A Conference Proposal for SITE 2012: The Effectiveness of Virtual and Blended Learning in High Schools
A Conference Proposal for SITE 2012: The Effectiveness of Virtual and Blended Learning in High Schools written by Sharo Dickerson
This paper is a report on the study of the effectiveness of virtual and blended learning in high schools. Findings in this study have indicated that face-to-face learning is not for all students. Virtual and blended learning environments provide significant contributions to the teaching and learning of high school students, particularly as a supplemental and an alternative option to support different student learning styles to achieve academic success.
Curriculum structure plays a significant role in any educational institution (Apple, 2004). It serves as the very foundation that teachers and administrators use to identify the scope and sequence of the content areas that will be taught in the classrooms (Apple, 2004). In doing so, it is important that educators understand the critical issues in curriculum development to provide the necessary services for student achievement. Contemporary issues in education have resulted in the development of different learning environments, from face-to-face, to virtual or online and blended learning. Despite the changes in education, there are many questions and problems that need to be addressed, such as the rigor and quality of instructional methodologies and concepts to support student academic achievement (Ornstein, Pajak, & Ornstein, 2011). In understanding the different learning environments that exist in today’s education, it is important to identify the definition of each learning environment.
First, face-to-face learning is the traditional method of delivering concepts and teaching methodologies by a classroom teacher or an instructor to students. Students are situated in a conventional classroom setting, which often consist of the brick-and-mortar classroom, tables and chairs, a whiteboard or blackboard, specific content-based instructional materials (i.e. manipulative resources, activity sheets, running records, paper and pencil assessments), technology equipment, to name a few. In most school communities, the traditional classroom setting is where most of the teaching and learning is created, developed, and delivered. In addition, students obtain learning experiences through a sense of dependence on the knowledge and expertise of the classroom instructor or teacher.
Second, virtual learning is an alternative method of delivering concepts, where students’ learning experiences are developed through an online Learning Management System (LMS). Interactive and hands-on activities are provided to stimulate teaching and learning. A classroom teacher becomes an online instructor to online students. Students are not constrained within the confines of a brick-and-mortar classroom. Teaching and learning are provided through anytime, anywhere accessibility. There are two main varieties of virtual learning, namely, online learning and self-paced online learning. Online learning is a non-traditional method of delivering concepts using a learning management system and an online instructor or teacher who provides the student learning experience (Kachel, Henry, & Keller, 2005). Students follow a designated schedule for every module or unit that is managed by the online instructor or teacher (Kachel, Henry, & Keller, 2005). Meanwhile, self-paced online learning is a non-traditional method of delivering concepts similar to an online learning environment (Rhode, 2009). The difference lies in the time allotted for each module or unit (Rhode, 2009). In self-paced online learning, students can accelerate the process of completion as long as the students complete the entire course within the designated semester (Rhode, 2009).
Finally, blended learning is another learning environment that was recently developed based on the teaching and learning experiences obtained from both face-to-face and virtual learning environments (Rovai & Jordan, 2004). According to Alfred Rovai and Hope Jordan (2004), blended learning is a non-traditional method of delivering concepts and methodologies using both face-to-face and virtual learning methods. Furthermore, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) defined blended learning as “combining online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction and live instruction to personalize learning, allow thoughtful reflection, and differentiate instruction from student-to-student across a diverse group of learners” (Eduviews, 2009, p. 2).
The Four-Quad Analysis methodology is used to conduct this study. This type of methodology provides the study with significant opportunities in gathering data, interpreting findings, segregating relevant from irrelevant information, and understanding the elements that contribute meaningfully to this study. The Four Quad Analysis methodology is composed of four parts. These parts include: (a) Quad 1, which defines the theory, research, and best practices of the study, (b) Quad 2, which identifies the federal and state laws, rules and data of this study, (c) Quad 3, which describes a district or campus perceptions, feelings, beliefs and experience in relation to this study, and (d) Quad 4, which provides the district or campus policies, regulations, records, and data of this study.
Furthermore, the study also explored the use of interviews, on-line surveys, and face-to-face consultation with different stakeholders of the school community. A SEDL Program Associate analyzed the data from these research tools have been used in this study.
Face-to-face or traditional learning environments face several challenges. These challenges include, but are not limited to: (a) high schools failing to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP), (b) high schools facing increasing dropout rates, (c) high schools failing or inadequately addressing the needs of general education homebound and special education homebound students, (d) high schools inadequately supporting different student learning styles, and (e) high schools lacking funding to support larger class sizes and degrading school structures. In doing so, alternative options, such as virtual learning, have been developed in the American school system to support the different challenges being faced by American high schools (Crosnoe, Riegle-Crumb, & Muller, 2007).
Virtual learning has been introduced to high schools as a supplement or alternative method in providing meaningful student learning experiences (Archambault, L., Diamond, D., Brown, R., Cavanaugh, C., Coffey, M., Foures-Aalbu, D., Richardson, J., & Zygouris-Coe, V., 2010). Virtual learning aims to provide: (a) anytime, anywhere access in a rigorous, personalized access to student learning, (b) students with flexibility, freedom, and safety outside the traditional brick-and-mortar school, (c) students with alternative forms of education that utilize cutting edge technology, and (d) opportunities to experience a progressive form of receiving and obtaining concepts ((Archambault, L., Diamond, D., Brown, R., Cavanaugh, C., Coffey, M., Foures-Aalbu, D., Richardson, J., & Zygouris-Coe, V., 2010).).
In the state of Texas, the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN) was established to develop and implement virtual learning to all its public schools, charter schools, and parochial schools (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). Many high school students participated in the state’s virtual learning program (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). Likewise, the availability of funding from the state provided opportunities for higher participation from different high schools and the development of public school online courses (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). Through the inspiration and establishment of virtual learning by Florida Virtual Schools, TxVSN was founded to begin an era of virtual learning opportunities for Texas high school students (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). Below is a graph that demonstrates the demand for virtual learning during the time when state funds were available in supporting the enrollment of online courses of high school students in TxVSN (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011).
In the summer of school year 2010-2011, the high school enrollment for regular high school courses reached 8,133 and dual credit courses declined to 394 courses (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). While in the fall of school year 2011-2012, the high school enrollment for regular high school courses dropped to 1,399 courses and dual credit courses increased to 407 courses (Texas Virtual School Network.org, 2011). The ongoing increase in high school online course enrollment was due to the funding available through the state of Texas (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). When funding was eliminated for the fall of this year (2011-2012), there was a huge drop on the online course enrollment as demonstrated in Figure 1 (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). From the big picture as illustrated in Figure 1, Figure 2 provides the results of high school enrollment in virtual learning in a smaller scale. Below is a graph that demonstrates the demand for virtual learning during the time when state funds were available in supporting the enrollment of online courses of high school students in a public school district located at El Paso, Texas:
Figure 2: Number of Enrolled High School Courses in Virtual Learning Per School Year in a Public School District at El Paso, Texas. X-axis defines the numerical quantity of enrollments and Y-axis defines the school years. The graph also includes the progression of enrollments for High School credits and Dual Credit courses. School year 2008-2009 was the beginning of the implementation of virtual learning in the sample public school district of El Paso, Texas (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). State funding made it possible for this district to accommodate and enroll high school students in virtual learning (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). According to the data provided in Figure 2, there were 5 enrolled online courses in virtual learning (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). When more high schools from this district participated in the virtual learning initiative, the enrolled online courses increased to 22 during the school year of 2009-2010 (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). This was then followed with a tremendous increase of 115 enrolled online courses during the school year of 2010-2011 (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). The increase is influenced by the availability of state funding during the last year of implementation in the aforementioned school year (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). Eventually, the lost of the funding source resulted to a huge decline in enrollment during the school year of 2011-2012 (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011). Currently, there are only 13 enrolled online courses from this district (Texas Virtual School Network, 2011).
As much as there are statistical evidences of successful enrollments in virtual learning that are identified in Figures 1 and 2, blended learning is being introduced to high schools as a new methodology that combines online learning and face-to-face instruction to meet the needs of 21st century teaching and learning (Eduviews, 2009). The combination of these two learning approaches include: (a) an in-depth understanding and integration of curriculum developers and teachers with content area concepts and methodologies, united with online technology tools, (b) the appropriate use of face-to-face learning materials and resources with online learning, (c) the facilitation of collaboration, communication, and creativity among students, to name a few (Eduviews, 2009). Students desire to have control in their own learning and there is value in providing students with different opportunities to collaborate effectively in their learning process (Eduviews, 2009). This means that students do have desire to learn, and teachers have to build that trust to enable students in taking ownership of one’s learning (Eduviews, 2009). Teachers, who have experienced virtual or online learning, have found value in virtual or online instruction to support students’ different learning styles (Eduviews, 2009). The non-biased delivery of instruction provides students of any race, color, or ethnicity to take on courses without pre-judgments and biased assumptions of personal and cultural backgrounds (Eduviews, 2009). With the limitation or unavailability of a funding source to support full virtual learning enrollments from the public school district of El Paso, Texas, the blended learning environment may serve as an alternative to continue the facilitation of face-to-face classroom instruction and seamless integration of technology.
The purpose of this study is to demonstrate the effectiveness of virtual and blended learning environments for high school students. Based on gathered information in this study, there are evidences that support the valuable role of virtual and blended learning environments. This includes the use of the methodologies and practices to support the academic challenges being faced by American high school students. Face-to-face learning is not adequate in providing students with meaningful and rigorous learning experiences, based on the aforementioned challenges that are continuously experienced by American high schools. There is an eminent need to support virtual and blended learning environments to attend to different students’ learning and individual needs. Virtual and blended learning environments provide different opportunities for students to perceive learning as positive and motivating tools for growth and development. Students are able to learn at their own pace without the presence of threat of external factors in face-to-face learning environments. Likewise, the utilization of different types of technology tools entices students’ appetite for life-long learning.
Apple, M. (2004). Ideology and Curriculum. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.
Archambault, L., Diamond, D., Brown, R., Cavanaugh, C., Coffey, M., Foures-Aalbu, D., Richardson, J., & Zygouris-Coe, V. (2010, April). Research Committee Issues Brief: An Exploration of At-risk Learners and Online Education. Retrieved from https://www.inacol.org/research/docs/iNACOL_AtRiskStudentOnlineResearch.pdf
Crosnoe, R., Riegle-Crumb, C., & Muller, C. (2007). Gender, self-perception, and academic problems in high school. JSTOR, 54(1), 118-138. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/pss/10.1525/sp.2007.54.1.118
Eduviews. (2009). Blended learning: where online and face-to-face instruction intersect for 21st century teaching and learning. Eduviews: A K-12 Leadership Series, Retrieved from http://www.blackboard.com/getdoc/1b9259b9-8cf4-4140-ba45-2a35eef6651c/K12_Blended-Learning_2011.aspx
Feng, L., & Cavanaugh, C. (2011). SUCCESS IN ONLINE HIGH SCHOOL BIOLOGY Factors Influencing Student Academic Performance. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 12(1), 37-54. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Kachel, D. E., Henry, N. L., & Keller, C. A. (2005). Making It Real Online: Distance Learning for High School Students. Knowledge Quest, 34(1), 14-17. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Kuo, J., Song, H., Smith, R., & Franklin, T. (2007). A comparative study of the effectiveness of an online and face-to-face technology applications course in teacher education. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 3(2), 85-94. Retrieved from http://www.sicet.org/journals/ijttl/specialIssue/hongbo.pdf
National University Virtual High School. (Designer). (2011). Msecomputer001.jpg. [Print Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.nuvhs.org/assets/img/VHS/w3/mseComputer001.jpg
National University Virtual High School. (2011). Virtual Classes with Real-World Rewards. Retrieved from http://www.nuvhs.org/Academics.html
Nomanson. (Photographer). (2011). 4949282526_a11d1bf0cf.jpg. [Print Photo]. Retrieved from http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4095/4949282526_a11d1bf0cf.jpg
Ornstein, A., Pajak, E., & Ornstein, S. (2011). Contemporary Issues in Curriculum. (5th ed.). Upple Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Reid, K. M., Aqui, Y., & Putney, L. G. (2009). Evaluation of an evolving virtual high school. Educational Media International, 46(4), 281-294. doi:10.1080/09523980903387522
Rhode, J. (2009). Interaction equivalency in self-paced online learning environments: an exploration of learner preferences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(1), Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/603/1178
Rovai, A., & Jordan, H. (2004). Blended learning and sense of community: a comparative analysis with traditional and fully online graduate courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(2), Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/192/274
Shih-Wei, C., & Chien-Hung, L. (2005). Learning effectiveness in a Web-based virtual learning environment: a learner control perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21(1), 65-76.
Study finds that online education beats the classroom. (2009, August 19). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/study-finds-that-online-education-beats-the-classroom/
Texas Virtual School Network. (Producer). (2011). TxVSN Enrollment by Semester. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://txvsn.org/custom/rpt_enrollments.aspx
Texas Virtual School Network. (2011). The Texas Virtual School Network. Retrieved from http://www.txvsn.org
The Online Degree Blog. (Designer). (2010). online-student-300x199.jpg. [Print Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.thedegreeblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/online-student-300x199.jpg
Thornburn Associates, Inc. (Designer). (2003). Davisclass2.jpg. [Print Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.ta-inc.com/repro/projphotos/Davisclass2.jpg
Virtually Successful: Defeating the Dropout Problem Through Online School Programs. (2006). Phi Delta Kappan, 88(1), 31-36. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Educational Leader. Advocate of Equality and Equity in Education. Photographer. Graphic Designer. Web Developer. Digital Artist. Technology is my medium for creative and artistic expression.