Assignment 2 The Virtual School Movement

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1 Assignment 2 The Virtual School Movement by Penny Butler, Katherine Callard, and George Lockhart EDD 8012 CRN Managing and Evaluating Instructional Technology and Distance Education Nova Southeastern University August1, 2010

2 1 History of Virtual Schools Distance education is defined as institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separate, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors (Clark, 2003; Schlosser & Simonson, 2006). A virtual school refers to any K-12, online learning program offered by an educational organization in which students can earn credit toward graduation or toward promotion to the next grade (Berge & Clark, 2009). The concept and practice of providing education at a distance is not new. In fact, the invention of moveable type and the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in 1436, set in motion the ability to mass produce and distribute information in a variety of forms, such as books, newspapers, pamphlets, and brochures (Rosenberg, 2001). Centuries later when the postal system became a reliable means of transferring information and materials from one location to another, distance learning in the form of correspondence study became a viable option to the traditional brick and mortal school (Sumner, 2000). Correspondence education grew as the stability of the postal system allowed for the timely exchange of print-based course materials, lessons, homework, and tests between instructors and students (Harting & Erthal, 2005). The invention of newer technologies like radio, film, and television provided additional methods of delivering distance education (Clark,year). The 1960s brought rapid advances in satellite and fiber optics technology which allowed for the use of multimedia forms of distance education delivery and the expansion of live, two-way, high-quality audio and video systems in education (Simonson, 2000). Beginning in the late 1960s, the U.S. military developed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPANET) under the backing of the Department of Defense which became the

3 2 forerunner of the modern day Internet (Duncan, 2005). ARPANET safeguarded the flow of information between the military s computer networks. This network connected the Stanford Research Institute, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Utah. By 1972, the ARPANET was comprised of 37 computers. In 1983, the ARPANET was opened up to universities and various scientific bodies. In the years since then, this small network has grown into the Internet we know today (Stanford Research Institute International, 2007). Computer-assisted instruction began in the 1950s and continued to evolve throughout the 1980s. Although this medium was successful in business and industry, it did not flourish in educational organizations. Computers were available for teacher and student use during this time but were used primarily to teach computer-related skills such as drill and practice, tutorials, and simulation programs. In the 1990s, the use of computers for instruction took more of a predominate role due to the advancement of the Internet. The Internet provided educational instruction with the ability to provide flexible content and to reach many learners at a low-cost (Reiser, 2001). Computer-mediated delivery of distance education was originally used to provide education to special need populations such as students with disabilities or students who lived in remote areas with limited access to schools. Eventually the use of virtual learning was used by higher education institutions to supplement campus based degree programs and courses. Through federal, state, and private funding sources, the use of virtual learning expanded. By the school year one-third of U.S. colleges and universities were offering distance education courses, with a total of more than 1.6 million enrollments (Zucker & Kozma, 2003).

4 3 As policymakers began to realize that the trend that was occurring in higher education might also have positive implications for K-12 education, they began exploring ways in which high school educators could form collaborative partnerships with higher education institution program administrators and educators (Zucker & Kozma, 2003). In 1995, nine district teachers from Eugene, Oregon created the CyberSchool Project, considered the first program to offer supplemental online high school courses (Greenway & Vanourek, 2006).(try rewording) Other programs were soon developed and funded wholly or in part by federal dollars. By 1996 virtual schools were beginning to take root. An experimental Web School in Orange County, Florida (a precursor to the Florida Online High School), offered online courses to local students, the Concord Virtual High School (later called Virtual High School) was awarded a $7.5 million federal Technology Innovation Challenge Grant, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was awarded a combination of grants to research and develop Internet-based high school courses (forerunner of the for-profit enterprise called Class.com). The growth of large, multistate programs such as Florida Virtual School and Virtual High School were especially important in promoting K-12 virtual schools on a larger scale (Greenway & Vanourek, 2006). Today there is a thriving virtual school movement across the United States in which high school credit courses are taught primarily on the Internet. Some virtual school programs are created within existing brick-and-mortar schools; some are separate, completely online programs run by school districts or state departments; and still others are emerging as special university projects (Bartin-Pearson, Newcomb, & Abbott, 2000). Policymakers within the U.S. Congress and the Department of Education helped set the direction distance learning would take in higher education and eventually secondary education. Within the last decade, the U.S. Department of Education has appropriated funds for programs designed to facilitate collaborative partnerships

5 4 between colleges, universities, and K-12 schools related to establishing sustainable virtual learning programs (Harting & Erthal, 2005). (Transition word) Alaska, with nearly 40% of the population located in 240 isolated communities, was the first state to offer distance learning on a broad scale. Several other states followed including California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia, having virtual schools that were created by either state departments of education, universities, or public districts (Barnhardt, 2000). Administration of Virtual Schools Programs There are substantial variances between virtual schools and traditional schools. The extent to which virtual schools and traditional schools will be alike depends upon the purpose and the specific implementation plans of the school. Unlike traditional schools, virtual schools generally do not get their identity from their geographic location, the facilities where students attend school, or the activity programs that define the student body (Is there a source). Instead, virtual schools are most often characterized by the curriculum and instructional program they deliver. There is a wide variance in the instructional delivery models employed by different virtual schools. The schools administrations function is to determine which instructional delivery models are most appropriate for the students in the local setting (Clark, 2003; Fulton, 2002). Russell (2001) wrote that virtual schools can be classified into three types: asynchronous, synchronous, or broadcast. Schools focusing on asynchronous learning make use of unscheduled communication between students and teachers, relying on , course web pages, or posting on a forum like electronic bulletin board messages. Schools focusing on synchronous learning provide scheduled activities such as online meetings, live chats, and video conferencing.

6 5 Collaboration and communication are required at an agreed upon time, flexibility is reduced, but socialization is improved. Schools making use of broadcast learning incorporate restricted interaction between participants: student access lectures and other types of material independently. The quality and success of virtual schools is increased by the systems and resources accessible to teachers, students, and other stakeholders. According to the National Education Association (2006), courses should be managed to ensure effective student and school participation. Support systems should provide resources to teachers, students, and parents comparable to those provided by face-to-face courses, as well as special support required by the unique circumstances of the online environment. Virtual schools typically include some type of instructional management system software that is accessible through the Internet to allow the teacher to post information and communicate with students. Typically these systems have advanced features that include electronic whiteboards, chat functionality for synchronous communication sessions, and tracing and auditing functions for the teacher to monitor student participation and activities (Clark 2003; Morris, 2002). The success of any distance-learning program is also dependent on the technology used and the technical infrastructure in place to support that technology. The U.S. Department of Education (2004) recommended those schools offering virtual learning programs to thoroughly evaluate existing technology infrastructure and access to broadband to determine current capacities and explore ways to ensure its reliability such as encouraging that broadband is available all the way to the end user for data management, having online and technology-based assessments, accessing high-quality digital content, encouraging the availability of adequate

7 6 technical support to manage and maintain computer networks, maximize educational uptime, and planning for future needs. ( consider breaking this sentence into two) In additional to the technology, an effective technical infrastructure requires responsible and flexible personnel available with specialize training in course design, pedagogy specific to teaching in a virtual environment, provision of student and faculty support services, and leadership that involves collaboration and shared decision-making (Cavanaugh, 2004). Evaluation of Virtual Schools Schools, at all grade levels, across the nation must meet accreditation requirements to keep their educational institutions in operation. Just as with brick-and mortar schools, virtual schools must meet state and federal accreditation that certifies the virtual programs of instruction provide students with a quality education (El-Khawas, 1998). El-Khawas explained that U.S. accreditation is best understood as a set of review processes that are complimented by other quality assurance procedures organized by state and federal agencies as well as by the education institution. Clark (2003) wrote that in terms of virtual schools, accreditation and certification reside mainly at the state level. Regional accreditation agencies work closely with state agencies in providing program approval and teacher certification. Typically, virtual high school programs are accredited or associated with an accredited institution such as a school district, college, or university. In addition, the majority of course credit is granted directly through the virtual school program or through the student s local school of enrollment, though regional bodies may also grant credit (Peake Group, 2002). Most states define the quality of their online courses by e-learning standards. Courses are aligned with the Southern Region Education Board s e-learning standards, now adopted by the North American Council for Online Learning as the National Standards for Quality Online Teaching (Oliver,

8 7 Osborne, Patel, & Kleiman, 2009). These standards define quality of program management, course content, instructional design, embedded activities, assessment, and use of technology. The National Education Association also provides online learning standards focusing on curriculum, instructional design of courses, teacher quality, roles asked of students, assessment, management, and infrastructure (National Education Association, 2006). The Prevalence of the Virtual School Movement According to the North American Council for Online Learning (2010) virtual schools are growing at an annual rate of about 30%. There are 45 statewide or state-led programs and more than 173 virtual charter schools across the nation. State virtual schools now exist in 27 states. An additional six states offer state-led online learning initiatives that provide tools and resources to school districts across their state, while not providing the full set of centralized services that the state virtual schools offer. Together, the state virtual schools provided roughly 320,000 course enrollments (one student taking one semester long course) in for-credit-courses in the school year Many state virtual schools have grown rapidly in the past year, and Montana and Maine passed laws to create a new state virtual school and state-led online initiative. Florida Virtual School is the largest state virtual school, with more than 150,000 course enrollments in , and several other state virtual schools have more than 15,000 course enrollments (Watson, Gemin, Ryan, & Wicks, 2009). Watson et al., (2009) found that online learning continues to grow in terms of both new programs and the enhancement of existing programs. Many states have passed new legislation to promote further growth in online learning. Seventeen states offer significant supplemental and full-time online options for students, and many of those states have both a state-led program and full-time online schools. For example, Florida offers the supplemental Florida Virtual School,

9 8 the full-time Florida Connections Academy, and Florida Virtual Academy. Similarly, Colorado offers the state-led Colorado Online Learning program, as well as numerous full-time district programs and charter schools. Twenty-three other states offer significant supplemental opportunities but not full-time opportunities, and most have state-led programs, such as the Michigan Virtual School and the Illinois Virtual School. Four states offer significant full-time opportunities, but no supplemental programs; these states have extensive charter schools and/or district online programs, but do not offer a state-led supplemental program that makes courses available to students across the state (Watson, Gemin, Ryan, & Wicks, 2009). Watson et al., (2009) wrote that students in many states turn to state-led online learning programs or initiatives, and as of November 2009, 34 states offered state-led programs or initiatives that were designed to work with existing school districts to supplement course offerings. Examples of these state-led programs, which provide full courses, teachers, and student support, include Kentucky Virtual School, Idaho Digital Learning Academy, and the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program. State-led initiatives that provide online resources or serve as a central clearinghouse for online courses include the Washington Digital Learning Commons and Wyoming Switchboard Network (Watson, Gemin, Ryan, & Wicks, 2009). Most state-led programs focus on high school courses, with some including middle school courses, and are supplemental in that they provide courses to students who are already enrolled and receiving instruction elsewhere. These programs are funded by separate state appropriations, rather than on a per-pupil funding scale. Many students turn to full-time online schools, and 21 states currently offer these types of schools. Almost one-third of supplemental online learning programs reported a more-than-50-percent increase in the number of course

10 9 registrations. Full-time online schools are growing as well, but much of the growth in the number of students attending full-time online schools comes from new schools, instead of the growth of existing schools (Watson, Gemin, Ryan, & Wicks, 2009).

11 10 References FLVS Enrollment Summary Retrieved from 49(1), 53. Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers and Education, 52(2), Barnhardt, R. (2000). Educational renewal in rural Alaska: The Alaska rural systemic initiative. Rural Educator, 21(2), 9-14 Battin-Pearson, S., Newcomb, M., & Abbott, R. (2000). Predictors of early high school dropout: A test of five theories. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(3), Berge, Z., & Clark, T. (2009). Virtual Schools: What Every Superintendent Needs to Know. Distance Learning, 6(2), 1-9. Cavanaugh, C. & Clark, T. (2007). The landscape of K-12 online learning. In Cavanaugh, C. & Blomeyer, B. (Eds.), What works in K-12 online learning. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education. Cavanaugh, C. (2004). Development and management of virtual schools: Issues and trends. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing. Center for Digital Literacy. (2008). Online learning policy and practice survey: A survey of the states. Retrieved from Clark, T. (2001). Virtual schools: Trends and issues. A study of virtual schools in the United States. Retrieved from Clark, T. (2003). Virtual and distance education in American schools. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of Distance Education (57-68). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Clark, T. (2007). Virtual and distance education in North American schools. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (2nd ed., pp ). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Duncan, S. (2005). The U.S. army's impact on the history of distance education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 6(4), El-Khawas, E. (1998). Accreditation's role in quality assurance in the United States. Higher Education Management, 10(3),

12 11 Final Report: A Comprehensive Assessment of Florida Virtual School: Retrieved from Findley, M. (2009). Florida Virtual School Paves The Way In Distance Education Distance Learning Vol. 6 (2) Florida Virtual School as School Choice Option (2009) Retrieved from Fulton, K. (2002). Preserving principles of public education in an online world. Washington, DC: Center on Education Policy Greenway, R., & Vanourek, G. (2006). The virtual revolution: Understanding online schools. Retrieved June 25, 2010 from Harting, K., & Erthal, M. J. (2005). History of distance learning. Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal, 23(1), Johnson, K. (2007). Florida Virtual School: Growing and managing a virtual giant. Distance Learning, 4(1), 1-6 Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (2010) Retrieved from Morris, S. (2002). Teaching and learning online. Lanham, MD: scarecrow Press. National Education Association. (2006). Guide to teaching online classes. Washington. DC: National Education Association. North American Council for Online Learning (2010). Fast facts about online learning. Retrieved June 28, 2010 from :http://www.inacol.org/press/docs/nacol_fast_facts.pdf Oliver K., Osborne J., Patel, R., & Kleiman, G. (2009). Issues surrounding the deployment of a new statewide virtual public school. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(1), Peake Group. (2002). Virtual schools across America: Trends in K-12 online education Los Altos, CA: The Peak Group. Picciano, A.G. & Seaman, J. (2008). K 12 Online Learning: A 2008 Follow-Up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators. NY: The Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: Part I: A history of instructional media. Educational Technology Research and Development,

13 12 Rosenberg, M. J. (2001). E-learning: Strategies for delivering knowledge in the digital age. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Russell, G. (2001). Is virtual schooling a virtual reality? The Educational Technology Journal, 10(6), 1-8. Schlosser, L. A., & Simonson, M. (2006). Distance education: Definition and glossary of terms (2nd ed.). Bloomington, IN: Information Age Publishing, Inc. Simonson, M. (2008). Virtual schools mandated. Distance Learning, 5(4), Simonson, M. R. (2000). Teaching and learning at a distance. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill. Smith, R.; Clark, T. & Blomeyer, R. L. (2005). A Synthesis of New Research on K-12 Online Learning. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates. Retrieved from Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International. (2007). The ARPAnet. Retrieved June 25, 2010 from Student Success at FLVS (2010) Retrieved from Sumner, J. (2000). Serving the system: A critical history of distance education. Open Learning, 15(3), U.S. Department of Education. (2004). National Education Technology Plan. Toward a new golden age in American education: How the Internet, the law and today's students are revolutionizing expectations. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Watson, J., Gemin, B., Ryan, J., & Wicks, M. (2009). Keeping pace with K-12 online learning. State-Level Policy and Practice, Retrieved from: llreport.pdf Zucker, A. & Kozma, R. (2003). The virtual high school: Teaching generation V. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

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