Sponsor Videos

Software Secure

Keypath Education

Conference News

LinkedIn FaceBook YouTube GooglePlus www.instagram.com/onlinelearningconsortium


Download the Mobile App
IOS  |  Android
OLC Mobile App

Make your travel arrangements

Yoga with Jan

Add to my registration


American Higher Education in Crises book cover

Join keynote speaker Goldie Blumenstyk for a book signing.

Books are available for pre-purchase for $16.95 (+tax). 
Read more

Conference Program now posted! This year's line-up includes:


OLC Excellence and Effective Practice Award Recipients Announced


Add/remove sessions from the Program Listing on the website or in the mobile app to create a list of sessions you want to attend!

My Schedule

Join Keynoters Goldie Blumenstyck (Chronicle of Higher Education) and Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein (MindWires Consulting)

BYOD to learn, explore, and share knowledge within this lab environment

Test Kitchen

Save the Dates

22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

A Cross-Case Analysis of Teaching Infrastructure Across Virtual Schools

Kathryn Kennedy (MVU, Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, USA)
Session Information
October 15, 2015 - 11:15am
Technology and Emerging Learning Environments
Areas of Special Interest: 
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Discovery Session
Atlantic Hall
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Discovery Session 2

This study explored similarities and differences across eight K-12 online learning programs with focus on teacher recruitment, hiring, training, support, evaluation, and retention.

Extended Abstract

In collaboration with the Virtual School Leadership Alliance (VSLA), this session delves into research conducted by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, a division of MVU. The research focused on similarities and differences across K-12 virtual schools with focus on teacher recruitment, hiring, training, support, evaluation, and retention. This research used a case study (Feagin, 1991; Gilbert, 1981; Hamel, 1993; Stake, 1995) approach to describe the teacher processes of eight online learning programs. The programs include (in the order that they will be released for this report) Georgia Virtual School, Idaho Digital Learning, Illinois Virtual School, Michigan Virtual School, Montana Digital Academy, The Virtual High School, Wisconsin eSchool Network, and Wisconsin Virtual School. Each program participated in semi-structured interviews/focus groups. Prior to the interviews/focus groups, participants were provided with a list of questions known as the Interview/Focus Group Protocol. The survey was administered using Opinio, an online survey tool, subscribed to by MVU. MVLRI sent the Teacher Information Survey link to the programs; this link was then sent out to the programs' teacher populations. MVLRI conducted interviews/focus groups with contacts (listed below) at each of the programs. Interviews/focus groups lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. When additional information was needed, MVLRI corresponded with the program contacts via email. As a program's interviews, focus groups, and surveys were completed, a case was written and sent to the program contacts for review (See "member checks" in Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Miles & Huberman, 1994). Once approved by the respective program, the individual cases were added to the culminating report. When all cases were complete, MVLRI conducted a cross-case analysis to identify similarities and differences among the programs. Once the analysis was complete, the report was sent for review by all participating programs within the VSLA. Feedback from the VSLA was then used to update the culminating report.

Some of the programs, including GaVS, IVS, and VHS, require their teacher candidates to complete training in online teaching prior to applying. Is this a practice that all virtual schools could benefit from? Additionally, WVS invites their teacher candidates for face-to-face training and to meet other instructional staff. IVS also offers a face-to-face, two and a half day training each summer. Is this something that should be considered as a standard?
Regarding continuing education training, is it important for virtual schools to continue to offer professional development to their staff? Moreover, should this professional development be mandatory?

In terms of evaluations, should evaluations be tied to promotion or merit pay? Or should they merely be a self-reflective practice for teachers? Should they include peer review teaching?

Should there be more formal mentoring processes? Which mentoring processes are most beneficial for which programs? Should there be a single mentor or a group of mentors for each teacher? Also, is there a certain amount of time when mentoring should occur, such as just for the first year, for the first three years? Or should mentoring be incorporated throughout all teachers' careers, even for veteran teachers?

An area that is gaining importance across the field is the necessity of on-site mentors/facilitators for students. Should teacher training at the virtual school include ways to coordinate/work with on-site mentors/facilitators? This came up in many of the interviews/focus groups; some of the programs express a need to figure out a different model, especially if their online teachers are also face-to-face teachers during the day, which tends to be when students are accessing their courses and need the most help. IDLA mentioned that they switched their model a bit to accommodate this need by hiring
full-time teachers with daytime availability. IDLA is also building a tutoring tool that could potentially make a pool of tutors available to students during the day if/when their teachers are unavailable.

Another theme across the programs is the use of organic PLCs. A study examining how these communities are set up and cultivated would be useful and could look at how the space is being used, how it is cultivated, who is doing the cultivating, what motivates teachers to use the space, whether it's useful for it to be mandatory to participate, etc.
Another area that would be really intriguing to study closely is the curriculum of professional development opportunities within each program. What curriculum is used? Who designs the curriculum? What is required/mandatory training? What standards are used to develop the training? Is training aligned to university credit and/or CEUs for renewal of licensure?

More and more, programs are not looking at the tech-savvy nature of candidates. Instead, they are looking at their online pedagogical knowledge. Is this shift happening for all programs?

Is there a benefit for consortia to be a model worth considering across the field? Is this a good way to leverage instructional staff? Within consortia structures, should training be offered at the consortia level, school level, or elsewhere?

According to several of the virtual schools, many of the new teacher applicant hires are coming directly from their teacher education program. Given that only 1.3% of teacher education programs across the U.S. are preparing their pre-service teachers for K-12 online learning, and given the constant surge of students taking online courses, will those virtual schools that are not currently hiring first-year teachers have to start considering them?

While this study presents an abundance of descriptive details about teachers in K-12 virtual schools, it also resulted in a great number of questions to ponder for future studies. The field should continue to learn from what can be gleaned from studies done within traditional settings. What we have learned from this experience prompts the call for more exploratory studies looking at a variety of models and processes within K-12 virtual school settings.

Lead Presenter

Kathryn Kennedy is the Assistant Director of Michigan Virtual University's Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute. She earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in educational technology from the University of Florida. Her research and practice-based interests include educator preparation for technology integration and instructional design in traditional, blended, and online learning environments.