Riley Leary


Hybrid High School education is a disruptive innovation that has begun to replace traditional brick and mortar schools for many students world-wide. In addition to a traditional school model are the traditional metrics by which schools are compared. These metrics have been achievement data, success rates, and funding analyses. These metrics do not account for the lived experience of the high school students, in the same way that the traditional model of education does not account for the changing methods available for learning. This study is a phenomenological analysis of the lived experience of high school students who have attended hybrid educational programs. These programs utilize the digital advances available for learning by offering at least half of their curriculum online, while maintaining face to face instruction during the rest of curricular time. The premise of this study is that high school provides an ethos, or manifested culture, for each student served. The questions used in nine interviews to understand this ethos were created using research in the area of adolescent life satisfaction. The research resulted in focus areas to be discussed: autonomy, engagement, social capital, and community connectedness. Participants in this study age 18-20 recently graduated from four years attending a hybrid program. The participants were introspective and detailed in their explanations of life experiences during their time in hybrid programs, and how their ethos was shaped by experiences in each of the areas of life satisfaction listed above. The interview analyses led to four conclusions regarding hybrid high school student life. First, the hybrid program graduates interviewed have a rich sense of community. These communities vary and most are members of multiple communities. All feel a sense of belonging and are connected to groups beyond family. Second, the hybrid program graduates are highly self-reliant. Participants pointed out that they have relationships with people who are supportive, but that they are independently responsible for overcoming life’s obstacles. Third, these conclusions are intended to influence design of future innovational programs. Finally, the hybrid high school did serve as a disruptive innovation which had clear benefits for the adolescents participating. This study, in combination with additional studies focusing on specific program elements, could result in quality innovative programs that meet the needs of a changing adolescent population.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technologies; Education, Secondary -- Computer-assisted instruction; High school students -- Effect of technological innovations on; Distance education

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;