Sunday, February 3, 2008

Education Goes Online

Surely, you know college students are taking courses as well as earning degrees online. But, there has also been a proliferation of online learning in the K12 arena. Home schooled children often turn to online education sites accredited by public schools to augment and complete their home-schooling. Some high school students take courses online to complete their high school degree requirements.

What impact is the online K12 learning environment having? For one, financial questions have been raised because public school financing covers the per pupil expenditure just as if the student were educated on site at a local school. Thus, if the per pupil expenditure of a student is $6,000, that amount is sent by the district to the private company running the virtual school if the student is enrolled full-time. This amount might not sound like much, but when the expense for all students within a district or state taking advantage of online learning is factored, the price tag is considerable.

The New York Times ran an article this week reporting some statistics. Apparently, a half a million children in the US take courses online. In states like Florida and Illinois, state mandates have driven initiatives in support of online learning and financing this form of learning. In these states, online learning supplements what is occurring in the regular classroom and diplomas cannot be earned online. Many of the courses offered online are aimed at middle school students. The largest public online school is the Florida Virtual School, which enrolls 50,000, according to The Times. In Michigan, educators are interested in the concept to reduce classroom crowding, sending students home to take online classes. The Wisconsin Virtual Academy is a full-fledged charter school. The Times reports that about 185 such charter schools exist nationwide, and 90,000 students attend. As such, these schools are publicly financed. In cases where students were previously home-schooled, enrollment in a virtual school now qualifies them for the district or state to pick up the tab. These virtual schools meet federal testing mandates, and thus qualify to be financed through tax dollars.

In Pennsylvania a suit was filed against financing online schools through taxpayer dollars, on the claim that money was diverted from the regular public schools. The district bringing the suit, however, lost the case.

For many, virtual schools have advantages, especially for those who live in remote locations or have health issues that make daily attendance at public schools difficult. In Kansas, a state auditor, noted that virtual education make sense because students do not have to be physically present in the classroom. Barbara Hinton, the auditor, stated: “Students can go to school at any time of the day and in any place,” which she sees as an advantage. For students living in remote locations, they now have the ability to take such courses as Chinese language. The same is true for students attending public schools in populated areas where select, desirable courses simply are not affordable or practical for the school system to run in-house.

Many of the virtual schools hire licensed, unionized teachers, and meet federal guidelines. Parents like the concept because their children can move through the curriculum at their own pace, and as opposed to regular home schooling, the children are now taught by qualified, licensed teachers. Of note, whereas parents cannot teach their children at taxpayers’ expense, sending students to a licensed virtual school qualifies for the tax coverage. Thus, an influx of interest in online schooling is expected, in part replacing parental efforts to home school their children.

As a public school teacher or potential public school teacher, weigh in on the issue. What are your thoughts on virtual schools and online learning?

Information from this blog was taken from Sam Dillon’s Feb. 1, 2008 article, “Online Schooling Grows, Setting Off a Debate, New York Times, pp. A1 and 22. Photo is from the story and was shot by Darren Hauck and shows Tracie Weldie educating her children at home using curriculum provided from an online school.

9 comments:

Mary Beth said...

My sister home-schools her children in Florida so I am going to ask her about this topic and see what she has to say. I have never taken an on-line class. As a matter of fact, this class is as close as I have come. I enjoy reading your blog and blackboard, answering questions and reading what others have to say. I miss, however, the face-to-face interpersonal aspect of our conversations, however, but we do meet once a week in a classroom, so this on-line component is a nice supplement to the regular classroom setting. I think on-line classes should always require some face-to-face component because how do you know who is really on the other end of the computer? how do you know who is really doing the work? What if a student can't explain in words what they don't understand? How do they communicate with their teacher or peers?

Melissa said...

Melissa Jordan Says.....
As a teacher at the college level, I support the use of online education to supplement classroom learning. However, I don't think it is appropriate for middle school or college level children. Again if it is used at these levels in conjunction with classroom time that is fine. The reason being is students still need to form relationships and friendships with students their age, socialization, interaction with elders, following rules and schedules are all quite important. Online courses are contributing to the epidemic that students at these grade levels are spening too much time in front of a computer screen or video screen and is a major contributory factor to the obesity epidemic. I also agree with Mary Beth as to who is really doing the work, taking the tests, etc. There is no control over that side of online courses at this time. I think there is a trend to head to online but I don't think it should replace face to face education, instead it should only be used as a supplement.

Anonymous said...

There are certainly issues with education, whether it is online or in person. I am familiar with one online Christian school that is trying to do it right:

www.sevenstaracademy.org

gayle said...

I understand that many adults might feel that online courses best suit their busy lives. I wonder if one can receive the best education online. Would you go to a doctor that received his/her degree online? It would be interesting to compare the online course content with the material learned in the college classroom.
I strongly believe that material learned online should supplement the curriculum for students in middle/high school. I don't think young children should be permitted to be home-schooled online. They need to interact with peers to develop social skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others. Face to face conversations are what our young children lack. They spend too much time on the internet instant messaging and emailing. School is the place where children develop their social skills, not on the computer!

Barbara Jarosz said...

I agree with all of you that online classes lack the face-to-face interaction that traditional classes provide. It is essential that students be exposed to the interaction between students that traditional classrooms promote. I do feel that the value of online classes is that they provide a "safe" venue for students who may be shy to participate in class. Some students are simply very quiet and don't feel comfortable volunteering in a class setting, but place this student in front of a computer and they are more likely to feel comformatble and will contribute by typing their responses. Since both types of classrooms, standard and virtual, have their own benefits, it would be useful for students to have acccess to both types of classrooms- providing a limitation to the amount of online classes taken. Another idea is to allow online classes to be used as a supplement to the standard classroom in which students meet in a traditional classroom four out of five days, and then meet online for the fifth day to reap the benefits of both worlds.

mary beth said...

I like Barbara's suggestion that students meet 4 days in class and 1 day on-line each week...that way, the student who is afraid to expose their thoughts and ideas in the classroom can do so on-line, the shy, quiet one or the unpopular kid...it may help the others to see these kids in a different light, put them on a level playing field...also, I think it is a good exercise in literacy to have to speak in writing...and not kid-speak. On-line class time should require that students spell words out and be conscious of how they are writing...a modern writing lesson.

tina miller said...

My initial reaction was the same as most of you guys. Though their may be some benefits to doing some of the work online, it should not replace the face-to-face interaction of the real classroom. In addition, I have two concerns. The first is that those who choose to homeschool their kids would now reap the benefit of having the school system pay for their virtual education. Again, as a suplement it is fine but to replace the whole process i am not sure its the best approach. My second concern goes to the digital divide and those students who do not have ready access to computers. We are again providing another barrier to them getting a quality education. I am also greatly concerned about who is doing the work at that level since many students don't seem to have a problem with copying from the internet or using resources like Spark Notes. Final thought, is the per pupil expenditure that is going to virtual schools. A lot of the school systems are already having a problem because their tax base does not support the current public schools - can we really or should we extend these limited resources to virtual school also?

Lisa T. said...

I recently read that Connecticut is now offering this online learning option. I was very interested in learning more about it because I work with students who are school avoidant due to a variety of reasons. This online approach may make it easier for them to complete some coursework, feel success and get back to the classroom. A virtual learning academy could be an option for those kids who would rather drop out of school than attend classes. The per pupil expenditure for individual students can then go to paying the annual membership fee to the academy which is a lot less than attending public school.

Judy Arzt said...

Lisa, Could you find out more about where Connecticut is heading with funding online education, or virtual learning, for its students, and what the status is on the funding situation? In addition to students who might have some of the kinds of phobias you note, what about students who suffer from medical conditions that make regular attendance at schools difficult? Let us know what you find out. Given the work that you do in the hospital setting with children, you might be able to find out what the status is for virtual schooling for students who have specific conditions that inhibit or prevent attending regular schools.

Blog Archive

Contributors