Category Archives: Research

Virtual School Leader Development

Recommendations for Virtual School Leader Preparation

by Mark Sivy

Based upon the outcomes of my recently completed virtual school leadership study, recommendations are made for:

  1. Continued research
  2. Development of leadership standards
  3. Creation of leadership preparation and development opportunities
  4. Application of current findings to leadership practice

To continue the work started by this dissertation research, additional virtual school leadership study is recommended. The initial focus should be further study of virtual school leadership to discover remaining factors or factor details that influence the role. It is then suggested to broaden the scope of study to produce generalizable findings for the field of virtual school leadership. These findings would be inclusive of and applicable to state-led virtual schools (e.g., Florida Virtual School and Michigan Virtual School), charter virtual schools (e.g., Wisconsin’s Online Charter School), online school consortia, commercially-backed virtual schools (such as those using K-12), and other virtual learning endeavors.

virtual school leadershipIt is then recommended that the study of the virtual school leadership role be complemented by the development of a vetted and accepted compilation of virtual school leadership standards. The standards should be developed in association with a professional organization such as the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).

With standards in place, the next recommendation is the design and creation of comprehensive certification agendas, higher education programs, and professional development programs. These learning opportunities should be based upon research, practice, and standards and be created in a manner that ensures virtual school leaders develop knowledge and abilities through meaningful rhetoric, critical thinking exercises, and case study analyses. It is suggested that the development of these offerings include broad input and review from stakeholders, subject matter experts, existing leaders, and national professional organizations.

It is advocated that certification agendas and professional development programs be crafted to provide comprehensive leadership preparation that addresses all the themes presented in this study. These should be supplemented by ongoing communities of practice and support. In addition to the inclusion of central topics, professional development offerings should also include special topics as they arise, panel discussions, case presentations, and content for other levels of virtual school administration and leadership.

With the understanding that currently there is a relatively small group of individuals who would be interested in virtual school leadership, at least one graduate level course that introduces virtual instructional leadership should be offered in higher education programs at larger institutions. This overview course would benefit individuals who are in a variety of roles, from the leader of a traditional school offering online courses to the leader of a virtual school to individuals who are in other leadership roles associated with online learning.

virtual school leaderRealizing that online and virtual education and virtual schools are rapidly expanding and reaching a critical mass, the next recommendation is for the creation of a national center for virtual school studies at a higher education institution. This center would take the lead in the study of virtual school theory and practice including, but not limited to, leadership. Based upon the work of this center and other researchers, a graduate program offering a specialization in virtual school leadership should be created.

Individuals who are currently interested in becoming a virtual school leader should seek membership in professional organizations, read existing academic literature on virtual schools and virtual leadership, and take advantage of networking opportunities with current virtual school leaders. Virtual school employees who are considering advancement into a leadership position within their virtual school should inquire about succession planning. For purposes of support, documentation, and ongoing development, it is suggested for existing leaders to create a formal consortium or collaborative organization that is open to leaders from various online and virtual school efforts.

Reflection Point – A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. ~Lao Tzu


Administrator Research

Exploratory Study of the Leadership Characteristics of a Virtual School Administrator

Call For Participants

A doctoral candidate at NOVA Southeastern University’s Department of Education is looking for individuals to participate in an research study that will look at the Leadership Characteristics of a Virtual School Administrator. This study will be paramount in determining the leadership and management skills an individual will need to successfully govern in a virtual learning environment and the beneficiaries of this study will include stakeholders such as the next generation of virtual school administrators, human resources, and policy makers.

Virtual schoolThey are looking for individuals that meet the following criteria:

1. Over 18 years old.
2. Administrator of a virtual school community (i.e. Principals, Directors, CEOs).
3. Bachelors or Graduate Degree.
4. Professional experience in the field of education.

As a participant you will be asked to participate in a short fifteen (15) minutes interview (in person, telephone, or via Skype). Please note information given by all participants will be coded and kept confidential.


If you’re interested in participating and are a member of iNACOL, please log into the Member Forum and find this under General Announcements. If you’re not a member, please enter a comment and I’ll find a way for you to contact the researcher. Thanks.


Virtual School Effectiveness

Michigan Virtual School Course Effectiveness

by Mark Sivy

The effectiveness of virtual learning for K-12 students was studied and presented In a recent report from the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute™ (MVLRI™), a division of Michigan Virtual University (MVU). Michigan’s K-12 Virtual Learning Effectiveness Report indicates that virtual course enrollments in the Michigan Virtual School have seen rapid growth, increasing from 89,921 in 2010-2011 to 185,053 in 2012-2013. This report was prepared at the request of the Michigan Legislature to examine the overall impact of virtual courses on K-12 students

Mike Flanagan, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, stated “It is very helpful to see the data that schools are required to submit for virtual enrollments being turned into useful information that can help impact instruction and policy in Michigan.” Jamey Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of MVU, adds “The data suggest that students with lower academic success in traditional classroom environments are more often directed to virtual learning options. I am surprised that schools are not doing more to guide students with demonstrated success as independent learners into virtual learning options.”

Michigan Virtual School

Michigan Virtual School is a division of Michigan Virtual University

The researchers, Dr. Joe Freidhoff (Executive Director of MVLRI), Kristen DeBruler, and Kathryn Kennedy, concluded:

  • There are inherent issues in the reporting of data that could lead to an inaccuracy in the current findings.
  • The current process that’s in place for the collection of state data at the school level is not producing sufficient data to be able to have a definitive understanding of what does and doesn’t work.
  • The data that does exist has resulted in mixed outcomes, indicating virtual course successes and weaknesses.

Please visit THE Journal’s article to read about David Nagel’s views on the report

To view the full report >>