Dr. Ferdig pointed me to a recently published article in which he, Meredith DiPietro, Erik Black, and Megan Preston discuss best practices at the Michigan Virtual School. I found it interesting that the state of Michigan requires all high school students to experience online learning prior to graduation. I'm assuming that this initiative significantly increased enrollment at the virtual school.
Putting students and learning first is a common theme at the Michigan Virtual School and likewise at the school I've been observing. Other similarities between virtual school teachers at both schools include a general interest in technological advances, the need for good organizational skills, extensive content knowledge, and alternative assessment strategies.
As I reviewed the list of best practices, I was most interested in collaboration and how this is facilitated at Michigan Virtual School (MV). "MV teachers encourage support and communication between students" (DiPeitro, Ferdig, Black, and Preston, 2008, p. 24). This appears to be accomplished via discussion boards. Discussion threads are not used in the courses I have observed. It's not clear how widely they are used in other courses. My supervising teacher explained that collaboration is difficult because individual pacing allows students to be at different places in the course at any given time.
"MV teachers understand the impact of course pacing on course design and the pedagogical strategies they use". The MV teacher quote continues, "in the Flex 90 courses we don't see the strong sense of community that we do in the AP classes" (DiPeitro, Ferdig, Black, and Preston, 2008, p. 19). The reason for this is not clear. Is it because the Flex students are working at a variable pace, or is it because the AP students are better organized and more participatory?
I wish I had a better understanding of the extent to which collaborative strategies are used in both of these virtual schools. At this point, I feel limited to my personal observations and those of my blogging classmates.
Dipietro, M., Ferdig, R., Black, E., & Preston, M. (2008). Best Practices in Teaching K12 Online: Lessons Learned from Michigan Virtual School Teachers. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 7(1). Retrieved Apr. 10, 2008, from http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/showissue.cfm?volID=7&IssueID=22.