A Literature Review
The American education system has seen a tremendous growth in online learning programs, defined as learning experiences in which students and instructors are separated by space and/or time. The development of online distance learning environment is a relatively new initiative. Online schools have become ideally suited to meet the needs of government officials, politicians, calling for school choice, high school reform and preparation for the 21st century workforce. The growing number of students learning online and the importance of online learning as a solution to educational differences has increased the demand to study more closely the factors that effect learning in a virtual school environment. Many current and past students of online education programs are attracted to online schooling because it offers advantages over a traditional classroom-based program. The benefits of distance online education for youth are increasing in enrollment is because these educational programs are reaching low income regions and districts, broadening educational opportunity for students who are unable to attend a traditional setting and are not accessible to resources and the teachers are not available locally which creates a better student teacher communication. Students in virtual schools demonstrated greater improvement than their conventional school counterparts in critical thinking, researching, using computers, learning independently, problem-solving, creative thinking, decision-making, and time management (Barker & Wendel, 2001). Academic advantages over traditional classroom instruction were demonstrated by students in Mexico’s Telesecundaria program, who were “substantially more likely than other groups to pass a final 9th grade examination” administered by the state (Calderoni, 1998, p. 6); by students taking a chemistry by satellite course (Dees, 1994); and by students learning reading and math via interactive radio instruction (Yasin & Luberisse, 1998). Virtual school developers and instructors continue to refine their practice, and in so doing, they are learning from reports of both successful and unsuccessful programs.
Virtual schooling, like the classroom has limited success in some situations. In an online environment, students may feel isolated, parents may have concerns about children’s social development, students with language difficulties could experience a disadvantage in a text-heavy online environment, and subjects requiring physical demonstrations of skill such as music or physical education may not be practical in a technology-mediated setting.
For example, Bond (2002) found that distance between tutor and learner in an online instrumental music program has negative effects on performance quality, student engagement, and development and refinement of skills and knowledge. Students in a virtual classroom show less improvement than those in conventional schools in listening and speaking skills (Barker & Wendel, 2001). Highly technical subjects such as mathematics and science have also proven to be difficult to teach well online. The Alberta Online Consortium evaluated student performance on end-of-year exams among virtual school students across the province and found that virtual school student scores in mathematics at grades 3, 6, 9, and 12, and the sciences at grades 6 and 9 lagged significantly behind scores of no virtual school students (Schollie, 2001). Even though various forms of technology for students have been in use for nearly a century, rapid change in technology and the educational context have resulted in a small body of research relevant to today’s conditions that can serve to guide instructors, planners, or developers. The temptation is to attempt to apply or adapt findings from studies of K–12 classrooms learning, but K–12-distance education is fundamentally unique. The last article of this literature review basically