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A look at the study: enough help from online teachers?

Posted on Jan 27, 2014

In the last post, we discussed the importance of student preferences and needs in online learning environments, specifically in relation to students receiving the help they need. In short, we were hoping to answer the following question: Do students think they are receiving enough help from their online teachers? In this post, we will further discuss how we collected data, as well as some initial findings.

First, the Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities (COLSD) developed an online questionnaire, which included 28 items related to students’ involvement with and experiences in online learning. Then, we contacted a representative from a state department of education, who sent the questionnaire to administrators, who, in turn, sent it to their students. Most of the students who completed the questionnaire were high school students, and overall, indicated they enjoyed online learning.

When asked how much help they were receiving from their online teachers in the core classes of math, English, history, and science, most students indicated they were receiving “enough” help. However, about 1 in 10 felt as though they were not getting enough help in these classes. This is an interesting finding, and prompts additional questions about these students and their needs. In the next and final post, we will further discuss this finding, as well as future implications for research.

Danna Harvey is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology and works as a research assistant at the Center on Online Learning.

How parents and students in traditional schooling view online learning

Posted on Jan 24, 2014

The Center has recently conducted a series of focus groups in Florida to examine perceptions of virtual schools.

We wanted to capture these perceptions because, as researchers, we believe these are the key to the enrollment and the retention of students who might participate in these programs.

Using a sample of students and parents from elementary, middle, and high school, we focused on families that had a student enrolled full-time in brick and mortar school (our term for traditional schools as opposed to fully online schools). Aside from just asking participants what they thought about virtual schools, our focus groups also included discussions around perceived strengths, weaknesses, and differences between learning environments.

Here are some of the findings so far:
• a belief that online schools require greater time and resource commitment on the part of the parents
• a belief that certain traits made people better suited to the style of learning which takes place in the virtual school
• a belief that virtual schools are appropriate for students in all age groups and for most disability categories

Researchers have completed a white paper that summarizes these points and other themes from the study.


Research Update: enough help from online teachers?

Posted on Jan 8, 2014

Do students think they are receiving enough help from their online teachers?

That is the question behind some of the latest research being conducted at the Center.

First, researchers started with this premise: Online teachers play as crucial a role in the online learning process as they do in the traditional classroom, and student preferences in how they are assisted is an important factor in the personalization that online learning can bring to education.

Based on these ideas, researchers were interested in determining if students felt as though they were receiving enough help from their online teachers. Most research in this area has been conducted at the collegiate level with adult learners, leaving much to be explored within K-12 online learning. That is why we contacted a state department of education and sent a pilot questionnaire to students engaged in online learning to become more aware of their experiences. As a member of the research team, I’ve been working on crunching the responses from the pilot.

Gathering student preferences and experiences allows for a more holistic approach in assessing online learning and meeting student needs. One area in which to gather student input is preference in teacher assistance. Some students and their families might be attracted to online learning due to the autonomy it offers and might seek less assistance from online teachers, whereas others are drawn to the aspect of individualized instruction and desire more assistance.
In an upcoming post, I’ll walk through our research design in a bit more detail and share some initial findings.

Danna Harvey is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology and works as a research assistant at the Center on Online Learning.

Update from the Director (January 3rd, 2014)

Posted on Jan 3, 2014

The New Year has provided an opportunity to reflect as well as a welcome change of pace for the Center. We’ve recently completed several large projects which themselves reflect upon two years of study. So, in the spirit of the New Year, I’d like to take this opportunity to look back and briefly discuss them.

This December, a group of Center researchers traveled to Washington, D.C. to present a summary of our first two years of research to a review panel. We spent a great deal of time preparing for our presentation and developing a briefing book to summarize our activities to the panelists. Although fitting two years of work into a small summary was challenging, we succeeded and delivered a great presentation. The panelists are still reviewing our presentation and will provide a formal report on our progress in a few weeks.

We’re also happy to announce that the Center will feature heavily in an upcoming special edition of the journal Teaching Exceptional Children (TEC) focused on online learning. TEC is published with teachers of exceptional students in mind and strives to provide practical, research-tested advice. Over the past year, Center researchers have put together seven articles for the journal, all of which are slated to appear in its online learning special edition. These articles will give teachers in both traditional and online settings information about online tools and useful technology to enhance their instruction of students with disabilities. More information on the special edition will soon be forthcoming from TEC’s publisher.

In the coming year, we plan to utilize the Center’s blog with regular posts about our ongoing research. We’ll be providing a window into the Center’s activities and announcing upcoming publications and initiatives. With that in mind, I hope you’ll look forward to another post about the Center’s progress in this space soon.

Diana Greer, Ph.D.
Co-Project Director, University of Kansas

Graduate Research Opportunity

Posted on Jan 2, 2014

The Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities at the University of Kansas is seeking qualified graduate research students interested in working and studying in an innovative research center focused on K-12 online learning. Accepted applicants would study in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas. Funding is competitive, covering all tuition and related fees as well as an annual research salary. Interested applicants should contact Dr. Sean J. Smith or Dr. Diana Greer at,, or 785-312-4485.