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Virtual education in Rhode Island's K-12 public schools: Current status and perceptions of administrators

Barbara C Morse, Johnson & Wales University


The US Department of Education National Education Technology Plan encourages states, districts, and schools to provide every student with access to online-learning opportunities and to develop criteria for earning credit through e-learning that mirrors the criteria for earning course credits in local schools (USDOE, 2009). Currently, Rhode Island lags behind most other states in establishing statewide virtual learning opportunities (Watson, Gemin, & Ryan, 2008). The purpose of this research was to gather data for the research questions: What is the nature and extent of distance education in Rhode Island’s K-12 public school districts, what do administrators’ perceived as the importance of and barriers to implementation of distance education programs in their districts, and are there significant differences with respect to urbanicity or charter status? This study used a sequential, two-phase mixed-methods approach. A survey of N = 29 public school administrators represented 60% of the K-12 public school districts in Rhode Island. Follow up focus-group interviews were conducted at n = 1 suburban and n = 1 urban districts. Descriptive statistics included frequencies, percents, means, and standard deviations for questions on the survey instrument. ANOVAs and t-tests were used to explore differences in administrators’ perceptions were examined with respect to metropolitan and charter status. The findings reveal the most common forms of fully online courses currently offered in Rhode Island school districts are for remediation or credit recovery (45%), elective courses (38%), required courses (21%) and Advanced Placement and/or college-credit courses (21%). Remediation and credit recovery are also the most common forms of blended/hybrid course offered in Rhode Island (21%). Survey and interview results found administrators’ perceived importance for these courses is higher than the current level of implementation. Open-ended and interview responses further indicated that administrators are seeking to expand online-learning programs in their districts, while perceived barriers to expansion include course development and/or purchasing costs, the lack of other sources of funding, and the lack of grants. This study provides information for district and state educational leaders who are seeking baseline data and other information which may be useful in efforts to establish distance education programs.

Subject Area

Educational technology|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Morse, Barbara C, "Virtual education in Rhode Island's K-12 public schools: Current status and perceptions of administrators" (2010). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3397945.