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Online Ed. Grows, But Is that a Good Thing?


Lately, I've been thinking a lot about online education. It started when I read this article written by my colleague Andrew Trotter about a book which predicts that by 2019, 50 percent of all high school classes will be taught online. That same week, the poll on edweek.org asked readers "Is the trend toward delivery of education online education a positive development?" Not sure exactly what I felt about the subject, I decided not to vote, but to just watch and see how the question played out in our highly unscientific survey. In the end, out of 131 total responses, 87 (or 66%) of voters said yes, and 44 (or 33%) of voters said no.

Then today, I found this article in the Christian-Science Monitor--"Virtual schools see strong growth, calls for more oversight." And I have to say, I was relieved to find that a lot of the reservations I had about online education were discussed in the article. As someone who has grown up with computers and the Internet, I am generally open to the widespread use of technology in classrooms. But something about giving up actual classrooms with real, live teachers and students for a virtual representation of that gives me pause. Can students really be as engaged in what they're learning if a classroom discussion takes place in a chatroom rather than an actual room with other kids? Or do online classes have the potential to get kids even more motivated by giving them the autonomy to complete lessons at their own pace--spending more time on the subjects they struggle with and less on the concepts they more easily understand? Are some subject areas better suited for this kind of set-up than others?

According to the Christian-Science Monitor article, there isn't much research to say whether or not online education programs are effective yet, and most experts agree that if anything, the sector needs more guidance and oversight from officials. But many also say virtual learning has a lot of potential:

Teachers in traditional schools "don't have a lot of time to be a tutor, mentor, or motivator because so much of their time is spent delivering one-size-fits-all lectures," says Michael Horn, executive director of education at Innosight Institute ... If computers take over lecturing, teachers can work with those who need help.

It'll be interesting to see what comes of this debate as the trend toward online education grows.


I found this post way too interesting to not have commented back. I have to say I'm quite amazed that they are even seriously considering highschool classes to be taken online. Having grown up in Mexico, I knew I was eventually going to attend college in the U.S., but in order to receive a U.S. accepted highschool diploma, I was required to take some U.S. history courses. However, those were not offered in classrooms in my school, therefore I had to resort to taking it online until I was approached by a teacher who said she knew other kids who were in the same boat and she was willing to give us all a small class, rather than using the online course.

I guess what I'm getting at is I'm not sure if I would have voted this positive or negative. I'm taking a class online right now, and while I find the group forums interesting and discussions to be more expressive because people have more time to consider the topic at hand...I also like the security of being able to see my professor those certain days and times and addressing problems I'm dealing with, or handing in hard copies. Having to do a lot of online reading is something I don't get much out of...whereas a teacher having a classroom split into groups and discuss portions that they've read seems to be what I'm used to.

But at the same time the question you asked of whether students can be as engaged with the discussion or topic at hand online makes me wonder and think that technology offers a lot more to take place of what we would normally do in the classroom...we have the whole cyberspace to explore and different options laid before us to try out.

But like I said...I still would not be sure of what I would have voted either. Great topic to post though, it definitely got me thinking.

I am with Nicole--the answer to whether online education is a good thing or a bad thing is a resounding "it depends." As a highly independent high schooler I sought to avoid participation in a required class that I found to be silly and duplicative of other work I had done by taking a mail-order version--state of the art at that time. My goal was to get it out of the way over the summer--which turned out to be over-ambitious, but I did learn some self-discipline and finished the course. It played heavily to reading and writing--my strong suits. Not to be recommended for everyone, but it worked for me.

I am currently enrolled in a online advanced degree program, and really like it. Again, it plays to my strong suits, and it frankly the only way, as a single working parent, that I would be able to do this work. There are some challenges--my dissertation will likely be done as a lone researcher--rather than as a part of any larger endeavor which might be available at a large, state university. On the other hand, it will very likely be tied very closely to my work-place, a bonus, to my way of thinking. And my online community puts me in contact with others across the US.

I don't yet see a lot of examplary computer coursework available at the high school level. I think that there is some that relies heavily on independent working skills (like my mail-order course) and provides enrichment/extension. I have also seen a booming industry in producing coursework for "drop-out prevention." I haven't gotten real close to it, but my impression is that it is a computer text-book version of GED classes that I used to teach. Read, test, move on. Seems to provide an option for kids who are able to sort of grit their teeth and get through it.

I have seen a bit of hybrid work--computers used as an integral part of classes. Where I have seen this demo-ed one of the advantages had to do with the ability of the teacher to real-time assess the progress/understanding of both the class and individuals. Individual student/teacher chat options allowed for asking things that one might not want to ask in front of peers ("stupid questions"), which the teacher might then share anonymously.

Like electronic conferencing in the work world, I think we are just beginning to discover the possibilities.

There is another whole world of computer simulation yet to be explored for classroom/online use--from branching to allow more (or less) in-depth coverage as needed for individual students--to all of the what-ifs that go along with putting abstract concepts to work.

My daughter is teaching herself subjects that are normally taught in high schools. She's 12 and this online education allows her to accelerate her learning, accomplish her goals, and gives her enormous satisfaction. We've homeschooled in the past, but this year we turned over her education to an online school called New American School. While she completes the work on her own, she does have a Mentor that corrects her work, offers feedback, and administers tests. This type of protocol seems to make the most sense since she does have to be accountable to someone other than me. I'm all for this type of program as long as there are administrators out there who are overseeing their online education. You cannot just dump the kids in front of a computer and expect them to learn. There need to be assignments, note taking, and accountability. I do think that this is the future of what education can be. You can learn on your own time, in any place, at your own pace. I think that it's high time that technological advances enter the academic world.

Nice ideas really..i use to write my goals in notes in my cell phone,but it seems that writing it on real paper with real pen is more effective…also found a software tool which is very good in keeping motivated to achieve your goals and desires:
I asked author of program why should i pay for it when there are many free similar software and his respond was more than obvious:
“because people tend to underestimate free stuff,If you pay for something you will use it for sure,for free things it is not the case”

I took almost two years of classes online through my local community college. These are my experiences:

1) More convenient, as it allowed me to have a flexible work schedule.
2)More participation. All instructors required a certain amount of posts each week. Normally in campus classes not everyone gives their opinion.
3)More work involved. I had to work harder in the online class, which is not for everyone.
4)Group Projects. This is one thing I hated. Some people won't participate until the very last second, which means two may do all the work while the others ignore the assignment.

Overall, I'm happy that institutions are providing more online courses for adult students. Those two years of courses have allowed me to transfer to a university this Fall.

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Recent Comments

  • Sarah: I took almost two years of classes online through my read more
  • greg: Nice ideas really..i use to write my goals in notes read more
  • Beth: My daughter is teaching herself subjects that are normally taught read more
  • Margo/Mom: I am with Nicole--the answer to whether online education is read more
  • Nicole205: I found this post way too interesting to not have read more




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