I just received a link to a new issue brief from Governor Bob Wise (former governor of West Virginia) for the Alliance for Excellence in Education. (Thank you Susan Patrick of iNACOL for the post.) The brief is titled: The Online Learning Imperative: A Solution to Three Looming Crises in Education (http://www.all4ed.org/files/OnlineLearning.pdf). The article provides a synthesis of some converging factors that stand a chance of changing the face of education as we know it. I would also add that a critical component in all of this is a comprehensive education campaign about what quality online learning is, and more importantly, what it is not. Quality online learning experiences do NOT include:
- Correspondence courses involving limited or no interaction with the teacher. Correspondence courses are just that – they have their own label.
- Courses with excessive enrollments. I have witnessed presentations expounding the cost savings of plopping 600 students into online college courses with one professor.
- Courses delivered through video technologies that are only accessible from school to school. These types of courses are dramatically different from online experiences because they mimic a traditional classroom – minus direct interaction with a teacher. They tend to be teacher-directed (lecture) educational experiences.
What is online learning?
Online learning leverages the Internet to create rich, interactive, and personalized learning experiences for learners. A vast array of technology tools are used in online learning environments to:
- Facilitate interaction and communication,
- assist with skill, knowledge and project development, AND
- promote acquisition of 21st century skills.
What are the transformative capabilities of online environments? Online learning CAN promote:
- Learner autonomy and independence – the idea that learners take responsibility for their own learning,
- collaboration and community building,
- active participation, and
- authentic types of assessments.
Online experiences can be found in:
- Traditional face-to-face classrooms (what we call blended or hybrid),
- Self-contained virtual charter or cyber schools (often with a parent or guardian acting as a learning coach or guide), or
- Single course offerings through a state supplemental program.
iNACOL is a wonderful resource for information about K-12 online learning. If you are unclear about what online learning IS, visit their site and take some time to educate yourself. If you’re a fan of Project-Based Learning, you may have recognized many of the same characteristics in quality online experiences that you would expect to see in PBL. This is no coincidence. Check out http://pbl-online and The Buck Institute for Education for more on PBL.