Using a case study approach, this exploratory study investigated the manner in which the staff and students of the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) seek information resources and services and whether their information-seeking behavior could be explained by the application of the Bates berrypicking model. Influencing factors studied were integration of information literacy and selected demographics. The context of the case was presented through issues that affect information seeking in a virtual school such as legislative policy, budgetary policy, and accreditation issues. An examination of the literature showed that no previous published research had examined the information-seeking behavior of staff and students in a virtual secondary school setting.
The population included sixteen administrators, all twenty instructional designers, and all 308 full time teachers. In addition, thirty-six English II students in a class containing an open-ended research assignment, were included as part of the population of this study. The FLVS, recognized as a leader in K-12 virtual education and viewed as a critical case, was selected as the setting for this study.
The results of this study indicated that most course designers, teachers and students surveyed seek information using a berrypicking mode except in subject searching, while teachers in the math and critical research and thinking skills departments preferred a linear mode. This study also showed that FLVS director level administrators viewed their responsibility as important in assuring that teachers and students were able to seek out and use information resources and services. Content incorporated into FLVS courses by course designers was often obtained from Internet websites and FLVS purchased resources (i.e., BrainPOP, United Streaming, and SAS inSchool Curriculum Pathways). Likewise, FLVS teachers relied upon teacher- or department-developed knowledge bases, Internet websites, online databases and textbooks when seeking out information resources to supplement the existing centrally created course content. When completing an open-ended research assignment, FLVS students relied upon information resources provided by the FLVS and those available on the Internet even when they also attended a ‘brick-and-mortar’ school with a library. Both the influencing factors and contextual issues studied had an effect on the information-seeking behavior of the staff and students at the FLVS.
Outcomes or impacts of this study include increased knowledge about information-seeking behavior, increased knowledge about the application of the berrypicking model, new knowledge about information-seeking behavior in the virtual school environment, further evidence-based information practices in virtual K-12 schools, and the identification of additional areas for further research about information-seeking behavior in other state sponsored virtual K-12 schools.