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					                                                                  Literature Review 1

Literature Review of: Beyond the Classroom Walls: Teachers’ and Students’ Perspectives on

               How Online Learning Can Meet the Needs of Gifted Students

                                      Debra Jurnak

                                   Wilkes University
                                                                             Literature Review 2

   This paper is a literature review of Dana L. Thomson’s ‘Beyond the Classroom Walls:

Teachers’ and Students’ Perspectives on How Online Learning Can Meet the Needs of Gifted

Students. This review will discuss the key points of the article and give my opinion on her


   The purpose of this article: Beyond the Classroom Walls: Teachers’ and Students’

Perspectives on How Online Learning Can Meet the Needs of Gifted Students is to verify that

on-line learning matches the needs of gifted students. Ms. Thomas believes that “online learning

programs have the potential to provide gifted students expanded access to advanced courses”,

(Thomas, pg 663). She states, according to interviews and surveys that, “the online format is

conducive to a more individualized and differentiated learning experience than is often possible

in a regular classroom. Students are able to work at a pace consistent with their rate of learning,

have more time to reflect, to feel more in control of the learning process, and to engage in more

self-directed and independent learning”, (Thomas, pg 663).

   I believe that there are many problems associated with on-line learning environments that are

not discussed in length in this article. I also believe and will discuss later in this review, the

analysis of her survey was inconclusive as less than half of the number of students who were

surveyed, responded.

   Initially, it is my opinion that ‘gifted’ alone should not qualify someone for an on-line

program. I believe that potential candidates for this type of learning environment must be self-

motivated and independent learners. “Time management is crucial in successfully completing

one’s work. As the website and the course are available twenty-four hours a day every day of

the week, it is tempting for working students to put off logging on until “tomorrow”. As the bank
                                                                           Literature Review 3

of assignments, deadlines for submitting the assignments, readings, postings in the discussion

room grow, so does the time needed to compete them increase”, (Goff-Kfouri, page 11).

   I disagree with Ms. Thomson’s view, as I believe students who physically attend school, in

regular classrooms, can have the same opportunities for advanced courses, if they attend a

district where such is offered. On-line learning just makes advanced courses easier to access, as

the instructor and course offered could be in a different city or state. Just as important, teachers

can make a regular classroom course material individualized and apply differentiated instruction

to the students on a daily basis. Students who attend on-line learning may feel more in control of

the learning process, but students who attend regular classroom education can have their material

presented to them in a way they will learn, grow, understand and even share what they learn with

their peers. On-line learners lack the ability of face to face benefits.

   My concern is for Ms. Thomson’s use and interpretation of the word ‘gifted’. During an

interview with Dana L. Thomson on 3/31/2011, she explained that to qualify for this program,

students should be in the 5th percentile or above on the National Standard Test or have applied to

this program by writing a letter. She also stated that the terms ‘gifted’ and academically talented

are referring to the same thing. If you are able to apply to the on-line program by writing a letter,

how accurate is ‘gifted’.

   Ms. Thomson also stated that there are many children in the on-line program: such as children

with physical disabilities and IEP’s. She continued to state that for children with IEP’s, an on-

line environment is “wonderful for them as they can listen to lectures over and over again, and

read an assignment over and over again also”, (Thomson 3/31/2011).

   Her above comments, as powerful as they are to persuade you to agree to on-line learning,

can also describe a classroom experience as well. Reading assignments over and over again,
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may be defined as studying, or homework. It is quite possible a teacher may let students record a

lecture. The student would then have the benefit to listen to that over and over again.

   As previously stated, on-line environments are good for self-motivating students. I believe

that all grade level, self motivating students, can benefit from this type of learning, not just gifted

students. “The increase in access arises from increasing choice, so called ‘anytime anywhere’

education not only makes courses open to an extended range of distance or international

students, but it also provides options to allow learners to gravitate towards personal preferences

in terms of modes of study which can range from peer discussion, team work and international

collaboration to print based online private study and beyond”, (Underhill, page 166).

   Is it culturally diverse to encourage on-line learning among our youth? In America today,

despite the age of technology, not every household has a computer, a car, or a supportive family

to engage in this type of education. Then, do we say, that only, smart students with computers

can apply? “Recruiting black students into gifted coursed can be quite a daunting task,”

(Henfield, page 22). “Despite the passing of The Brown v. Board of Education (1954), academic

excellence remains a dream deferred for many black students when compared to their peers”,

(Henfield, page 18). Ms. Thomson doesnot explain the ratio of nationalities among the students

in her program.

   It is quite possible that Ms. Thomson promotes on-line learning environments as a financial

benefit. I believe that one instructor can teacher hundreds of on-line students, compared to a

regular classroom, where there is one teacher to approximately 30 students at a time. The

amount of money saved by condensing classes and utilizing one instructor could be substantial.
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“A few school administrators in Clovis, California, began a quest to introduce online high school

courses in their school district, believing it might cost less to teach classes online than it would to

teach students face to face in a classroom”, (Darrow, abstract).

   I believe that students benefit from socialization during the learning process. Students are

able to communicate with faculty and peers during classroom instruction. Some disadvantages

of on-line learning are: “poor quality of instruction, training costs for faculty, evoking faculty

resistance to change, lack of student-teacher interactions, employer skepticism, increased faculty

workloads, the inappropriateness of the medium for teaching certain types of course content,

problems in technology and administration and loss of scholarly control”, (Clardy, page 7).

   The survey that was conducted by Ms. Thomson to interpret the effectiveness of the on-line

education program was inconclusive. The article reveals that 900 students were e-mailed

surveys and that only 68 students responded. Ms. Thomson admitted to having research/survey

fatigue and a limited timeframe to conduct the study. The survey was conducted as a

Professional Development project for the benefit of their program. There was not a follow up

study or a comparison of gifted students in the classroom vs. gifted students on-line.

   Due to the small amount of responses, her research/survey fatigue, and the limited time frame

indicates, to me, that Ms. Thomson was promoting the on-line program for the institution for

which she works. It verifies that on-line programs are good for all students who are self-

motivated and have access to computers.
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Clardy A. Distant, On-line Education: Effects, Principles and Practices. Online Submission

   [serial online]. June 1, 2009; Available from ERIC, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 27, 2011.

Darrow R. The Bottom Line: Funding Online Courses. School Administrator [serial online].

   April 1, 2010;67(4):26-30. Available from: ERIC, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 27, 2011.

Goff-Kfouri C. On-line Learning: One Way to Bring People Together. Online Submission

   [serial online]. June 26, 2006; Available from ERIC, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 27, 2011.

Henfield M, Washington A, Owens D. To Be or Not to Be Gifted: The Choice for a New

   Generation. Gifted Child Today [serial online]. March 1, 2010;33(2):17-25. Available

   from ERIC, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 27, 2011.

Thomson, Dana L. interview on March 31, 2011.

Underhill A. Theories of Learning and Their Implications for On-Line Assessment. Online

   Submission [serial online]. January 1, 2006; Available from: ERIC, Ipswich, MA. Accessed

   April 27, 2011.
Literature Review 7

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