“Someone in Their Corner”: Parental Support in Online Secondary Education





learner engagement, distance education, electronic learning, virtual schools, secondary education, parent role


Despite increased interest in K–12 online education, student engagement deficits and the resulting student attrition remain widespread issues. The Academic Communities of Engagement (ACE) framework theorizes that two groups support online student engagement: the personal community of support and the course community of support. However, more evidence is needed to understand how members of these communities, especially parents, support students in various contexts. Using insights gleaned from 14 semi-structured interviews of parents with students enrolled in online secondary school, this study adds support to the roles identified in the ACE framework by presenting real examples of parents supporting their online students’ affective, behavioral, and cognitive engagement. Findings also confirm patterns found in previous research that are not explained using the ACE framework, such as parental advocacy, communication with teachers, and self-teaching. We discuss how a systems approach to conceptualizing the ACE communities allows the framework to more accurately capture parents' perceived experiences within the personal community of support. We also discuss implications for both practitioners and members of students’ support structures.

Author Biographies

Courtney N. Hanny, Brigham Young University

Courtney N. Hanny is an instructional designer, a scholar, and a mom. She earned her master's degree at Brigham Young University in Instructional Psychology and Technology and studied blended and online learning environments. Her personal research interests include studying student support structures, especially those in non-traditional educational environments.

Charles R. Graham, Brigham Young University

Charles R. Graham is a Professor at Brigham Young University who studies technology-mediated teaching and learning, with a focus on the design and evaluation of blended and online learning environments. He also researches the use of technology to enhance traditional teaching and learning. His current research publications can be found online at: https://bit.ly/crgvita

Richard E. West, Brigham Young University

Dr. Richard E. West (@richardewest on twitter) is a professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. He teaches courses in instructional technology, academic research and writing, creativity and innovation, design psychology, and product/program evaluation. He studies how to innovate and advance education through improved and open educational Content, strong learning Communities, and open Credentials that better recognize student learning. He has presented his research in 11 countries, and has over 150 academic publications, along with two popular open textbooks on learning and instructional design. His personal website is http://richardewest.com.

Jered Borup, George Mason University

Jered Borup is an Associate Professor at George Mason University and coordinator of their Learning Technologies in Schools Master's program. Prior to earning his PhD at Brigham Young University, Jered taught history at a junior high school for six years. His current research interests include developing online learning communities and identifying support systems that adolescent learners require to be successful in online environments. A full list of his publications can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/jeredborup/


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How to Cite

Hanny, C. N., Graham, C. R. ., West, R. E. ., & Borup, J. (2023). “Someone in Their Corner”: Parental Support in Online Secondary Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 24(1), 85–105. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v24i1.6664



Research Articles