Date of Award

11-29-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education

Department

Education

Major Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Dinkins

Abstract

An average of 1.8 million students drop out of high school each year (National Council of Education Statistics, 2014). Dropping out of high school is a problem for both society and the individual (Rumberger, 2003). It can lead to lower wages, unemployment, and incarceration. Mobile students make up a part of those who drop out of school. Students are considered mobile if they attend more than one high school in four years (Rumberger & Larson, 1998). One way of helping highly mobile students is to offer asynchronous virtual classes. Using Institutional Theory (Rumberger, 2001) and Academic Mediation Theory (Vygotsky, 1978; Bachman, Green, & Wirtanen, 1971; Ekstrom, Goertrz, Pollack & Rock, 1986), this qualitative study explores the number of mobile students attending one virtual school, and how the virtual school is helping mobile students. Participants were purposely sampled and included six teachers from a range of subjects, the administrator, and school counselor. Data was collected for one year and included two interviews, an observation, and document examination. Findings show 100% of students at the virtual school are mobile with 60% attending three or more schools and 9% attending five or more schools. There are three other findings: (a) the asynchronous nature of the virtual school enables teachers and students to work outside of normal strictures in order to help mobile students, (b) the school and teachers are counteracting communication and instructional challenges in order to help mobile students, and (c) there are policies and procedures the virtual school utilizes in order to help mobile students progress through courses. These findings speak to the potential of virtual schools to positively mediate mobility factors by enabling students to learn in an asynchronous environment from anywhere there is an internet connection.