The general challenge in online education is the failure to embrace the paradigm that online programs are fundamentally different than traditional pedagogy, and must include alternative ways to link learning styles and learning outcomes. Failure to acknowledge the difference and to adjust delivery to meet the delivery medium runs the risk or providing ineffective instruction. The specific problem is that although there is a body of literature addressing online learning there is little research addressing best practices for teaching in a blended online synchronous and asynchronous model (Carr-Chellman, et al., 2001; Freeman and Field, 2004).
The current qualitative case study examined the phenomenon of teaching practices of faculty and student progress in the Florida Virtual School. The study examined the experiences of at least 15 facilitators of blended online synchronous and asynchronous learning within the FVS environment, as well as the use of generalized performance data regarding overall student performance at FVS. Semi-structured interviews in combination with a meta-analysis of student progress based on reporting institutions were the primary locus of data collection.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the current qualitative case study was to examine the teaching practices of faculty at the Florida Virtual School, using the combination of a blended online synchronous and asynchronous learning environment in order to identify some best practices. The participating institution, Florida Virtual School, is located in the State of Florida and provides K-12 Education solutions not only to Floridians, but to U.S. And global students. Because the study examined the phenomenon of teaching practices of faculty at the participating institution using the blended online synchronous and asynchronous learning environment, a qualitative case study method was appropriate
The current case study identified and described the teaching practices of a unique educational institution, the Florida Virtual School, engaged in online course delivery utilizing a blended model of online synchronous and asynchronous learning. The research question that directed the current study are:
Q1 -- What best practices do faciltators find effective to apply to online higher education using the blended online synchronous and asynchronous model?
Q2 -- What strategies and technologies do faculty employ to facilitate effective online learning at the participating institution?
Q3 -- Did the participating institution meet state mandate Academic Yearly Progress goals?
These research questions will be explored by using a platform of interview questions combined with data collection from primary reporting agencies regarding school performance statistics.
Nature of the Study
The goal of the current study was to assess what practices, strategies, and technologies faculty employ to facilitate effective online learning at the participating institution. A better understanding of effective online teaching practices in the blended online synchronous and asynchronous learning environment provides faculty and leadership opportunities to improve institutional practices. Research results provide the institution the opportunity to improve the learning environment of the online higher education classroom, improve the overall learning experience for the institution and the learner, support the transition of pedagogy necessary for effective online instruction, and provide guidance for face-to-face faculty as they transition to an online learning environment.
Significance of the Study
A significant body of literature exists which examines face-to-face learning, asynchronous learning, and blended online and face-to-face learning in higher education, yet there remains little consensus as to the long-term efficacy of these types of programs vs. traditional programs (Conners, 2012). One of the research difficulties focuses on the demographics of the student: a student who has the grades and economic support to attend a top-notch business school, (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, etc.), may be poised and connected socially toward a different set of goals that one who is working full-time, raising a family, and taking online courses. Thus, the parity of type of education is relatively dependent on a number of outside variables (Mo, 2012). Student satisfaction is a critical element in the success of the institution, therefore identifying and implementing effective practices becomes a critical component of attracting new students, improving retention and overall organizational success (Sanchez-Leguelinel, 2008). The current study assists leaders and faculty at the examined institution of higher education in the development of online programs that may increase the effectiveness of course delivery and satisfy the student customer.
The following terms were used repeatedly within the research document. Definitions are provided to convey the intended meaning of the researcher.
Asynchronous communication. Asynchronous communication is communication that takes place anytime, anyplace as learners are not required to be online or connected to a teacher at a prescribed time for a specific purpose (Majchrzak & Beath, 2006, p. 72).
Blackboard™. Blackboard ™ is a learning management system which is a digital platform used to communicate and facilitate the distribution and sharing of information (McLoughlin & Lee, 2008).
Blended online learning. Blended online learning as defined in the current study is a mixed mode of learning, which combines asynchronous electronic communication with real-time synchronous class meetings replicating the typical face-to-face classroom experience with voice or voice and video (McGuire and Castle, 2012).
Blog (Weblog). A Blog or Weblog is a website where authors instantly post thoughts and information in diary format about news or other topics of interest (West, et al., 2006).
Centra™. Centra ™ is a communication platform supporting "synchronous audio lectures, multimedia presentations and the sharing of the same desktop between multiple locations" (Tello and Lewis, 2008).
Computer-mediated communication (CMC). Computer-mediated communication focuses on using digital or other technology to share knowledge through networking of data and other information (Hogg, et al., 2008).
Correspondence study. Correspondence study is learning that takes place independently with the exchange of course materials from the institution to the learner and the learner to the institution facilitated by mail (University of South Dakota, 2012).
Course Management System (CMS). Course management systems use integration to blend the Internet, World Wide Web, and other technological protocols into a single system that allows for a better and more seamless integration into an distance or online learning paradigm (Norton & Hathaway, 2008, p. 479).
Cyberspace communication. Cyberspace communication is defined as a "web of flowing synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid communication" (Barbas, 2006).
Discussion boards. Discussion boards are "asynchronous computer-mediated communication systems that provide anytime/anyplace communication through computer networks" (Xie, et al., 2006, p. 67).
Distance education. Distance education is a term used interchangeably with e-learning and Internet supported learning. It is a mode of delivering instruction over the Internet or computer platform in which students are not physically present in the classroom, but are bound through the course and separated by time and distance (Moore & Kearsley, 2004, p. 2).
Educational technology. Educational technology as used in this study is defined as network-based delivery methods designed to facilitate learning utilizing the Internet or Intranet for communication (Holsapple and Lee, 2006).
E-Learning. E-Learning, or electronic learning, deliveries instructional material over any electronic mode of technology. The term is used interchangeably with distance learning and Web-based instruction (Keegan, 1996).
Social networking. Social networking applied in the dissertation is the grouping of individuals or institutions into specific groups for the purpose of communication using various software and digital technologies (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008).
Streaming. Streaming refers to the manner in which data is compacted, buffered, and reformatted so that it can be transmitted through the Internet in a real-time sequence (Hartsell & Yuen, 2006, p. 33).
Synchronous communication. Synchronous communication is a mode of online communication that requires users to respond live and in real-time. In the current study the synchronous learning platform includes live and real-time communication with audio (Blankson, et al., 2010).
Vlogging (Vodcasting). Vlogging is Blogging utilizing video (Butler, 2008).
Web 1.0. refers to the version of the World Wide Web that supported principles and practices of the generation of software applications previous to Web 2.0 (Butler).
Web 2.0. Web 2.0 refers to the version of the World Wide Web that supports current design patterns, business models, and principles and practices of the current generation of software applications (Butler).
Web-based instruction. Web-based instruction is learning content and activities delivered in a web-based format. The term is used interchangeably with e-learning (Azeta, 2008, p. 129).
Wiki. A wiki is a compilation of linked Web pages that include combinations of authors in a single or grouped document (Beldarrain, 2006, p. 142).
Expanding education into the online forum raises concerns about instructional quality (Freeman & Field, 2004). A better understanding of effective online teaching practices in the blended online synchronous and asynchronous learning environment provides leadership opportunities to improve instructional practices. The results of the current study provide the leadership of the study institution the opportunity to improve the learning environment of the online educational experience, to support transitioning from face-to-face models to effective online delivery, and tools to aid in the transition to a robust online environment. Kuhn (1996) noted that a discipline requires large numbers of thoroughly implemented case studies in order to provide a systematic production of examples. Failure to provide such examples renders the discipline ineffective (Kuhn). The current…