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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)


Bakia, M., Shear, L., Toyoma, Y., & Lasseter, A. (2012). Understanding the implications of online learning for educational productivity. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
This report provides foundational knowledge needed to examine and understand the potential contributions of online learning to educational productivity, including a conceptual framework for understanding the necessary components of rigorous productivity analyses, drawing in particular on cost-effectiveness analysis.
(pdf, 692kb)


Barbour, M., Brown, R., Hasler, L., Hoey, R., Hunt, J., Kennedy, K., Ounsworth, C., Powell, A., & Trimm, T. (2011). Online and blended learning: A survey of policy and practice of K-12 schools around the world. Vienna, VA: International Association for K-12 Online Learning.
This international survey of policy and practice of schools around the world aims at adding to the body of knowledge about online and blended education policy and practice for policymakers and practitioners around the world. The report also serves as a reference source for information about programs and policies for those who are new to online and blended learning and for those who have extensive experience in the field. After the introduction, which includes the methodology of the report, a summary of online and blended learning is shared. It provides definitions of the terms used in this report as well as the state of K-12 online and blended learning for those new to the field. Key trends, issues, and challenges found from the data reported in the survey are discussed in the next section of the report. It begins with the current trends, followed by the issues of those countries that are currently providing online and blended learning opportunities for students in their primary and secondary schools. The challenges facing the countries that have not yet started implementing these opportunities are also discussed in this section. The next section of the report provides summaries of the nine countries that provided a case study for the book published by iNACOL, Online and Blended Learning: Case Studies of K-12 Schools Around the World. These summaries will serve as an introduction to the activities happening in these countries, which have an established history of offering K-12 online and blended learning. The conclusion gives a summary of what is happening in each major grouping of countries, as well as a brief comparison of the state of online learning in the United States of America as reported from the 2009-2010 school year. It summarizes the impact of technology, staffing, legislation, policy, students, and budget/finance. Finally, it presents a global vision for the future of K-12 online and blended learning
(pdf, 2855kb)


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)


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)


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)

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)


Mackey, K., & Horn, B. (2009). Florida Virtual School: Building the first statewide, Internet-based public high school: An education case study. Mountain View, CA: Innosight Institute.
From its beginnings with a small $200,000 grant in 1997, the Florida Virtual School has grown to serve over 70,000 students a year. This case study details the policies and decisions that led to this explosive growth.
(pdf, 1.1mb)


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)


North American Council for Online Learning. (2006). Virtual schools and 21st century skills. Vienna, VA: Author.
Online learning through virtual schools is one of the most important advancements in attempting to rethink the effectiveness of education in the United States. The virtual school provides access to online, collaborative and self-paced learning environments--settings that can facilitate 21st century skills. Virtual school leaders, administrators and teachers must ensure that students who learn in online environments are gaining the skills necessary to compete as citizens and workers in the 21st century. This document attempts to articulate a vision for 21st century learning in virtual schools, and identify ways in which online learning can improve outcomes for all students.
(pdf, 1.1mb)


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 #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. (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)


Shacher, M., & Neuman, Y. (2010). Twenty years of research on the academic performance differences between traditional and distance learning: Summative meta-analysis and trend examination. Merlot Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(2), 318-334.
This meta-analysis research estimated and compared the differences between the academic performance of students enrolled in distance education courses, relative to those enrolled in traditional settings, as demonstrated by their final course grades/scores, within the last twenty year (1990-2009) period, further broken down to four distinct sub periods. The research, theoretical, and policy implications of the results are discussed.
(pdf, 258kb)


Staker, H. (2011). The rise of K-12 blended learning: Profiles of emerging models. Mountain View, CA: Innosight Institute.
How does blended learning look in the trenches? What tools and policies are making it work? This 178-page white paper reveals 40 organizations that are early blended-learning pioneers and the technology that is leading the way.
(pdf, 7.4mb)


State Educational Technology Directors Association. (2008). Learning virtually: Expanding opportunities. Glen Burnie, MD: Author.
The paper highlights the opportunities offered through virtual learning to provide each student the promise of access to age- and ability- appropriate curriculum, rich and extensive resources and accurate and up-to-date assessments regardless of location, economic situation or time. When effectively used, virtual learning allows for student centered, self-directed, self-paced learning that greatly enhances the curriculum offerings schools provide.
(pdf, 1.5mb)


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)


Watson, J. & Gemin, B. (2009). Policy and funding frameworks for online learning. Vienna, VA: North American Council for Online Learning.
While the viability and popularity of online learning is gaining widespread acceptance, the policy needed to support its growth is lagging. This document addresses that issue, why online learning is worthwhile, policy problems related to online learning programs, and which online policy and funding structures are most promising for all students.
(pdf, 853kb)


Watson, J. (2008). Blended learning: The convergence of online and face-to-face education. Vienna, VA: North American Council for Online Learning.
This paper discusses definitions of blended learning and explores ways in which blended learning is being developed by numerous schools in an effort to answer these and other questions. How does blended learning fit into the current conception of online learning? How does blended learning help engage students and support their academic success? How are online learning and face-to-face instruction being combined effectively? Is blended learning meeting unique student needs that neither fully online nor face-to-face models can achieve? What digital content and curricula are being used in blended learning? A number of successful programs are described, and lessons learned and a vision for the future of online learning are discussed.
(pdf, 668kb)


Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2011). Keeping pace with K-12 online learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen, CO: Evergreen Education Group.
From the Executive Summary: K-12 online and blended learning have evolved in new directions in the past year. While now familiar segments of the field, such as online charter schools and state virtual schools, have continued to grow, relatively new forms such as consortium programs and single-district programs are expanding even more rapidly, as is the range of private providers competing to work with districts. As of late 2011, online and blended learning opportunities exist for at least some students in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, but no state has a full suite of full-time and supplemental options for students at all grade levels. Key trends and events from the past year include: Single district programs are the fastest growing segment of online and blended learning. Most district programs are blended, instead of fully online. Intermediate units, BOCES, county offices, and other education service agencies are taking on important roles. Full-time, multi-district online schools continue to grow. State virtual schools are dividing into two tiers -- those with significant impact and those without -- largely based on funding model. Several states passed important new online learning laws, some of which cited the Ten Elements of Digital Learning created by Digital Learning Now. The Common Core State Standards are taking hold, common assessments are next, and open educational resources are an increasingly important element. The provider landscape is changing rapidly. Special student needs gain new focus.
(pdf, 5.3mb)


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)


Wicks, M. (2010). A national primer on K-12 online learning: Version 2. Vienna, VA: International Institute for K-12 Online Learning.
The fact that online learning has been successful for many schools across the country does not mean that it has been free of challenges. Indeed, there are numerous issues and challenges in online learning. Few policymakers anticipated that any space time, any space place learning was possible when most education laws were authored over the past 50 years. The issues largely center on determining when existing educational policies are appropriate for this new model of learning and when new policies should be created. Educators and policymakers are frequently striving to gain a deeper understanding of how online education programs operate, what an online course looks like, and most fundamentally, how students can learn online. This report aims to help fill the gaps, to be a resource for anyone who is new to online learning and wishes to quickly gain a broad understanding of the academics, operations, policies, and other key issues in online education.
(pdf, 3594kb)


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)


Watson, J. (2008). Blended learning: The convergence of online and face-to-face education. Promising practices in online learning. Vienna, VA: North American Council for Online Learning
Most educators, parents, and policymakers think of online learning as a subset of distance learning (where the students and teacher are geographically separate), in which content delivery and communication are achieved primarily through the use of computers connected by the Internet. However, online learning can be either distance learning or blended learning, with both supported by a new, robust instructional approach that takes advantage of the best elements of both settings. The advent of learning that combines online and face-to-face delivery is not merely a theory--it is already being developed and implemented by schools throughout the country and the world, and in some cases has been underway for several years. While some schools call this method of teaching blended, others call it hybrid, and others don't bother naming it--they're just implementing an approach that they believe is helping their students. This paper discusses definitions of blended learning and explores ways in which blended learning is being developed by numerous schools in an effort to answer these and other questions: (1) How does blended learning fit into current conceptions of online learning?; (2) How does blended learning help engage students and support their academic success?; (3) How are online learning and face-to-face instruction being combined effectively?; (4) Is blended learning meeting unique student needs that neither fully online nor face-to-face models can achieve?; and (5) What digital content and curricula are being used in blended learning? The examples discussed in this paper are not exhaustive. However, they illustrate some of the outstanding uses of blended learning in these early stages of its development and suggest opportunities for expanding its use and effectiveness
(pdf, 669kb)


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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.


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


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)