Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2018

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership


Richard Ackerman

Second Committee Member

Janet Fairman

Third Committee Member

Heather Ball

Additional Committee Members

Allyson Dean

Mike Muir


There is now a strong presence of virtual schools in the United States serving K-12 students, along with increased opportunities for brick-and-mortar students to take virtual courses (Ash, 2011; Luo, Hibbard, Franklin, & Moore, 2017). Research into the human impact of virtual education is not keeping pace (Gulosino & Miron, 2017; Rice et al., 2014). This study focused on the experiences and insights of virtual teachers in terms of their relationships with learners as well as on potential changes in their sense of professional identity as they moved from one setting to the other. During a series of three individual, semi-structured interviews, five teachers described their teaching first as brick-and-mortar high school teachers and then as teachers in virtual schools. In the final interview they sought meaning in these changes.

This research indicated that virtual teachers may experience changes in their enjoyment of their work with learners, specifically moving from an immediate to an anticipatory mindset. They will need to adjust to working regularly with one student, or one student’s work or written inquiry, at a time. Indicators of student engagement may change from visual cues to information gleaned through email or synchronous discussions. Reaching out to students can become a critical component of practice, and trust may shift from something teachers nurture in their classrooms for students to something they seek from students who may be elusive and not well known. Other changes were identified in the areas of care, modeling, managing, and assessing students’ understanding of course materials.

The implications of these findings are significant for the education management organizations that create the structures, policies, and procedures for virtual schools, for pre-service providers who work to prepare future teachers for a changing educational landscape, for policy-makers, and for teachers themselves as they explore opportunities to teach in a variety of settings.