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Profoundly Gifted Students' Perceptions of Virtual Classrooms: A Phenomenological Case Study
AuthorRafferty, Jessica A.
AdvisorFerrara, Margaret M.
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Virtual schools and online learning have become ubiquitous in American education. Virtual schools in particular offer the possibility for students from across the country to come together for a complete educational experience in a single virtual location. While this relatively new form of education can be effective for students from both ends of the achievement spectrum, the potential for providing appropriate acceleration and homogeneous grouping for gifted and high-achieving students have made online learning an issue of intense interest in gifted education. The intent of this study is to understand profoundly gifted students’ perceptions of existing virtual schools for the gifted. This information could then be used either to improve online gifted education, or create new programs, thus diversifying opportunities for gifted learners. The participants in the study reported a preference for frequent interactions with classmates and the instructor, but expressed concern about the lack of purely social opportunities. While technical difficulties did occur, these were mostly due to operator error or intentional disuse of available tools. Finally, in terms of curriculum and pedagogy, the participants saw little difference between brick-and-mortar and virtual classrooms, suggesting that for profoundly gifted students, the quality of the content and instruction outweighs the realities of the learning environment.