EXPLORATORY CASE STUDY OF MIDDLE SCHOOL ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT IN A FULLY ONLINE VIRTUAL SCHOOL
Recent literature highlights the need for quality research that provides an understanding of the characteristics of adolescent online learners and the types of support necessary for them to achieve academically in a virtual school. The researcher conducted a qualitative case study to explore the academic achievement of middle school students in a fully online K-12 virtual school in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States through interviews, observations, and an online focus group. This dissertation research revealed that the virtual school student participants share learner characteristics in common, virtual school teachers continue to play an important role in the virtual school model, and specific aspects of parental involvement were revealed that indicate a learning coach’s approach to student support may promote academic achievement. Certain components and features of the education management system were perceived by the study participants as supportive of academic achievement. Lastly, a connection with peers through extracurricular activities appeared to impact student motivation and academic achievement in virtual school.