Planning a virtual school program for adult literacy students
Bosworth, Dale Edenfield
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The purpose of this study was to examine how stakeholder interests shape the planning and implementation of a state virtual school program for adult literacy students in one southern state. Three research questions guiding the study were: (1) What is the historical context of the virtual program for adult literacy students?, (2) What are the interests of the stakeholders in the planning process? And (3) How are the interests of stakeholders negotiated in the planning process? A qualitative case study was used to address these questions. Data were collected through interviews of persons involved in planning the program, from key documents relative to the program, and from observations of participants. Participants in the study included state directors, local directors of adult education, teachers, and other individuals involved in planning the virtual program. Interview questions examined participants’ roles, interests and actions in the planning process. Constant comparative method was used to analyze the data. The first research question provided an understanding of the history and context of the program and key aspects of the program that impacted its development. The program aspects influencing development were: the planners of the program; participants; funding and legislation; and curriculum and management systems. The second research question identified the interests of the stakeholders involved in the planning and development of the program. Five themes from the data included: establishing credibility, utilizing innovation, monitoring cost benefit, providing teacher preparation, and maximizing student success with the virtual program. The third research question examined ways in which the stakeholders negotiated their interests in developing the adult education virtual school program. The methods most frequently used in negotiation were: forming partnerships, entering discussion, making executive decisions, engaging in problem solving, and filling a leadership vacuum. There were three major conclusions drawn from this study. First, there were differences in the way power and authority were distributed among the stakeholders resulting in asymmetrical relationships. Second, the stakeholder’s attitudes toward technology influenced their interests in the planning process of the virtual program. Third, the needs of the students conflicted with the needs of the educational organization providing the program.