Picciano, A., Seaman, J., Shea, P., and Swan, K. Examining the Extent and Nature of Online Learning in American K–12 Education: The Research Initiatives of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Internet and Higher Education, 15: 127–135 (2012).
In this article, the authors further break down and discuss the results of significant studies conducted from 2005-2010 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation that surveyed administrators of K-12 public schools in America. The original surveys were conducted with the purpose of evaluating the prevalence of, barriers to, and benefits of online and blended courses in K-12 education. Picciano and the other research team members break down the data concerning when students first took an online or blended course in various districts, the varying levels of importance of reasons necessitating online courses, and barriers impacting online and blended courses. They also evaluate the results from high schools in particular and discuss the advantages of online courses in relation to high school reform and improving the drop out rate. The authors conclude with a presentation of implications and needs going forward such as the opportunities to meet various needs and differentiation for students through options such as credit recovery. They also call for the need of funding and policy reform and careful evaluation of online and blended course offerings to ensure quality and address teacher concerns.
Picciano and the other authors evaluate the data from past studies from multiple lenses. For example, their clear graphs break down the specific size of districts that offer various types of online courses such as credit recovery and Advanced Placement courses. While showing and discussing the popularity of online options such as credit recovery, they also share particular concerns and areas for future research such as the fact the many administrators stress that students participating in online courses require a certain level of maturity and self-direction but that these may be characteristics that many students who need credit recovery courses are lacking. The article also points out the extreme growth in online participation in K-12 schools from 2007 to 2009, even beyond predictions made. They use this growth rate to encourage the continued evaluation of, research of, and improvement of online and blended courses in the future.
This article connects to my current research interests through the benefits of online and blended courses that were rated by administrators. The advantage of being able to meet various student needs was a reason for online courses that was specifically discussed by the authors. This seems to demonstrate that online courses could have specific uses for differentiation, especially at the high school level, that could help to better meet the needs of all students regardless of learning differences.