With the increase in technology, virtual learning programs continue to grow in popularity within the United States. Before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the kindergarten through fifth grade (K-5) virtual learning population has increased each year slowly since the late 1900s. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic millions of K-5 students were engaged in virtual learning. However, the academic outcomes and learning loss that resulted from the school shutdowns caused many misconceptions regarding the educational and social developments of K-5 students enrolled in virtual classes. Yet, studies consistently prove synchronous virtual instruction can be as effective as traditional face-to-face learning. The purpose of this study was to examine the strategies and best practices that K-5 virtual educators use to maximize learning, challenges associated with teaching K-5 students virtually, how virtual educators define, measure, and track academic success, and recommendations that virtual educators have for pre-service teachers interested in teaching in highly technological environments. Data collection followed a qualitative phenomenological approach. The researcher interviewed 12 K-5 virtual educators or administrators to understand better how students in a virtual learning environment could achieve academic and social success comparable to students in a traditional classroom. Results suggest that engaging, synchronous instruction allows virtual educators to maintain student academic and social success through interactive resources and community-building activities. However, learning coach support, small group interventions, and immediate feedback also support students' academic achievement. The findings of this study led the researcher to create a training course for pre-service or current K-5 brick-and-mortar educators to take before beginning a virtual teaching role called the Fundamentals of K-5 Virtual Learning. Implications of the findings and recommendations for future research are shared in hopes that this research contributes to the existing literature on virtual education.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Educational technology-- Education, Elementary; Web-based instruction--Education, Elementary; Distance education--Education, Elementary

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Gabriella Miramontes