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Online Ed. Growth Prompts Teachers' Concerns

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From what I know about Jim Burke, he isn't the type to worry about his relevance as an English teacher. Burke, the founder of the English Companion Web site, Ning, and a long-running listserv, as well as the author of a bunch of books about teaching, has had a huge influence on thousands of his colleagues around the country, and untold numbers of students throughout his career.

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But a conversation Burke started recently on the popular Ning site hints at his, and other teachers', anxiety over the rapidly growing world of online education.

As his district outside San Francisco turns to online programs to supplement summer school programs, Burke worries that more and more students will start to demand them as an alternative to regular classes throughout the school year. Indeed, many students across the country are already doing just that. Like many teachers, Burke's concerns include academic quality and student-teacher relationships in virtual learning. Others who have joined in the discussion have misgivings as well, particularly about student engagement and retention rates for online courses.

Some of the participants in the discussion are downright skeptical about the effectiveness of online courses. But one commenter, Andrea Z, is a bit more positive about the trend:

"I often think about how many highly regarded intellectuals in centuries past have been described as 'self-taught,'" she writes. "Education can take many different forms, including the idea that learners who chase down whatever knowledge they find useful and interesting in whatever ways that learning occurs best for them."

What are your thoughts? Jim is waiting for you to join in the discussion.

2 Comments

I would say there will be a place for teachers in the push towards online classrooms. However, the teacher's role will evolve to more of a mentor/facilitator role in the process. The teacher will be a vital component in the evolution of virtual learning. It is very concerning to see individuals been directed to take online learning without understanding their unique learning style. Online classes are not suited for everyone, as each individual learns differently. If you were to understand how you learn you would be better equipped to choose what kind of learning is best suited to you. A virtual collaborative approach of facilitator (mentor), student, social network and online course will be the way of the future.

I recently wrote about this exact issue on my blog. I've been an online English teacher for a few months now. I've actually been surprised to find the many commonalities between online teaching and f2f teaching. The teacher is still absolutely vital and the learning is still rigorous and relevant. Here's a link if anyone wants to check out my blog. I go into a lot more detail there, both in the linked entry and in the other entries! http://educationfrontier.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/a-tale-of-two-teachers/

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