Watson Chronicle


Education Updates and Features

WCE Faculty Conduct Research in Partnership with NCVPS; Book Chapters Published

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Amy Garrett Dikkers and Somer Lewis, along with Aimee Whiteside of the University of Tampa, have been conducting research over the course of the past five years to determine the effectiveness of online and blended learning programs offered to middle and high school students through the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). Garrett Dikkers is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Lewis is director of WCE’s Professional Development System.

The researchers have used surveys and focus groups to obtain information about student online learning experiences from teachers and students participating in traditional, credit recovery and Occupational Course of Study (OCS) programs, Garrett Dikkers said. The goal of the research is to provide insights that can be used to enhance online course offerings and supports.

“NCVPS courses are designed by certified teachers who are core content experts,” she said. “They work in teams with online learning experts in NCVPS to design the online courses. The field of online learning is growing and evolving rapidly, and the purpose of this longitudinal research is to help teachers keep pace with the change and provide the best possible instruction for students.”

Michelle Lourcey, chief academic officer for NCVPS, said the NCVPS-UNCW partnership is a valuable one that has provided the school with research that matters and can be used.

“The research has allowed NCVPS to examine deeply how our students are interacting with their teachers and each other and if the methods we employ to provide effective instruction are making an impact on and with students,” Lourcey said.

NCVPS offers more than 150 Advanced Placement, honors, traditional, credit recovery and OCS course options. The majority of students are enrolled in traditional programs, but credit recovery and OCS programs are growing rapidly, Garrett Dikkers said.

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. Some Performance Learning Centers (PLCs), first introduced in North Carolina in 2006 to serve students who are not successful in traditional high schools, also use an online curriculum, and have been included in the research.

Garrett Dikkers, Lewis and Whiteside recently authored two book chapters on their research on the effectiveness of online and blended learning programs for at-risk students. “Blended learning for students with disabilities: The North Carolina Virtual Public School’s co-teaching model,” and “Providing chances for students to recover credit: Is online learning a solution?” appear in Exploring Pedagogies for Diverse Learners Online - Advances in Research on Teaching, published by Emerald in October. www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/book/10.1108/S1479-3687201525

Other recent articles the team has published include:
“Autonomy and Responsibility: Online Learning as a Solution for At-Risk High School Students,” published in International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education in October, 2014: http://ijede.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/883/1543

“Virtual High School Teacher and Student Reactions to the Social Presence Model,” published in Journal of Interactive Online Learning in 2013: www.ncolr.org/issues/jiol/v12/n3/4

“Get Present: Build Community and Connectedness Online,” published in Learning and Leading with Technology in 2012: http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ991230

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 more than 175,000 middle and high school students and has grown to become the second largest state virtual school in the U.S. For information, visit www.ncvps.org.