Monday, March 31, 2014

Thoughts from SITE 2014

I am now flying home from Jacksonville, where I recently attended the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) Conference. I had two presentations there, one which I recently finished blogging about. For a great overview of the sessions related to K-12 online learning, I would suggest the summaries posted by our colleague Michael Barbour (Wayne State University) at his virtual schooling blog

In particular, I want to comment on several SITE conference sessions that were related to certification in online teaching. First, there is some discussion in Michigan about implementing an online teaching endorsement. Currently, we have the educational technology endorsement (NP), but it is a not a teaching endorsement. However, of the standards involved in this particular endorsement, over half are directly related to online teaching. Two states, Idaho and Georgia, currently have online teaching endorsements, but they are non-binding. That is, you do not need the endorsement to teach online. Wisconsin was the first state to REQUIRE some form of professional development in order to teach online, but it was poorly articulated, and the requirement was repealed by the legislature in 2013.

I attended several SITE conference panel sessions that discussed this issue. The panelists were a mix of K-12 online researchers (Kathryn Kennedy, Leanna Archambault, Michael Barbour) and representatives from both the Michigan Department of Education and Michigan Virtual University (Leah Breen, Kristen DeBruler). The key takeaways for the future of this endorsement were as follows:

  • As research in K-12 online learning develops, so should the requirements for the endorsement;
  • Universities looking to offer the endorsement in their curriculum would likely need to include a field experience;
  • This field experience needs to be fostered NOW, particularly by fostering relationships with online providers in the state.
As less that 2% of teacher prep programs currently offer online field experiences (Kennedy & Archambault, 2012), while online and blended learning is growing at an exponential rate (Picciano et al., 2012), states need to do something, and universities need to be prepared to adapt.

A review and critique of standards- and competency-based approaches to preparing online teachers by Baran, Correia and Thompson (2011) offers an alternative to traditional conceptions of preparation for online teaching that embodies teacher empowerment, critical reflection and technology integration. 

We will explore the research and our experiences with preparation for teaching in K-12 and higher education online and blended settings in future blog postings. 

Baran, E., Correia, A-P., & Thompson, A. (2011). Transforming online teaching practice: Critical analysis of the literature on the roles and competencies of online teachers. Distance Education, 32(3), 421-439. 

Kennedy, K., & Archambault, L. (2012). Offering preservice teachers field experiences in K-12 online learning: A national survey of teacher education programs. Journal of Teacher Education, 63(3), 185-200.

Picciano, A.G., Seaman, J., Shea, P., & Swan, K. (2012). Examining the extent and nature of online learning in American K-12 Education: The research initiatives of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(2), 127-135.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Factors Related to Success, Part 3

My personal research has focused on the use of the ESPRI in a High School Science blended learning setting (Siko, 2014). In my final year in the K-12 classroom, I conducted a pilot study with an advanced biology course where the first semester was face-to-face and the second semester was in a blended format. That is, a large majority of the course was offered online and students were required to come in for labs, exams, and additional activities. They were not required to attend class everyday (the class was first hour). I found similar success with the ESPRI in accurately predicting success in the blended course (~88% accuracy rate in predicting pass or fail, where passing was a grade of A-C and failing was a grade of D or F).

However, all of the authors of the ESPRI studies mentioned in the previous article cautioned that this instrument should not be used as a selection tool. In other words, this research suggests that we should not steer students away from taking online or blended courses if they do not score well on the ESPRI. The authors argue that the survey should be used to develop targeted supports for students who are predicted to fail by the instrument in an online or blended course. For example, if a student is predicted to fail a course, and that student scored particularly low in the area of organization, the student could be provided with special support (i.e., additional instruction, mentoring, etc.) in organizational skills.

Therefore, I would encourage readers of this blog who teach in online or blended settings to participate in my ongoing research in this domain. I am looking for research sites to collaborate with to continue exploring this concept of developing support systems based on results of the ESPRI. If you are interested in participating, please contact me at:

Siko, J.P. (2014 – in press). Applying the ESPRI to K-12 blended learning. Proceedings of the annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education. Norfolk, VA: AACE.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Factors Related to Success, Part 2

Continuing from the previous post, what are some of the internal factors that play a role in student success in online courses?

Technology Skills

It should seem obvious that a student would need to have a grasp of computer technology to be successful in an online environment. Further, it would seem that having prior experience with online learning would also play a factor. However, research is mixed regarding how previous experience with online learning affects future performance in online courses (Roblyer et al., 2008). In other words, just because a student has taken an online course in the past does not predict successful completion of future online courses.

Content area knowledge and GPA

Prior knowledge in the content area and overall GPA tend to be good predictors of performance in online courses (Roblyer et al, 2008). This can lead to several concerns, however. First, we must consider the online student and the reasons why he or she is enrolled in an online course. On one hand, if a student has been successful in a math course, an online advanced math course may be a good fit for the student. However, if the student is taking a course online for credit recovery, it is clear that the student has not been successful with the content (i.e., low knowledge of the content area). Per the research by Kim et al. (2014) in the last post, this can be especially problematic with regards to isolation and self-efficacy.

Combinations of factors

Several attempts have been made to predict student success in online courses. One of the most recent attempts has been the use of the Educational Success Prediction Instrument (ESPRI*). While undergoing several revisions (see Roblyer & Marshall, 2003 and Roblyer et al., 2008), the ESPRI is a validated instrument that has been shown to predict student success in online courses with an accuracy rate of approximately 90%. The survey instrument asks Likert-style questions in four areas: technology self-efficacy, achievement beliefs, organization beliefs, and risk-taking beliefs (i.e., as related to taking risks in the classroom).

Within the Framework for Research in Online K-12 Distance Education proposed by Corry & Stella (2012), this research falls under "learners."

In a followup post, I will discuss my own use of the ESPRI in a blended high school Science class, as well as request a call for groups or individuals who are interested in participating in a future study involving the ESPRI.

*a copy of the ESPRI is available at

Corry, M., & Stella, J. (2012). Developing a framework for research in online K-12 distance education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 13(3), 133-151.

Roblyer, M.D., Davis, L., Mills, S.C., Marshall, J., & Pape, L. (2008). Toward practical procedures for predicting and promoting success in virtual school students. The American Journal of Distance Education, 22(2), 90-109.

Roblyer, M.D., & Marshall, J.C. (2003). Predicting success of virtual high school students: Preliminary results from an educational success prediction instrument. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 35(2), 241-255.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Factors related to student success

In our first blog post, Andy posted several questions regarding online learning:

Key questions that research can address include: what factors influence student success in online or blended learning settings? How can online or hybrid courses and programs be evaluated for quality and effectiveness? How appropriate are online or virtual schools for K-12 students? How assessable are blended or online instruction and assessments for those students with special needs or abilities? What opportunities do digital, web-based media and materials provide for students that allow them to extend or expand what is normally available in a traditional time-limited class setting?

In this post and over the next few, I will attempt to address the first question regarding factors influencing student success. The number of factors is probably quite large, as it includes factors related to the student internally, external conditions where the online learning takes place, and the course itself.  For a review of factors that contribute to student success in K-12 online and virtual education, Ronisisvalle & Watkins (2005) provide a critical perspective drawing on initial research in this domain. Over the next several posts, I will attempt to address some of the internal factors.

Barbour and Reeves (2009) noted that online courses are often designed with the ideal online learner in mind. This ideal student would be motivated and independent. Further, they would have access to the proper technology at the home, and would have parents who are supportive of their endeavor. Clearly, this is not the case for all online learners. Further, Kim, Park, and Cozart (2014) examined what online students thought made them successful in an online course. Using a validated survey instrument, the students reported that self-efficacy (i.e., people’s beliefs regarding the ability to complete tasks and achieve goals) was very important to online success. The authors of the study discussed how this can be negatively affected by the reason for enrolling in the online course in the first place. That is, a student taking an online course for credit recovery already has negative experiences associated with the content of the course. Any additional problems (e.g., technical) combined with any feelings of isolation associated with an online course could negate any feelings of self-efficacy within the student.

In the next post, I will continue discussing this idea of internal factors, as well as attempts to predict student success in online courses based on measurements of these traits.

Barbour, M.K., & Reeves, T.C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 52(2), 402-416.

Kim, C., Park, S., & Cozart, J. (2014). Affective and motivational factors of learning in online mathematics courses. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 171-185.

Ronsisvalle, T., & Watkins, R. (2005). Student success in online K-12 education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 6(2), 117-124, 184.

Monday, March 3, 2014

State of online education

Navigating online education requires an understanding of the current state and the future direction of online teaching and learning.” Kim & Bonk, 2006.


With the increased availability of web-based instruction, web-based learning environments (like BlackBoard, Moodle, etc.) and the growth in for-profit organizations in education, more and more instruction and assessments are occurring online. In higher education, a recent survey (Allen & Seaman, 2011) suggests that 77% of those surveyed in public universities agree with the statement “online education is critical to the long-term strategy of my institution” (p. 29). The same study reported online enrollment represents 31.3% of total enrollment in those institutions surveyed. 

Abundant growth is also occurring in the K-12 online education domain. Ambient Insights (2011) reports that over 4 million K-12 students, or 6% of the overall K-12 student population, enrolled in online learning courses in the 2010-2011 year. While there are many concerns about student success in virtual schools – e.g., a study by Miron, Horvitz & Gulosino (2011) reporting 37.6% graduation rates in 2011-2012 – for-profit corporations, like K-12, Inc., are moving quickly to provide alternatives to traditional K-12 public and charter schools.  

Some states are inviting for-profit institutions to offer online or blended classes that can replace K-12 in-class experiences. In the state of Michigan, for example, High School students are required to complete an “online experience” before they can graduate. These efforts, added to the growth in popularity of virtual schools, has led to an explosion in online training, courses, programs, and consulting services. In this blog, we will attempt to move beyond the hype and focus instead on what we know about effective methods, tools, and media for quality online education in higher educational and K-12 settings.   


As we explore standards, research, and organizations involved in online education, it is important to recognize the different assumptions made by stakeholders regarding basic concepts and outcomes. For example, what constitutes an “online course” or class is somewhat subjective. Some define online, virtual, or e-learning as “the majority of work completed online,” while others differentiate between online and “fully online,” where no on campus activities are required. Add to this the notion of hybrid, blended, or flipped classrooms, and the conversation gets even more complicated. Finally, there are online or blended courses or classes, online or blended programs, and online or blended degrees.

Allen & Searman (2011) provide a definition of an “online course” – at least 80% of course content delivered online - while the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) uses a more restrictive definition: no required on-campus activities. We refer to this as “fully online” on this blog to differentiate between mostly online and totally (100%) online. Next we will explore efforts to develop standards and criteria for evaluating the quality of online educational offerings.

Standards for online education

In the K-12 domain, standards for online instruction have been offered by several organizations. The National Educational Association (NEA) offers standards for teaching in both online and blended K-12 settings. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning provides another set of standards for online learning in K-12 settings. The iNACOL standards have gained widespread support and there are discussions in some states about requiring K-12 teachers to hold a credential, or at least complete required courses, if they wish to teach online or blended classes. 

In higher education, Quality Matters© (QM) provides a formal process for evaluating and improving online courses with a focus on peer-reviews (Legon & Runyon, 2007). QM incorporates the following elements in their evaluation criteria: course overview and introduction, learning objectives, assessment/measurement, instructional materials, learner interaction and engagement, technology, learner support and accessibility. QM has been adopted at our institution but so far, has not been a required element for online course or program development, approval or evaluation.

Another set of evaluation criteria for online programs in higher education comes from U.S. News & World Report (Brooks & Morse, 2014), and includes admission student selectivity (30%), student engagement (30%), faculty credentials & training (20%) and student services (20%). Student engagement includes graduation rate, best practices, program accreditation, class size, 1-year retention, and time to degree completion.

We have aligned our online university courses and programs with standards specified by the HLC, which accredits our university through the North Central Association. Our institution currently offers an M.Ed. degree in educational technology in both hybrid (mostly online) and fully online formats, and we will begin offering our first online graduate degree in online/blended instruction and assessment in the summer of 2014. In our experiences developing, teaching, and evaluating online education, our work has been informed and enriched by research focused on online education.


For those involved or interested in online education, it is important to consider the available research on effective online education when planning, developing, teaching or evaluating instruction. Online education as a scholarly domain includes an expanding base of knowledge and expertise that provides evidence-based ideas for effective instruction and assessment. 

For example, an article by Larreamendy-Joerns and Leinhardt (2006) explores the history of college-level online education based on published research in the field; a study by DiPietro (2010) explores the instructional practices of K-12 virtual teachers; Ward, Peters & Shelley (2010) report on student and faculty perceptions of the quality of their online learning experiences; and Ester et al. (2009) examine the sense of community in a fully online graduate degree program. 

A prominent organization in online education is the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C), which offers standards as well as training, support, and research targeted at K-12 and higher education institutions. The Quality Scorecard© includes a set of standards and criteria for developing and evaluating online instruction based on five pillars of quality. The Sloan-C website provides links to research on aspects of online education including those that influenced development and use of their instrument. Other helpful resources include the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) and the International E-learning Association (iELA) which both provides conferences, research, and other materials.  

While there are clearly political and financial factors that will influence online education as it evolves, there are also evidence-based sources that can and should shape online choices regarding instruction and assessment. Paying attention to what is already known about online education can help improve the quality and effectiveness of these offerings and will ultimately benefit stakeholders. Key questions that research can address include: what factors influence student success in online or blended learning settings? How can online or hybrid courses and programs be evaluated for quality and effectiveness? How appropriate are online or virtual schools for K-12 students? How assessable are blended or online instruction and assessments for those students with special needs or abilities? What opportunities do digital, web-based media and materials provide for students that allow them to extend or expand what is normally available in a traditional time-limited class setting?  

Immersing oneself in this research literature will hopefully ensure that online offerings are effective and meaningful for those who seek to benefit from online or blended/hybrid courses or programs. The future of online education looks especially bright if we continue exploring ways to teach and assess, learn from research in this domain and share our knowledge and experiences with stakeholders. We look forward to a rich and diverse conversation about online education on this blog! 

“More has been written about online education than is known.” Anonymous source.


Allen, I.E., & Seaman, J. (2011). Going the distance: Online education in the United States. Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from:

Ambient Insights (2011). 2011 Learning technology research taxonomy: Research methodology, buyer segmentation, product definitions, and licensing model. Monroe, WA: Author: Retrieved from

Blended learning: An NEA policy brief. National Education Association, Washington, DC. Retrieved from:

Brooks, E., & Morse, R. (2014, January 7). Methodology: Best Online Graduate Program Rankings. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from

DiPietro, M. (2010). Virtual school pedagogy: The instructional practices of K-12 virtual school teachers. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 42(3), 327-354.

Exter, M.E., Korkmaz, N., Harline, N.M, & Bichelmeyer, B. A. (2009). Sense of community within a fully online program: Perspectives of graduate students. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(2), 177-194.

Guide to teaching online courses. National Education Association, Washington, DC. Retrieved from:

Guide to online high school courses. National Education Association, Washington, DC. Retrieved from:

Kim, K-J, & Bonk, C.J. (2006). The future of online teaching and learning in higher education: The survey says … EDUCAUSE Quarterly, November 4, 2006. Retrieved from:

Larreamendy-Joerns, J. , & Leinhardt, G. (Winter, 2006). Going the distance with online education. Review of Educational Research, 76(4), 567-605.

Legon, R., & Runyon, J. (2007). Research on the impact of the Quality Matters course review process. Presentation at the 23rd Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning. Retrieved from:

Miron, G., Horvitz, B., & Gulosino, C. (May 2013). Virtual schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, performance, policy, and research evidence. National Education Policy Center, School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder. Retrieved from:

National Standards for Quality Online Teaching. International Association for K-12 online learning. Retrieved from:

Ward, M.E., Peters, G., & Shelley, K. (2010). Student and faculty perceptions of the quality of online learning experiences. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11(3), 57-77.