K-12 Online Learning

Patrick, S., & Powell, A., (2009).  A summary of research on the effectiveness of K-12

Online Learning.  iNACOL. http://www.k12.com/sites/default/files/pdf/school- 

         docs/NACOL_Research Effectiveness-hr.pdf

This “memo contains three sections: 1) a summary of the major study done by the U.S. Department of Education, 2) a brief literature review of online learning research and studies, and 3) future research recommendations” (Patrick & Powell, 2009).  An encouraging collection of findings, this article bullet-pointed twelve major findings in a meta-analysis of 51 study effects.  The “meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction” and that “blended learning is effective and worth the effort required to design and implement [the] approach” (Patrick & Powell, 2009).

Within the literature review, three states and two different levels of schooling were targeted for discussion.  West Virginia Virtual School reviewed results for students learning Spanish.  The students doing online courses did as well or better than the students in traditional settings.  In Florida, a non-profit “watchdog” group agreed that the virtual schooling in their state was not only successful academically, but a “bargain for Florida taxpayers.”  The teachers in Florida who learned to teach online claimed, also, that the experience made them better classroom teachers.  In Washington state, where there was an increase in on-time graduation rates, the credit was given to their Digital Learning Commons (online courses).  The public schools studied claimed their online students did not suffer socially since they “engaged in activities outside the school day.”  Finally, in higher education, students in online learning performed “equally well or better than classroom-based learners and experienced better use of higher order thinking skills, integrative thinking, and reflective learning” (Patrick & Powell, 2009).

The extensive coverage of this meta-analysis provides tremendous positive rationale for schools and programs making decisions regarding online learning programs.  The momentum of success documented–including the “List of Effectiveness Studies” at the end of the article–will no doubt encourage adoption of the proven practices of blended and online learning courses.

Future research needs to “show correlations between program models, instructional models, technologies, conditions and practices for effective online learning.”  It was suggested to look at standardized achievement test scores, supplied by state departments, from the 18 states that have virtual charter schools.  That data compared with end-of-course testing for all students (traditional and online) would provide for a larger-scale study (Patrick & Powell, 2009).

I am already convinced that online learning and now blended learning are excellent opportunities for both teacher and student.  These studies show to be true what we have been learning in our courses all along this semester.   I would like to continue to explore program models and instructional models for blended classrooms, so that I could design my higher ed courses differently in the fall.

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