Theses Doctoral

Virtual Personalization: Technology-Mediated Interactions and the Opportunities for Engagement and Connection in a Blended Learning Program

Ongaro, Christopher

This case study explored the ways that aspects of a high school blended learning program (pseudonym: BL High) encourage or discourage personalization. For K-12 learners a major concern exists in the increasingly rigid dominion of the programmatic over the personal, which leaves many students disengaged and disconnected. Having expanded the ways in which students can interact with curriculum and teachers, 21st-century technology introduces new conditions that may, or may not, encourage personalization instead of standardized, efficiency-based policies and practices.In response to digital technology’s possible impact on education, this study documents student and teacher experiences as evidence of the ways in which personalization is encouraged or discouraged. Personalization was approached generally as a matter of context and power, such that factors shaping the learning process could be altered and that each learner could make decisions about those factors.

Through the participation of nine students and three teachers, data were collected in interviews, photographs, and program and course documents. Findings showed that personalization at BL High was a complex matter that occurred through a collection of factors and a series of decisions. That collection of factors allowed students to engage in learning in and out of school while also supporting connections to school peers and teachers. The collection of factors was labeled the PATH model of personalization and was conjunctively defined as the overlap of program, agency, time, and help. Overarching findings were threefold: (a) the learning process at school involved far less flexibility in content and assignments than anticipated, (b) that limited flexibility coincided with student learning and agency that extended to personal passions beyond the school program, and (c) flexible timing existed as a double-edged sword, providing students with the opportunity to structure their use of time and pursue passions of their choosing but also leaving them at risk of time management challenges and stalled academic progress. Implications are discussed for researchers, teachers and school leaders, and the field of gifted education.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Borland, James H.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 15, 2021