The headline of our local newspaper read, “Keeping online schools in line.” (http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_19022226) The premise of the article is that online schools are not keeping up with student achievement, costs too much and are not meeting instructional standards.
Well, is it any wonder? Most online schools are being set up to mirror bricks and mortar schools. This is just mimicking a failing system and hence is doomed to fail. The value of online schooling is to be able to create a new system that actually can serve the needs of the students who enroll. This takes time, money and talent. It takes individuals who can think beyond what they are familiar with. It takes individuals who can dream of possibilities not yet in practice. The outstanding breadth of opportunity online technology gives us to innovate should not be passed up by an educational community that is steeped in the same old way of doing things.
The capability to match instruction to individual student learning; to offer students a variety of instructional methodologies; and to continuously adapt instruction to the individual learner is available now. Yet, we are hampered by our own concepts and somehow fearful of giving up what we have become accustomed to since the turn of the last century.
In an adaptive environment, students can discover much of their knowledge individually. What a concept….putting students in charge of their own learning! Students need to do something meaningful every few minutes…reading long passages or doing the same thing over and over will not keep them engaged. We lose our students when instruction lacks relevance and fails to generate positive learning experiences. Cognitive psychologists recognize that critical thinking and creativity are connected to an individual’s passion for a subject. Yet, we continue to emphasize rationality at the expense of creativity.
Is it no wonder then that now, online learning is getting a bad rap? If policy makers really want to see online learning work, they need to put on different lenses. The same old methodologies, with a new dress, cheat those who deserve more from us….our students.