Characteristics of high school online educational programs: a multiple case study



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Kansas State University


Technological advances affect the very fabric of our world, from the way we do business to the way we educate children. The National Education Association (2005), predicted that by 2006, most school children would take at least one course online before graduating from high school. The Peak Group estimated that by 2006, one million K-12 students would enroll in online courses (Davis & Niederhauser, 2007). In March, 2006, Michigan passed legislation requiring high school students to have at least one online educational experience to graduate (eSchoolNews, 2006). Online classes open doors to educational opportunities students might not otherwise have due to lack of sufficient student interest in a subject, school budgets, or teacher expertise. The quality of programs, in terms of academic rigor and compliance to state educational standards, varies widely.
Research examining and documenting online education explicitly in K-12 settings has only recently been conducted and published (Blomeyer, 2002) and there is very little of it. This dissertation is a case study of three virtual high school programs, two well established programs and one that is only two years old. Administrator and teachers were interviewed and an examination of program documents to define what attributes and characteristics indicate a high quality program, what commonalities are found among online high school programs, and what online teachers and programs do to assure a high quality learning experience for students.
Findings include: Extensive descriptions of each program regarding course design, teacher training, program organization and funding, and administration. Common themes across participating programs included concerns related to collaboration, high quality courses – whether vendor provided or faculty written, professional development of online teachers, finding ways to control quality of courses from design to student learning and student satisfaction, and the importance of competent and enthusiastic teachers. Recommendations, based on the findings of this study, are that administrators considering joining an online high school program should look at course catalog, professional development, quality control, teachers, service and support, any additional benefits from joining the program, and ability to access administrators and teachers currently using the program or references.



Quality, Online Education, High School, Virtual High School, Illinois Virtual High School, Lawrence Virtual Secondary Program

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Doctor of Philosophy


Secondary Education

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Diane McGrath