Date of Conferral
Online education has evolved over the last 18 years as technology continues to advance. Starting at age 5, children are able to forego traditional classrooms and begin attending school from a computer in their homes. Research has not identified significant academic differences between traditional and online schools; however, there is limited research on differences in social competency in these settings. Bandura's social learning theory was used as a framework to compare social competency skills in traditional (n = 113) and online (n = 28) high school students living in Pennsylvania using the Social Skills Inventory (SSI). Participants were recruited using a private research consulting company. When comparing overall SSI scores of online and traditional students using an ANOVA, a significant difference was found (p = .04), with traditional students scoring significantly higher in social skills than online students. However, ANCOVA analyses showed that after controlling for age and years enrolled in each school setting, there were no significant differences in SSI between the two groups (p = .08, and .09 respectively). These results should be interpreted with caution due to the disparate group sizes. It remains unclear if online school students are socially impaired compared to their peers in traditional brick and mortar schools; however, no such differences were identified in this research. The findings of this study may impact social change by serving as a pilot to inspire the development of new measures and identify a need for future studies. A longitudinal study may provide more insight about social development in online school students. In addition, development of a measure that encompasses modern socialization and variables that are applicable to all school aged children could assist with more clearly identifying any relation between school type and social development.