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Virtual 'Teachers' in Fla. Getting Poor Evaluations

Some teachers, students, and parents in Florida are less than satisfied with the virtual classrooms that are being used to deal with class size limitations, according to the New York Times.

In response to a 2002 amendment restricting the number of students in classrooms—but not virtual labs—the Miami-Dade school district placed 7,000 students in e-learning labs for core subjects, such as math and English, starting at the beginning of this school year. Instead of teachers, each classroom has a "facilitator" who monitors students' progress and assists with technical problems, says the Times.

Although this means more computer time and less lecture time, which many say is the future of education, not all students are happy. The Times reports that many were placed in these classrooms without choice and some weren't informed of the change until they walked through the classroom door.

"None of them want to be there," said Alix Braun, a sophomore taking AP macroeconomics in an e-learning lab. "And for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated."

"The way our state is dealing with class size is nearly criminal," Chris Kirchner, an English teacher in the county, told the Times. "They're standardizing in the worst possible way, which is evident in virtual classes."

A distance-education expert at Pennsylvania State University observed that "blended" education approaches that combine online learning with face-to-face instruction can be more effective than traditional classroom models. But he noted that such programs need to be carefully planned and work best with some level of classroom instruction from a live teacher.

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