Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Havice, Pamela A

Committee Member

Cawthon , Tony

Committee Member

Gonzales , Leslie

Committee Member

Havice , William

Abstract

As education systems continue to grow and evolve with new advancements in technology, so do methods of instruction. Technological advancements have helped to further distributed learning, making instruction available to students in various geographic locations and times. Virtual secondary education is a form of distributed learning where secondary students complete their degrees fully online, outside of a brick-and-mortar school. There is a lack of information regarding the experiences of these students as they transition to traditional colleges and universities after attending virtual high schools.
This study sought to describe the experiences of virtual high school graduates as they transition to traditional colleges and universities. The study was qualitative in nature, and used phenomenological research methods to form an understanding of these experiences. The study was completed in the fall semester of 2012. A total of 12 virtual high school graduates from South Carolina virtual high schools were interviewed. Nine of the students were attending traditional, brick-and-mortar four year degree awarding higher education institutions, and three students were attending technical colleges.
The findings revealed four themes, two related to the academic aspect of the transition, and two related to the social aspects. The academic themes were time management and learning environment preferences. Participants indicated that attending the virtual high schools helped them to learn time management skills, which transferred to their skills in college.
Participants had a variety of learning environment preferences, and felt there were benefits to both online and face-to-face classes. The social themes were involvement and homeschooling misconceptions. Participants believed that involvement was key to success in virtual high schools, and staying involved in college helped their transitions. Participants also indicated that many peers and faculty had misconceptions that they were homeschooled. The overarching essence of the study revealed a need for more support and understanding of their educational backgrounds. Specifically, the participants perceived a lack of understanding about their backgrounds. Professors, administrators as well as other students could benefit from learning about virtual education. Additional studies following virtual high school graduates throughout their college experiences are needed. Further, forming support networks or programs for them would be beneficial for this student group.

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