The following piece by Susan Patrick appeared this week on National Journal’s Education Experts Blog:
Tom Vander Ark makes several strong points in his post, so I hope that I might just add a few additional
Online learning is not simply a videotaped lecture, an online chat, a Skype-like conversation, an e-book, or a series of multiple choice quizzes popping up on a computer screen.
Online learning starts with students having access to excellent teachers – most online teachers have at least eight years of classroom experience. These seasoned educators are professionals empowered with the digital tools and engaging content we are able to access on-demand in our daily lives. They harness their power and efficiency to individualize instruction and engage students in a learning process that can transform the way they learn in the modern world.
Online learning is not about technology for its own sake, but instead revered by online teachers and
students for the very personal interaction it enables between them. Though continuously opined
(incorrectly) as otherwise on the pages of many papers, online teachers will be the first to tell anyone who
will listen that their ability to get to know their students in an online setting far surpasses the relationships
they were able to build in a traditional classroom.
And consider for a moment that if education is the civil rights battle of this generation, than online learning can push the realization. How else could every student, regardless of zip code, receive equitable access to the very best instruction available for every subject needed to prepare them for college, careers and lifelong learning. Every student could access every AP course taught by the best educators anywhere. Forty percent of high schools in California alone do not offer the full “A-G” high school, college-prep course requirements for admission to the state university system. We could fix this with online learning immediately – giving every student access to the instructors and courses they need to graduate college ready.
To cloister our students away from an educational opportunity that could mean the difference between struggle and success would be an irresponsible declaration that while innovation and technology have radically benefited almost every aspect of our lives, our classrooms and schools as currently designed and utilized are just fine, thank you very much. I continue to receive notes, emails, and encouragement from young people who took online classes that would not have had the same academic and life opportunities without them. They encourage me to keep helping people understand that online learning can change a child’s life and expand their academic experiences.
I’d ask you to review the latest round of PISA results or even a list of schools in need of improvement in your state to decide whether or not we are reaching as many students as possible and cementing their (and our) future success. And, then think about how online learning could provide every student with access to a world-class education, regardless of where they live.