K-12 Summit - Part 2: Quality Characteristics Of K-12 Online Learning

Concurrent Session 6
K-12 OLC Session

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Brief Abstract

Even prior to COVID-19’s introduction of nearly every student and school to some degree of online teaching and learning, the world of online learning has exploded with roughly 6 million of the country’s 56 million K–12 students having taken at least one online or virtual class over the last 20 years. Most K–12 teachers start with a learning management system (LMS) to manage their online classroom space (for example, Canvas, Blackboard, Google Classroom, or Schoology) and have also integrated technology into their coursework. Even more of us have added remote synchronous instruction using a host of web-conferencing tools during the pandemic. This session will focus on taking our unique knowledge base of what has worked and what we need additional support and training to reimagine in the digital sphere when asking key questions about online quality in the new normal. It is certainly very possible for K-12 educators to capitalize on the distance learning revolution and extend what works in the post-Pandemic world. 




Alexander (Alex) Case is the OLC Associate Vice President of Strategic Partnership and Grants. In this capacity, he is responsible for growing OLC’s reach in the areas of grants, strategic partnerships, and consulting. Alex brings a diverse array of experience to this position from federal civil service, K-12, and higher education leadership roles. He is eager to affirm OLC’s thought leadership while managing multifaceted relationships with institutions, organizations, associations, foundations, and corporate partners. He is also committed to charting our community’s growth in the K-12 and international sectors. Prior to joining the OLC, Alex served as the Interim Director of Student Services (Dean of Students) and Associate Director of Instructional Design and Development for the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Online program. NOVA is a member of the 24-school Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and is among the largest community colleges in the nation. There, he oversaw creation and maintenance of an online portfolio of 400 online asynchronous courses spanning all academic pathways, offered in over 1,200 sections per semester, and serving 23,000 students per year. He was also involved in his state system’s work to extend program completion outcomes state-wide via the Online Virginia Network and oversaw his entire online program portfolio’s learning management system conversion. Alex began his education career in the K-12 sector where he was a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, and school-based administrator for a decade. His final role was as principal of socio-economically and racially diverse high school where he led 2,600 students and 350-person multigenerational staff on a three-building campus in Fairfax County, Virginia. He successfully led his school out of accreditation with warning status in one year, oversaw the development of a governor’s career and technical education academy, and deepened its Blue Ribbon Award-winning fine and performing arts center. Prior to teaching, Alex held positions in training, business management, and strategic planning for the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency. Alex completed his B.A. in history, political science, and secondary education from the University of Mary Washington (Fredericksburg, Virginia), instructional design coursework from George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia), a M.Ed. in Education Leadership from the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia), and is presently completing a dissertation towards a Ph.D. in Education at George Mason University.
Janet Smith serves as an Instructional Designer leading quality assurance initiatives at the University of Arizona with the Office of Digital Learning. She manages a multitiered and collaborative quality assurance process to ensure that courses developed for UA Online are designed for student success and engagement. Janet works with partners across campus to integrate best practices around course design, copyright, UDL, and accessibility into the instructional design process and leads the Quality Matters program for the university. She received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Arizona, her master's degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education from Northern Arizona University, and a graduate certificate in Educational Technology from Northern Arizona University. In her free time, Janet enjoys spending time with her family and friends, cooking, and practicing and teaching yoga.

Extended Abstract

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 6 million students in the United States took at least one distance education course annually, a number that will continue to rise now that nearly every student and family has experienced distance learning--some positively and some less-than-positively. Taking the time to migrate courses and grade-levels from a traditional classroom format to an online or blended format ideally takes more time than teachers have been afforded. However, fundamental considerations of course quality are universal to digital learning and areas we can reflect upon with our new and recent experience. 

Course quality includes considerations such as how students and faculty actively engage in online instruction, faculty response to student inquiries in a timely manner, establishing a timely process for giving students feedback and grades, and use of a Learning Management System (LMS) and web conferencing tools for synchronous or asynchronous instruction and instructor communication. To maximize the success of online learning, teachers must practice proactive course management strategies and establish patterns of course activities This session considers some of the most fundamental considerations of course quality and where K-12 teachers may wish to invest time in order to feel greater satisfaction and confidence in their virtual teaching experience. The future is likely to include greater levels of hybrid or blended learning environments for K-12 students. Thus, even if remote instruction is minimized for your grade-level or subject, we must prepare for potential course interruptions and use of virtual learning as a bridge between weather-related closures and related breaks in normal school operation. Matters of course quality can help educators to capitalize on the extensive experience in distance learning we have gained since 2020 and determine how to best extend what we see working at individual schools and classrooms for the post-Pandemic world.