Watson Chronicle


Education Updates and Features

Research Explores Online Learning for At-Risk Students; Study Published in October

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Research Explores Online Learning for At-Risk Students

Amy Garrett Dikkers and Somer Lewis, along with Aimee Whiteside of the University of Tampa, are conducting research to determine the effectiveness of online and blended learning programs for at-risk high school students. Garrett Dikkers is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Lewis is director of WCE’s Professional Development System.

Since 2011, they have explored the experiences of students enrolled in credit recovery and Occupational Course of Study (OCS) programs offered through the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). The online learning experiences of students at Performance Learning Centers (PLCs) have also been studied.

The North Carolina General Assembly established NCVPS in 2005 to provide e-learning opportunities to students. The first courses were introduced in 2007. Since then, NCVPS has served 175,000 middle and high school students and grown to become the second largest state virtual school in the U.S.

NCVPS offers more than 150 Advanced Placement, honors, traditional, credit recovery and OCS course options. The credit recovery program is designed for students who have recently failed one of 12 core courses and need to recover credit for the course. OCS blended learning programs enable students to work with an online NCVPS teacher and a face-to-face special education teacher to complete their coursework. PLCs, first introduced in North Carolina in 2006 to serve students who are not successful in traditional high schools, also use an online curriculum.

Lewis and Garrett Dikkers used surveys and focus groups to obtain information about student online learning experiences from teachers and students.

The most striking result is that every population reported the same benefits and challenges associated with online learning, said Garrett Dikkers. Students and teachers in credit recovery, OCS blended learning programs, and online courses at PLCs all considered the opportunity for students to work at their own pace and to work ahead to be key benefits of online learning. Key challenges are that to succeed, students must assume responsibility for their own learning and have effective time management skills.

Based on the findings, the educators concluded that support structures are needed to enhance student success in online learning environments. They are expanding the research to determine the effectiveness of various support structures for at-risk students enrolled in online courses.

Lewis, Whiteside and Garrett Dikkers authored an article about their work titled “Autonomy and Responsibility: Online Learning as a Solution for At-Risk High School Students.” It was published in International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education in October.

View the article here: http://ijede.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/883/1543

Garrett Dikkers and Lewis Win Award for Related Work

Amy Garrett Dikkers and Somer Lewis, along with Aimee Whiteside, have been conducting social presence research on a parallel track to their research into the online learning experiences of at-risk youth. The team won the Best-in-Track Award for the Learning Effectiveness Strand at the Online Learning Consortium’s 20th Annual International Conference on Online Learning held in Orlando, Fla. Oct. 29-31. The award-winning presentation was titled “Looking to the Future of Social Presence: A Panel Discussion on Theory, Research and Practice.”

Additional Publications by Garrett Dikkers and Lewis

The team of Garrett Dikkers, Lewis and Whiteside has published other articles based on the longitudinal research study that served as the basis for their recent article on online learning for at-risk students and the October presentation on social presence. Previous articles include “Virtual High School Teacher and Student Reactions to the Social Presence Model” published in Journal of Interactive Online Learning in 2013 and “Get Present: Build Community and Connectedness Online,” published in Learning and Leading with Technologyin 2012.

Future articles related to this research are under development. The team is also at work authoring chapters for two books slotted for publication in 2016.

View the 2013 Social Presence article here: www.ncolr.org/issues/jiol/v12/n3/4

View the 2012 Online Connectedness article here: http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ991230

For additional information on North Carolina Virtual Public School, visit www.ncvps.org