online Learning Full Time; (4) Provide Students the Right to Choose Online Learning Part Time; (5) Authorize Statewide Online Charter Schools, Overseen by Statewide Charter Authorizers; (6) License Supplementary Online Providers; (7) Fund All Learning Opportunities Equally Per Pupil; (8) Exempt Online and Blended Teaching from Traditional Teacher Requirements Including Certification and Class Size; (9) Establish Student Learning as the Foundation of Accountability for Online Schools and Providers; and (10) Address Market Imperfections by Providing Abundant Information to Students, Families, Schools, and Districts.
(pdf, 397kb)

Harnett, M., St. George, A., & Dron, J. (2011). Examining motivation in online distance learning environments: Complex, multifaceted, and situation-dependent. International Review of Research in Open and distance Learning, 12(6), 20-38.
Existing research into motivation in online environments has tended to use one of two approaches. The first adopts a trait-like model that views motivation as a relatively stable, personal characteristic of the learner. Research from this perspective has contributed to the notion that online learners are, on the whole, intrinsically motivated. The alternative view concentrates on the design of online learning environments to encourage optimal learner motivation. Neither approach acknowledges a contemporary view of motivation that emphasizes the situated, mutually constitutive relationship of the learner and the learning environment. Using self-determination theory (SDT) as a framework, this paper explores the motivation to learn of pre-service teachers in two online distance-learning contexts. In this study, learners were found to be not primarily intrinsically motivated. Instead, student motivation was found to be complex, multifaceted, and sensitive to situational conditions.
(pdf, 552kb)


Hsu, Y., & Ching, Y. (2012). Mobile Microblogging: Using Twitter and mobile devices in an online course to promote learning in authentic contexts. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 2012(13), 211-227.
This research applied a mixed-method design to explore how best to promote learning in authentic contexts in an online graduate course in instructional message design. The students used Twitter apps on their mobile devices to collect, share, and comment on authentic design examples found in their daily lives. The data sources included tweets (i.e., postings on Twitter), students' perceptions about mobile microblogging activities, and self-reported Twitter usage. Based on the tweet analysis, we found that the students appropriately applied the design principles and design terms in their critique of design examples. While the students were mainly engaged in assignment-relevant activities, they spontaneously generated social tweets as they related peers' authentic design examples to their own life experiences. Overall, they had positive perceptions toward the mobile microblogging activities. The students also indicated that the design examples shared by peers through mobile microblogging inspired their own message design work. We synthesized instructional design suggestions and challenges for educators interested in incorporating mobile microblogging in their instructional settings.
(pdf, 791kb)


Lukman, R., & Krajnc, M. (2012). Exploring non-traditional learning methods in virtual and real-world environments. Educational Technology & Society, 15(1), 237-247.
This paper identifies the commonalities and differences within non-traditional learning methods regarding virtual and real-world environments. The non-traditional learning methods in real-world have been introduced within the following courses: Process Balances, Process Calculation, and Process Synthesis, and within the virtual environment through the European funded Lifelong Learning Programme project at the University of Maribor. The results, based on qualitative research in both environments show the appropriateness of nontraditional learning methods in comparison with traditional ones, although collaborative learning in both environments causes several frustration based on conflicts (personal or disagreements during the learning phase), influencing the efficiency of the learning process. This presents opportunities for improving and overcome emerging barriers by fostering motivation and interactivity.
(pdf, 106kb)


Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning. Analysts screened these studies to find those that (a) contrasted an online to a face-to-face condition, (b) measured student learning outcomes, (c) used a rigorous research design, and (d) provided adequate information to calculate an effect size. As a result of this screening, 51 independent effects were identified that could be subjected to meta-analysis. The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. The difference between student outcomes for online and face-to-face classes--measured as the difference between treatment and control means, divided by the pooled standard deviation--was larger in those studies contrasting conditions that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-face. Analysts noted that these blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions. This finding suggests that the positive effects associated with blended learning should not be attributed to the media, per se. An unexpected finding was the small number of rigorous published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K-12 students. In light of this small corpus, caution is required in generalizing to the K-12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical training, higher education).
(pdf, 819kb)

Xu, D., & Jaggers, S. (2013). Adaptability to online learning: Differences across types of students and academic subject areas (CCRC working paper No. 54). New York, NY: Columbia University, Community College Research Center.
Using a dataset containing nearly 500,000 courses taken by over 40,000 community and technical college students in Washington State, this study examines how well students adapt to the online environment in terms of their ability to persist and earn strong grades in online courses relative to their ability to do so in face-to-face courses. While all types of students in the study suffered decrements in performance in online courses, some struggled more than others to adapt: males, younger students, Black students, and students with lower grade point averages. In particular, students struggled in subject areas such as English and social science, which was due in part to negative peer effects in these online courses
(pdf, 732kb)


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

International Association of K-12 Online Learning. Reports and Publications
Website of the International Association of K-12 Online Learning. Offers a range of resources


Supplement to the April 2010 Issue of Education Week, focused on online learning
This special edition of Education Week contains a number of articles on various topics related to virtual learning in schools.
(pdf, 5.1mb)


Innosight Institute. White Papers and Policy Briefs
This webpage offers access to publications on virtual learning from InnoSight Institute.


iNACOL
This webpage provides access to iNACOL's Promising Practices Series. This series is comprised of several documents focused on issues important to virtual learning/education.