Virtual K-12 Classrooms
In the past decade, there has been an a steady increase in the presence of virtual K-12 classrooms. More and more teachers are using course management software in their classrooms to supplement their lessons. Districts are also designing and operation their own online schools as well as cyber charter schools are popping up and operating as their own school districts.
Though it is quite evident that there is a steady trend in the development of more and varied types of virtual classrooms, there hasn't been much research to support the outcomes of a virtual classroom when compared to the performance of those students within an traditional K-12 classroom setting. There are mixed findings about online education and most of the studies conducted do not compare the two classroom settings to examine the effectiveness of virtual K-12 classrooms. (Carnahan, 2012). Also, with virtual classrooms, there are challenges in designing online classrooms as well as evaluating its effectiveness. There is also the concern over the amount of interaction students have with the teacher. Within an virtual K-12 classroom, student s need to have a high level of self-efficacy to ensure achievement. Finally, not every person will have access to this type of technology due to the equipment (Internet, Wi-Fi, computers, etc.) and appropriate staff needed.
Virtual K-12 classrooms do have benefits concerning student achievement. The U.S. Department of Education
(Patrick & Powell, 2009)found that:
· "Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.
· Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction.
· Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learner reflection."
Virtual classrooms allow students to receive a somewhat customized education that allows a greater level of flexibility than they would have in a face-to-face classroom. Virtual K-12 classrooms can also be used to help students recover credits they failed to receive in a traditional classroom or take advance classes they may not have access to in their own schools. This type of instruction also allows parents the opportunity to preview the curriculum. This is especially important for parents who may have concerns or conflicts with their religious beliefs. To combat the stigma of isolation, more and more socialization opportunities are being and can be implemented for students within a course or virtual school to participate in outside of the online environment
Carnahan (2012) found through his study that virtual K-12 students perform at least at the same level of those students who are enrolled in the traditional K-12 classroom. Throughout it all, this immersive learning allows students to be engaged through simulations, provides them with immediate feedback, helps them to construct their own learning, and practically apply the knowledge they've gained.
Carnahan, C. D. (2012). The Effects of Learning in an Online Virtual Environment on K-12 Students . Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Patrick, S., & Powell, A. (2009). A Summary of Research on the Effectiveness of K-12 Online Learning. Vienna: InternatIonal Association for K-12 Online Learning.