Increase of Online Courses in School

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I have to admit, I have a bias here. I feel comfortable around technology and use it for education and social learning. I teach two online courses and use technology in my classroom for podcasts, vidcasts, and instruction; my students use technology as well for more than word-processing. So when I saw that Michigan was leading the way in online courses, I had to read the article, oh, and by the way, the article is online. 

Twenty-four districts are applying for waivers to the state rules that require students in high school to be in the school for about 1,100 hours a school year. Sounds good, after all, there is more to learning than being in the room. But what will this change in paradigm mean for schools? 

The largest concern I hear from adults when discussing online education is that the students (usually high school) will not take it seriously and skim by on the least effort possible. After all, they argue, it is online and that is where these same students chat, play video games, and surf. How could they possible be learning?

Well, I think the can. The largest benefit that I have found for an online course is the individualized instruction. In an online environment I can meet with the student when it is good for them, when they have the time to focus on the concepts. Additionally, the online environment allows for infinite rereading and viewing of concepts, even pausing or rewinding the video if need be. Most of all, I like how the online environment allows me to attend to every student, individually, as often as the student needs. In most cases, the time I spend organizing online material or answering emails (or IM) back and forth from the student, is something that is not possible in the traditional 50 minute period. Interaction time is greater.

What is it like in your classroom with technology? I want to see if there is a pattern to how technology in the classroom is seen. 

Of course, not every course can be done online. Physical Education would be a tough one. Additionally courses like Art or Physics that are dependent on labs and materials would be tough. However, courseslike Art and Physics could employ some of the online benefits and offer vidcasts of lessons for review, or use an online service to pre- and post-teach concepts. Think of how rich a slide show of painting masters displaying the art concept currently in study could be, coupled with online discussion and questions, all student centered. Just the thought makes me smile. And the best part, all of this could take place outside the classroom, preparing students for the instruction in the classroom with the teacher. 

Online course will not get rid of teaching, teachers, or the love of learning. If used correctly, it could bring the spark of learning to a student who otherwise did not care. 

Again, I ask, how will online courses change our school paradigm?

Read the article entitled, Waivers free high school students to study online, off-campus, at Freep.

I posted on a similar topic at the start of the school year, asking if we are using technology to improve learning. You can read that post here, TECH & TE(A)CH.

Additionally, I have started to store my thoughts on a variety of online services that can be used for education at Teach, Teach, Tech. I am a BIG fan of Twitter. What is your favorite online service application for education? 

6 thoughts on “Increase of Online Courses in School

  1. Mark Gardner

    I like very much the hybrid between in-class instruction and online supplementation for content and discourse… our students were born into this multiliteracy, whereas many teachers are of the generation (like me) for whom web literacy was at first like learning a foreign language. Our students–the majority but certainly not all–were reared bilingual if not monolingual in this new literacy.
    As for the idea that the web is where they socialize and are entertained–in the English classroom we all use literature (which I have to remind my kids was written as entertainment, not teenager torture) and discourse, whether written or oral, so to me web interaction is as organic an outgrowth of traditional literacy as one can find in a humorless machine.
    I remember when my high school English teacher was shocked that some of my classmates did not have a set of encyclopedias, or even a dictionary or thesaurus, at home to aid them with their assigned homework. Today, some of us fall in to that trap when assuming all kids have access. Of my 10th graders, about 10% have no computer at home; the proportion among my 9th graders is about double. Nonetheless, I think the most important thing a teacher (in particular language arts) can do for their kids is arm them with the skills and confidence to interact in a professional or academic manner as opposed to a social manner online–just as we try to coax them away from the like, u, and 🙂 in their school papers.
    I’ve veered off topic here… though I will say that in my dream world kids would spend maybe half their time interacting with me online and the other half face to face.
    Online courses, assuming that means no interaction with a mentor or teacher–I would want to see some more, and a broader sample of, evidence which can illustrate that learning has occurred beyond memorization of content. As stated elsewhere, critical thinking needs to be the underlying push, not simple recitation of content. My perception (which is limited to the very few online credit-recovery type courses in my district) is that critical thinking is easy to put on the back burner in favor of more objective content recitation.

  2. TL

    I’ll make this short. It’s inevitable that online ed will play a larger role in the next decade. But I think the benefits of the “mortar and brick” school house ed far outweigh the benefits of an online school. For example the public school is the cornerstone of democracy and the benefits of that school “community” are sometimes more important than the academics. Should online ed be an option? Absolutely. But as with most tech; “buyer beware”.

  3. Travis A. Wittwer

    @Tony, I like the point about “buyer beware”. I thank that says a lot and is just enough reality to, hopefully, make people look critically at the future of online education.
    @Mark, I agree with your idea of a mix between online and in-class. That is likely where it will end up, at least in the beginning. But even that beginning, it seems, is a long way off.

  4. Andrea

    My husband had a very hard time passing an online test because of the amount of hours they required students to be logged in and the amount of comments and interactions required… so it looks like they are finding ways to make online school more challenging and interactive.

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