Administrative Motivation in the Growth of Virtual Education in Indiana
AffiliationUniversity of Southern Indiana
TitleAdministrative Motivation in the Growth of Virtual Education in Indiana
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Virtual education has grown exponentially in past years. During the 2019-20 school year, more than three-quarters of all states had some sort of virtual education program which caters to students in grades K-12. The National Educational Policy Center reports that more than 480,000 American students in 40 states attended virtual or blended instruction schools in 2019-20. (Molnar et al., 2021). While virtual education has been growing in recent years, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures caused districts to create virtual education programs. While this number is not yet quantified, it is reasonable to assert that virtual education was more prevalent in the United States and in Indiana than ever before.
There is a significant body of research exploring the challenges experienced by many virtual students. There is, however, less understanding as to why school districts continue to promote and expand virtual education in light of data that shows a lack of success in these types of programs. The purpose of this mixed-methods sequential explanatory study was to understand the decisions made by Indiana public school K-12 district superintendents and virtual program administrators when choosing whether or not to implement a virtual education program.
All public school superintendents in Indiana were surveyed, as were those individuals designated by their district as a virtual program administrator. Survey topics included perceived limitations, benefits, and challenges of virtual education in Indiana. Individual follow-up interviews were conducted with volunteer participants. Throughout the study, it quickly became evident that COVID-19 was a primary cause for the recent expansion of virtual education. This phenomenon impacted not only students, but also their teachers and the school districts that they attended. This study provides a snapshot of the state of virtual education in Indiana during 2020-21 school year, including the perceptions of school administrators and the impact of COVID-19. While the pandemic may have spurred the growth of virtual education, the benefits and challenges experienced in schools are the same as those felt by educators and students in previous years.