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Research and Practice in K-12 Online Learning: A Review of Open Access Literature

  • Cathy S. Cavanaugh University of Florida
  • Michael K. Barbour Wayne State University
  • Tom Clark TA Consulting, Springfield, Illinois, USA
Keywords: K-12, open source, online education


The literature related to online learning programs for K-12 students dates to the mid-1990s and builds upon a century of research and practice from K-12 distance education. While K-12 online learning programs have evolved and grown over the past decade, the amount of published research on virtual schooling practice and policy is limited. The current literature includes practitioner reports and experimental and quasi-experimental studies, both published and unpublished. This paper reviews open access literature in K-12 online learning and reports on a structured content analysis of the documents. Themes in the literature include steady growth and a focus on the benefits, challenges, and broad effectiveness of K-12 online learning. In addition, newly developed standards for K-12 online learning are emerging in descriptions of effective practices.

Author Biographies

Cathy S. Cavanaugh, University of Florida
Dr. Cathy Cavanaugh is Associate Professor of Educational Technology in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Her work focuses on identifying applications of information and communication technology that enhance teaching and learning. Dr. Cavanaugh has worked with virtual schools, school districts, and education agencies in several states and countries.
Tom Clark, TA Consulting, Springfield, Illinois, USA
Dr. Tom Clark of TA Consulting has led or participated in many evaluations of online learning programs in K-12 and higher education. He has numerous publications in the field and co-edited Virtual Schools: Planning for Success (Teachers College Press, 2005).
How to Cite
Cavanaugh, C. S., Barbour, M. K., & Clark, T. (2009). Research and Practice in K-12 Online Learning: A Review of Open Access Literature. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(1).
Research Articles