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The Accountability Push in Virtual Learning

Monday, April 9, 2012, 2 to 3 p.m. ET
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 The Accountability Push in Virtual Learning(04/09/2012) 
9:07
EdWeek Bryan: 
Good morning, and welcome to today's live chat, The Accountability Push in Virtual Learning, sponsored by SAS. I've just opened the chat for questions, so please start submitting yours below.
Monday April 9, 2012 9:07 EdWeek Bryan
9:08
EdWeek Bryan: 
We'll be back at 2 p.m. ET today with John Watson, the founder of Evergreen Education Group, and David Edwards, the chief communications and professional learning officer of the North Carolina Virtual Public School. We hope to see you then!
Monday April 9, 2012 9:08 EdWeek Bryan
1:52
EdWeek Bryan: 
Thanks for joining us for today's live chat, The Accountability Push in Virtual Learning, sponsored by SAS. We'll get underway in just a few minutes... in the meantime, please keep submitting your questions below!
Monday April 9, 2012 1:52 EdWeek Bryan
1:59
EdWeek Bryan: 
I'm now passing the chat off to our moderator for the day, Katie Ash. Take it away, Katie!
Monday April 9, 2012 1:59 EdWeek Bryan
2:00
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Thanks Bryan! Hello everyone, and welcome to today's chat about accountability in virtual schools.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:00 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:00
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
I'm Katie Ash, and I am a staff writer for Education Week and our magazine Digital Directions. I cover technology in education.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:00 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:00
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
I'd like to start by asking our two guests, John Watson and David Edward, to introduce themselves!
Monday April 9, 2012 2:00 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:00
John Watson: 
Hello from Durango Colorado. I'm the founder of the Evergreen Education Group; we publish the annual Keeping Pace with K12 Online Learning report and also work with districts creating online and blended learning programs across the country
Monday April 9, 2012 2:00 John Watson
2:01
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Yes, and you can find those reports here: http://kpk12.com/reports/
Monday April 9, 2012 2:01 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:01
Dave Edwards: 
Hi, I am Dave Edwards, the Chief Communications and Professional Learning Officer for NC Virtual Public School. An online, state funding high school.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:01 Dave Edwards
2:02
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Great! Thank you so much David and John for being with us today.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:02 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:02
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
We have a lot of questions, so let's jump right in.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:02 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:02
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
I thought we could start from a question from Katryna.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:02 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:02
[Comment From Katryna KirkwoodKatryna Kirkwood: ] 
I would assume teach buy-in is key in an online learning environment. How do you effectively communicate the importance of accountability and enforce it with far flung teachers and students?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:02 Katryna Kirkwood
2:02
John Watson: 
Katie, thanks for adding the link. I'll note also that the reports are creative commons-licensed so anyone can download the reports and graphics and reuse them.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:02 John Watson
2:03
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
How do you create a culture of accountability, so to speak, in online education environments?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:03 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:03
Dave Edwards: 
@Katryna we make sure teachers understand that quality accountability is the key to effective student learning . . .
Monday April 9, 2012 2:03 Dave Edwards
2:03
John Watson: 
Katryna, I think a starting point for administrators is to show a commitment to teachers by providing professional development, release time, and other resources
Monday April 9, 2012 2:03 John Watson
2:04
Dave Edwards: 
Katryna, teachers have to keep good digital records of key student effectiveness indicators - contact time, time on task, understanding, authenticity of work.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:04 Dave Edwards
2:04
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Makes sense. It seems that accountability is almost like a skill that needs to be supported and practiced.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:04 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:05
John Watson: 
Katie, to the broader point, for districts that are offering courses that are online, f2f, and blended, we suggest that the district have a goal that courses delivered in different modes have equal rigor in all cases, and use common assessments where possible
Monday April 9, 2012 2:05 John Watson
2:05
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
That kind of leads into a question from Duncan...
Monday April 9, 2012 2:05 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:05
[Comment From Duncan HardyDuncan Hardy: ] 
What tools do you suggest to evaluate program efficacy? Additionally, what tools do you suggest to evaluate one's accountability system?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:05 Duncan Hardy
2:06
Dave Edwards: 
To create a culture, we foster online professional learning communities to assure that a focus on quality teaching and learning practices, assessment and student engagement is embedded into all courses.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:06 Dave Edwards
2:06
Dave Edwards: 
Duncan, I would suggest looking at http://www.onlineprogramhowto.org/quality/ for a good starter. We use this as our baseline.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:06 Dave Edwards
2:07
John Watson: 
Duncan, starting with your first question, I think the keys are knowing your program goals, and creating the data streams to be able to answer whether those goals are being met. The tools are those that enable data capture and analysis.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:07 John Watson
2:08
John Watson: 
I second Dave's website suggestion as a way to benchmark against good practices (I hesitate to say "best") and standards
Monday April 9, 2012 2:08 John Watson
2:08
Dave Edwards: 
Duncan, program efficacy starts with the goals and how to collect the data - John is spot on there.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:08 Dave Edwards
2:09
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Great.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:09 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:09
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Here's a question for you, John, from Robert.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:09 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:09
[Comment From Robert NorrisRobert Norris: ] 
Has or will your group rate/assess the states in terms of their virtual education accountability systems?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:09 Robert Norris
2:10
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Is that something you are interested in tackling in future research?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:10 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:10
John Watson: 
Robert, in our Keeping Pace report we publish profiles of all 50 states. Katie provided the URL earlier. We don't rate the states but we do discuss their systems.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:10 John Watson
2:11
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Kate has another question that addresses this topic.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:11 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:11
[Comment From Kate LoughreyKate Loughrey: ] 
What specific state-level accountability measures or strategies do you consider critical for virtual learning? (By virtual learning, I'm referring to online learning in which the student does not have to be physically present at school during instruction.)
Monday April 9, 2012 2:11 Kate Loughrey
2:11
John Watson: 
Katie, yes we are increasingly looking at evaluating state systems. It varies dramatically from state to state so an apples to apples comp is not easy, nor perhaps the most valuable. There are differences in the types of programs that are allowed in each state
Monday April 9, 2012 2:11 John Watson
2:12
Dave Edwards: 
Robert, I do know that NC State University is also wanting to tackle that question. Check out Friday Institute.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:12 Dave Edwards
2:12
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Interesting
Monday April 9, 2012 2:12 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:12
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
One of the aspects of virtual education that has always surprised me in some ways is the wide variation of policies from state to state.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:12 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:13
John Watson: 
Kate, thanks for the question. I think the key is gathering data about the online schools, and publishing it transparently. But state data systems tend to be outdated because often they don't account for student growth, or mobility, or other issues that are particularly relevant to online students.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:13 John Watson
2:13
Dave Edwards: 
Kate, for North Carolina, we have to align to their End-of-Course testing measures and our effectiveness is measured as such. The methods for assessment are the most difficult to align however.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:13 Dave Edwards
2:13
John Watson: 
So the further need is to identify new date types, including the EOCs that Dave Edwards mentions. EOCs can be very valuable.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:13 John Watson
2:14
Dave Edwards: 
Student pass rate, student completion rates, formative and summative assessments are becoming very critical for our program.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:14 Dave Edwards
2:14
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Here's a question for you, Dave.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:14 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:14
[Comment From MargoMargo: ] 
What criteria are you suggesting in assessing the quality and effectiveness of online learning material?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:14 Margo
2:15
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
When it comes to content - how do you ensure that it is high quality?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:15 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:15
Dave Edwards: 
Thank you Margo. We use the iNACOL/SREB standards as a baseline. Then we have to assure that it is aligned to state standards.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:15 Dave Edwards
2:16
John Watson: 
Margo, I'll add that CLRN in California and Texas (TEA) have extensive review processes and standards that you might review. They work with the inacol standards at least partly
Monday April 9, 2012 2:16 John Watson
2:16
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Yes, here is the link to the national standards put out by iNACOL http://www.inacol.org/research/nationalstandards/index.php
Monday April 9, 2012 2:16 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:17
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Rachel has a question I think both of you can address.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:17 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:17
[Comment From Rachel GellarRachel Gellar: ] 
What are the most common barriers to implementing a strong accountability system for online education programs? How can these be avoided/overcome?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:17 Rachel Gellar
2:17
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
What is getting in the way of creating really effective, high-quality accountability systems?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:17 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:17
John Watson: 
Rachel, barriers depend on whether you are considering state level or district level, or other.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:17 John Watson
2:18
John Watson: 
State level the issue is the sheer size of the system and inertia of existing data elements, along with legal requirements under NCLB and state laws
Monday April 9, 2012 2:18 John Watson
2:18
Dave Edwards: 
Rachel, initially it will be state-level policy barriers such as seat time, face to face assessment requirements. Some may include mindset and administrative functions that aren't open to new types of quality assessments.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:18 Dave Edwards
2:19
John Watson: 
District level the barrier is that the districts are already putting resources into complying with state requirements, and/or growing a new online program, so evaluation can seem like an unnecessary add-on.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:19 John Watson
2:19
John Watson: 
Not that I'm suggesting that it is!
Monday April 9, 2012 2:19 John Watson
2:19
Dave Edwards: 
Rachel, there is also a gap between what face to face policy describes as effective assessment and how it may be defined for online/blended.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:19 Dave Edwards
2:19
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Dave, that's interesting - I think we had a question about that earlier.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:19 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:20
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Would you like to elaborate on how accountability standards differ between face-to-face programs and virtual education?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:20 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:20
John Watson: 
Katie, in the standards question earlier I think we neglected to mention Common Core, which is certainly part of the equation.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:20 John Watson
2:21
Dave Edwards: 
Sure Katie . . .seat time is a variable for the face to face program that still gets in the way for virtual. Admins sometimes feel that time requirements are essential
Monday April 9, 2012 2:21 Dave Edwards
2:22
John Watson: 
Katie, accountability is often higher for virtual than it is for f2f. In California, for example, there is an added layer of accountability for virtual schools. Same in Colorado for multi-district schools.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:22 John Watson
2:22
Dave Edwards: 
State level assessments may be more traditional for the face to face and when a non-traditional assessment is introduced for virtual, the credibility may need advocacy!
Monday April 9, 2012 2:22 Dave Edwards
2:23
John Watson: 
The baseline is that virtual schools are also accountable through NLCB in the same way that all public schools are, although when districts wrap a virtual school into an existing school the data may not be disaggregated.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:23 John Watson
2:23
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Interesting.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:23 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:23
[Comment From Marsha BurrisMarsha Burris: ] 
I am a principal in Texas of one of the first grade 3-6 TEA approved Public school Virtual Academy- I would like some pointers when discussing accountability with potential parents who are opposed to high stakes testing and love our school this year but would rather their child not participate in the STAAR testing required by TEA. Any suggestions.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:23 Marsha Burris
2:24
Dave Edwards: 
Yes, John. We have found that aligning state data systems and virtual school systems have been burdensome to say the least!
Monday April 9, 2012 2:24 Dave Edwards
2:24
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Do either of you have some advice for Marsha?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:24 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:25
Dave Edwards: 
Marsha, I am assuming that the parents are concerned that the school may not prepare them for the high stakes testing, correct?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:25 Dave Edwards
2:25
John Watson: 
Marsha, I don't know the exact situation in Texas, but we've seen similar in some other states. I would remind the parents that participation in state assessments is not a school decision; it's a state decision that starts with the legislature (not really with TEA; TEA is implementing a legal requirement)
Monday April 9, 2012 2:25 John Watson
2:25
John Watson: 
In other states where online students have opted out of assessments at levels that concern legislators there have been some responses around requiring participation or penalizing the school.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:25 John Watson
2:26
Dave Edwards: 
Marsha, if you can demonstrate that the content is aligned to the testing they may be less alarmed. The key to quality online programs is alignment to mandated testing requirements. (Although, I am not a total fan!)
Monday April 9, 2012 2:26 Dave Edwards
2:27
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
If Marsha has something to add, we can come back to her, but in the meantime, here's a question from Eugenia.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:27 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:27
[Comment From Eugenia McAllister/ LibraEugenia McAllister/ Libra: ] 
Is the teacher education programs within colleges and universities tied in with helping our soon to be graduates understand this need....Virtual learning? Just pondering the poutreach if any!
Monday April 9, 2012 2:27 Eugenia McAllister/ Libra
2:27
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Is accountability something that teachers are learning about in their preservice education, when it comes to virtual education?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:27 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:28
Dave Edwards: 
Eugenia, I think that colleges are starting down this path, however, we are NOT seeing a focus in quality online teaching and assessment in their programs.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:28 Dave Edwards
2:28
John Watson: 
Eugenia, we are starting to see teacher ed programs responding to the need to educate their students. In our 2011 Keeping Pace report we provide some background and examples on p. 36-37
Monday April 9, 2012 2:28 John Watson
2:29
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
From my own reporting, as well as from what I've read, it seems that most online teachers receive their training on how to be an online teacher from the program they are working for, not from teacher's colleges.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:29 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:29
Dave Edwards: 
I am glad to see John's report focusing on this need!
Monday April 9, 2012 2:29 Dave Edwards
2:29
Dave Edwards: 
Katie, that is the case for NC online teachers.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:29 Dave Edwards
2:30
John Watson: 
Katie, that's correct but there is a growing need as more distrcits create programs.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:30 John Watson
2:30
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Oh, and here's a follow up from Marsha.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:30 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:30
[Comment From Marsha BurrisMarsha Burris: ] 
Actually, the parents don't want us taking online live teaching time prepping their children - they feel their children are already prepared. They want the teaching to be the current lessons - not prepping for a test.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:30 Marsha Burris
2:30
John Watson: 
Because those districts don't have the same PD resources as schools like NCVPS
Monday April 9, 2012 2:30 John Watson
2:30
Dave Edwards: 
I believe that Indiana is starting to focus on embedding this into teacher prep programs.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:30 Dave Edwards
2:31
Dave Edwards: 
Marsha, I totally understand that concern. I would suggest building some blended learning "test prep" models for extending the learning. We do that in NC.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:31 Dave Edwards
2:31
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
I'd like to publish a few comments from Brian Bridges, the director of the California Learning Resource Network.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:31 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:31
[Comment From Brian BridgesBrian Bridges: ] 
Schools should first begin by discovering whether a course meets Common Core standards or state content standards.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:31 Brian Bridges
2:31
[Comment From Brian BridgesBrian Bridges: ] 
But like shopping for a new car, multiple filters are necessary. CLRN reviews of content and iNACOL standards are a good start, but customers should also seek opinions from those currently using a course.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:31 Brian Bridges
2:32
[Comment From Brian BridgesBrian Bridges: ] 
Finally, i recommend that schools take a course on an extended test drive, with both teacher and student accounts. They should explore several units,first as a gifted student and then as a struggling student.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:32 Brian Bridges
2:32
[Comment From Brian BridgesBrian Bridges: ] 
how a course treats struggling course speaks volumes as many online courses are little better than online textbooks with multiple choice tests.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:32 Brian Bridges
2:32
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
John or David, do you agree with Bran's comments?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:32 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:33
Dave Edwards: 
Brian's comments are very succinct and I agree that getting them into the learning environment will help them teach and "lead" the learning. The ability to differentiate in online/blended is paramount!
Monday April 9, 2012 2:33 Dave Edwards
2:33
John Watson: 
Absolutely. CLRN is among the leading organizations in the country thinking about these issues--not just standards but how to implement them
Monday April 9, 2012 2:33 John Watson
2:33
Dave Edwards: 
Brian's comments really sum up the key to effective online learning - student engagement.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:33 Dave Edwards
2:34
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
What about this question, from Jim?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:34 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:34
[Comment From JimJim: ] 
Has anyone suggested to use the common core to launch a common online course so that 46 states could look at the same inputs and outputs--therefore have some common discussion points going forward?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:34 Jim
2:35
Dave Edwards: 
Jim, there is discussion among the State Virtual School Leaders to do exactly that. I know that John's group may have more on that.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:35 Dave Edwards
2:35
John Watson: 
Jim, that's a great question and the answer, to my knowledge, is that it has been discussed but not implemented. But also common national assessments hold promise to achieve a similar end result, although we are some years away from that.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:35 John Watson
2:36
John Watson: 
Jim, also the impact of the teacher is central to these discussions
Monday April 9, 2012 2:36 John Watson
2:36
Dave Edwards: 
A national common core "library" of courses would be great starters, but each state has so many additional requirements that it may prove difficult to deploy initially.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:36 Dave Edwards
2:37
John Watson: 
All of the content that is use now has teachers as a central component of instruction, and clearly a hugely important variable. We would need large data sets to tease out teacher impacts on results.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:37 John Watson
2:37
[Comment From Brian BridgesBrian Bridges: ] 
CLRN reviews for CCSS standards, but then CCSS is limited to ELA and math. When common Science standards are released late this year, we may finally have national science standards.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:37 Brian Bridges
2:37
[Comment From Brian BridgesBrian Bridges: ] 
And publishers would love to create courses for a single set of standards.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:37 Brian Bridges
2:37
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Here's another question from Kate.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:37 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:37
[Comment From Kate LoughreyKate Loughrey: ] 
Are there examples where lack of accountability for online and virtual learning at the state level has had negative consequences that you think are important to be aware of?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:37 Kate Loughrey
2:38
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Has there been any backlash or unintended consequences from accountability measures or policies?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:38 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:38
John Watson: 
Kate, I'll say yes to a slightly different question.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:38 John Watson
2:38
Dave Edwards: 
We see pushback just within the state where districts want more flexibility with our state-approved courses - so autonomy is going to be an issue as well.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:38 Dave Edwards
2:39
John Watson: 
In my home state of Colorado there have been issues with lack of state policies that take into account virtual schools around issues such as funding, and the result is negative publicity aimed at online learning generally where in this case (in CO) it's really a state funding problem. Similar situation happened in Arizona.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:39 John Watson
2:39
Dave Edwards: 
Kate, NC has a great example. For our Credit Recovery model, we are mastery-based and demonstrate a P-Pass/F-Fail assessment. The state-level EOCs have proven a challenge for these students. We are having to reassess now.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:39 Dave Edwards
2:40
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Good to keep in mind as we move forward.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:40 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:40
Dave Edwards: 
NC's funding formula has also proven difficult. Schools don't have sufficient planning resources to assure students get into online courses that they need because of funding.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:40 Dave Edwards
2:42
[Comment From Robert NorrisRobert Norris: ] 
To rephrase a prior question - has anyone looked at how online course or other virtual ed. program costs compare across online vendors, district course providers, or state virtual schools?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:42 Robert Norris
2:42
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
And to add to Robert's question - how does cost factor into accountability, as well?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:42 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:42
John Watson: 
Robert, the Fordham Institute has a series of papers, one of which addressed costs and funding. I don't have the URL handy but it's the latest and most detailed. Look past the top line numbers to the analysis.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:42 John Watson
2:43
Dave Edwards: 
Robert, NC has done this and many state virtual schools are having to be the gatekeeper for district-led programs.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:43 Dave Edwards
2:43
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Here is a link to the paper: http://www.edexcellence.net/publications/the-costs-of-online-learning.html
It compares face-to-face, online, and blended learning programs.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:43 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:43
Dave Edwards: 
Robert, many factors weigh in - cost, student interaction, student-teacher ratio, alignment to state standards, etc.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:43 Dave Edwards
2:43
John Watson: 
Katie, we're seeing states and districts moving into online for cost-cutting reasons, which we think is a mistake. It threatens quality of these programs and a time when we should be investing in them, not seeking to save money as the primary goal.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:43 John Watson
2:44
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Yes, and it seems that it is difficult to really nail down the costs of online vs. brick-and-mortar schools. I know even the Fordham Institute's paper has received some criticism for not being more comprehensive.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:44 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:44
Dave Edwards: 
I agree with John. Many of our districts are looking at lower cost vendors just to save money without looking at quality indicators from iNACOL/SREB.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:44 Dave Edwards
2:45
Dave Edwards: 
Katie, the political landscape is really driving that research as many brick and mortar schools are concerned about the cost saving realization that may hurt their funding models.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:45 Dave Edwards
2:45
John Watson: 
Katie, Fordham and Parthenon (who wrote the paper) did receive some criticism, but I've not seen anyone explain how they would have done the study at reasonable cost. Not to say it was perfect, as I noted I'm concered about the numbers, but it's a valuable contribution.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:45 John Watson
2:46
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Sure - I just wanted to bring it up to show how difficult it is to nail down actual numbers that are accurate and meaningful.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:46 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:46
John Watson: 
Katie--I agree completely. Just glad I didn't have to write that paper!
Monday April 9, 2012 2:46 John Watson
2:47
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Haha, yes, it seems like quite an undertaking.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:47 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:47
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Here's a thought from John
Monday April 9, 2012 2:47 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:47
[Comment From John Elfrank-DanaJohn Elfrank-Dana: ] 
It seems this discussion presupposes that the same outcomes are desirable for F2F and virtual education programs; that the value of the virtual will be held to the same standard of the traditional formats,. Yet, social media opens up new learning experiences not possible otherwise (see participatory culture skill set, derived by the MIT media lab). Do we need a different set of expectations for virtual learning?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:47 John Elfrank-Dana
2:48
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
What do you two think? Are we comparing apples to oranges here? Or is the goal of online education the same as face-to-face?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:48 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:48
Dave Edwards: 
John, I agree that we need some new quality indicators that are different from face to face.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:48 Dave Edwards
2:48
John Watson: 
John, whether we need a different sets of expectations--perhaps. But I don't see any chance that it will happen politically.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:48 John Watson
2:49
Dave Edwards: 
I think we can all agree that we need to move to learning being the constant and time the variable instead of the other way around.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:49 Dave Edwards
2:49
John Watson: 
To clarify--yes to different metrics, but not different expectations.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:49 John Watson
2:49
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Interesting distinction there, John.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:49 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:49
John Watson: 
Standard metrics are not particularly good, and what's being developed for online could be applied to f2f as well. Funding on completion instead of seat time is an example.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:49 John Watson
2:50
Dave Edwards: 
I think many have different expectations for virtual - but really it's more about the expectation of better student outcomes I would say.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:50 Dave Edwards
2:50
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Another thought from Brian, on the cost issue:
Monday April 9, 2012 2:50 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:50
[Comment From Brian BridgesBrian Bridges: ] 
Sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Online courses, based on the lowest bidder, may not be the wisest filter to use. Always judge whether a course is highly engaging, uses higher order thinking skills and has appropriate assessment types.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:50 Brian Bridges
2:51
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
A question from Kate regarding credit-recovery classes:
Monday April 9, 2012 2:51 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:51
[Comment From Kate LoughreyKate Loughrey: ] 
What is the current "good practices" thinking regarding the design of online courses taken for credit recovery purposes. Design a high quality course and build in the ability to differentiate instruction, whether student is taking for initial credit or credit recovery, is a strong student quickly and easily mastering the content, or a student struggling to master the content. Or, create a separate course to be taken for credit recovery purposes and designed specifically for that?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:51 Kate Loughrey
2:51
John Watson: 
The cost race to the bottom is a real problem in some states. The irony is that *nobody* likes it but it still happens.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:51 John Watson
2:51
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
What is the philosophy at the NCVPS, David?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:51 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:52
Dave Edwards: 
Kate/Katie, our philosophy is mastery-based. and we would focus on designing a high quality course and building in the ability to differentiate instruction, whether student is taking for initial credit or credit recovery
Monday April 9, 2012 2:52 Dave Edwards
2:53
John Watson: 
Dave's answer makes sense, but in some states policy doesn't allow that approach to work as well, so it makes sense to have a different approach with credit recovery vs original credit.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:53 John Watson
2:53
Dave Edwards: 
To clarify . . we build the course and build in the mastery-based assessment structures to be more flexible for credit recovery students
Monday April 9, 2012 2:53 Dave Edwards
2:54
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Here's another question I often hear when writing about virtual education:
Monday April 9, 2012 2:54 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:54
[Comment From MaryMary: ] 
What about security issues related to knowing that the student participating in the course is actually the student registered for the course?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:54 Mary
2:54
Dave Edwards: 
Here is more info on our model - http://www.ncvps.org/index.php/courses/credit-recovery/
Monday April 9, 2012 2:54 Dave Edwards
2:54
John Watson: 
Mary, we get that question all the time.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:54 John Watson
2:55
Dave Edwards: 
Mary, for NC the student must be enrolled in a NC public high school and the counselor does the registration.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:55 Dave Edwards
2:55
John Watson: 
If the student is fully online, teachers can use webcams, phone calls, proctored exams, and perhaps occasional f2f meetings with students. High stakes exams in particular can be proctored.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:55 John Watson
2:56
[Comment From John Elfrank-DanaJohn Elfrank-Dana: ] 
When I teach my virtual seminar at Fordham I use video chat with each student to discuss their project development, for about 20 min each. That helps with verification.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:56 John Elfrank-Dana
2:56
Dave Edwards: 
I believe this is one reason we need to look at how we assess in online so that we can assure authenticity.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:56 Dave Edwards
2:56
John Watson: 
John's point is a perfect example
Monday April 9, 2012 2:56 John Watson
2:57
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Definitely - making use of the technology available to help solve some of these issues.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:57 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:58
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Well, we have just a couple of minutes left here before we wrap things up. John and David, do you have any final thoughts or pieces of advice?
Monday April 9, 2012 2:58 Moderator: Katie Ash
2:58
Dave Edwards: 
This is a great resource for questions and development steps - http://www.onlineprogramhowto.org/
Monday April 9, 2012 2:58 Dave Edwards
2:59
John Watson: 
Katie, we see quality and accountability as tied to goals of an online or blended program. If an educator can state their goals for online, they can start to ID data and assess outcomes.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:59 John Watson
2:59
John Watson: 
Keeping Pace p. 52+ has some graphics to help districts think through implementation issues.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:59 John Watson
2:59
Dave Edwards: 
Accountability in virtual will be one of the hottest topics for the next few years. I believe that aligning national standards to accommodate both face to face and virtual will be key.
Monday April 9, 2012 2:59 Dave Edwards
3:00
Moderator: Katie Ash: 
Great. This has been a very informative and lively discussion! Thank you all so much for participating, and thanks to John and David for sharing their thoughtful comments!
Monday April 9, 2012 3:00 Moderator: Katie Ash
3:00
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Thank you for sharing this chat.
Monday April 9, 2012 3:00 Guest
3:00
[Comment From Kate LoughreyKate Loughrey: ] 
Thanks for the excellent discussion!
Monday April 9, 2012 3:00 Kate Loughrey
3:00
[Comment From John Elfrank-DanaJohn Elfrank-Dana: ] 
Thanks!
Monday April 9, 2012 3:00 John Elfrank-Dana
3:00
Dave Edwards: 
Thank you Katie, John and all of the participants.
Monday April 9, 2012 3:00 Dave Edwards
3:00
EdWeek Bryan: 
Thanks, Katie, John, and David! And thank you to all who joined us today.
Monday April 9, 2012 3:00 EdWeek Bryan
3:00
John Watson: 
Katie, thanks for inviting me to take part, and thanks to all the participants for the excellent questions.
Monday April 9, 2012 3:00 John Watson
3:01
EdWeek Bryan: 
We'll have a transcript of today's chat available at this same link within the hour. Please check back then to read through today's discussion -- and feel free to pass it along to your colleagues!
Monday April 9, 2012 3:01 EdWeek Bryan
3:01
EdWeek Bryan: 
Have a great rest of the day, folks.
Monday April 9, 2012 3:01 EdWeek Bryan
3:01
 

 
 
 

The Accountability Push in Virtual Learning

Monday, April 9, 2012, 2 to 3 p.m. ET

As virtual learning continues to grow and more students enroll in online courses, ensuring that virtual schools are providing high-quality learning experiences for students is essential. Quality and accountability in online learning is now just as important as equity and access, says the 2011 “Keeping Pace” report, an annual examination of policy and practice in online learning, published by the Durango, Colo.-based Evergreen Education Group, headed by John Watson. Recently, virtual education has been facing an increasing amount of scrutiny and criticism about its effectiveness and the wide range in the quality of various programs. Our guests discussed why accountability is so important for virtual schools as they move into the mainstream of K-12 education, what they are doing to ensure high-quality learning for students, and what challenges they face in meeting that goal.

Guests:
John Watson, founder, Evergreen Education Group
David Edwards, chief communications and professional learning officer, North Carolina Virtual Public School

Katie Ash, staff writer, Education Week Digital Directions, moderated this chat.

Related Stories:
  • Virtual Ed. Faces Sharp Criticism (December 7, 2011)
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