Richard E. Ferdig, Cathy Cavanaugh, and Joseph R. Freidhoff

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This chapter responses to the question—What does the research on K–12 online learning tell us?—by encouraging researchers to ask the right questions, answer the critics, and appreciate the complexity. The chapter asserts that researchers should study where online learning works best, and notes that some online programs are not high quality. The distributed nature of online learning is seen as raising new complexities for researchers. The chapter concludes by highlighting effective practice resources.

Discussion Questions

1. The authors say that those who want to know whether K-12 online and blended learning works often ask the wrong question, "Does K-12 blended and online learning work better than face-to-face education?" They say that the better question is "under what conditions can K-12 online and blended learning work?" Do you agree with the authors? Why or why not?

2. The authors note that some online and blended learning programs are not high quality. Based on recent research and reports that document student performance problems in some full-time online schools, is this a type of program (condition) that simply does not work well, or are these performance problems primarily a result of program implementation issues? Justify your views.

3. The authors see research on K-12 online learning as more complex, because mentor and parent roles take on added importance, content is accessed online and from different providers, and student learning may occur at any time, place or pace. Does the introduction of blended learning that combines online and face-to-face learning increase or reduce the complexity of doing educational research? Explain your views.

4. The authors cited twelve conditions under which K-12 online and blended learning programs work best. What do you see as the three most important conditions? Would you remove or add any conditions? Justify your response.

Additional Resources

Ferdig, R. E. (2010). Continuous quality improvement through professional development for online K–12 instructors. East Lansing, MI:
Michigan Virtual University. Retrieved from http://www.mivu.org/Portals/0/RPT_PD_Ferdig_Final.pdf

Ferdig, R. (2011). “Does Online Learning Work?” In J. Watson, A. Murin, L. Vashaw, B. Gemin, & C. Rapp (Eds.), Keeping pace with K–12 online learning: An annual review of policy and practice (pp. 40–41). Evergreen, CO: Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved from http://kpk12.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/KeepingPace2011.pdf

Ferdig, R. E., & Kennedy, K. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of K-12 Blended and Online Learning Research. Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press. Retrieved from http://press.etc.cmu.edu/files/Handbook-Blended-Learning_Ferdig-Kennedy-etal_web.pdf


Black, E. W. (2009). An evaluation of familial involvements’ influence on student achievement in K--12 virtual schooling. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Florida. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No. AAT 3367406)

Cavanaugh, C. S., Gillan, K. J., Kromrey, J., Hess, M., & Blomeyer, R. (2004). The effects of distance education on K–12 student outcomes: A meta-analysis. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED489533.pdf

DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R. E., Black, E. W., & Preston, M. (2008). Best practices in teaching K–12 online: Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 7(1), 10–35. Retrieved from http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/pdf/7.1.2.pdf

Ferdig, R. E. (2010, August). Continuous quality improvement through professional development for online K–12 instructors. A keynote presentation at Michigan Virtual University’s fifth annual “Collaboration of the Minds” conference. East Lansing, MI.

Ferdig, R. E., & Cavanaugh, C. (Eds.) (2011). Lessons learned from virtual schools: Experiences and recommendations from the field. Vienna, VA: International Association for K–12 Online Learning.

Ferdig, R. E., Cavanaugh, C., & Freidhoff, J. (2012). Lessons learned from blended programs: Experiences and recommendations from the field. Vienna, VA: International Association for K–12 Online Learning.

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: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/fi nalreport.pdf

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