Over the last group of weeks we have been covering Technology in Education which will included insights into Education Technology infrastructure and Research. This week we will discuss e-Learning which is growing throughout schools and school systems within the United States; specifically within Houston, Texas. We invite and encourage our entire readership to tap into this information so you are properly equipped and informed to make intelligent decisions for your children, grandchildren and future-generations. We now live in a “Knowledge Based Economy” (KBE) which means in simple terms that people are paid based on their knowledge levels in specific areas or vertical markets. For those who are educators this data is being compiled from ‘Education Week’. Stay tune and here we go; today, we are discussing E-Learning in Education.
Online learning in many forms is on the rise in schools of all types across the country. Students in many parts of the country now have a long list of choices when it comes to e-learning. The menu of options often includes full-time, for-profit virtual schools; state-sponsored virtual schools; supplemental online learning courses offered by brick-and-mortar schools; and charter schools presenting a hybrid option of digital material coupled with face-to-face instruction.
The International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, estimates that more than 1.5 million K-12 students were engaged in some form of online or blended learning in the 2009-10 school year. At the end of 2010, supplemental or full-time online learning opportunities were available in at least 48 of 50 states, plus the District of Columbia (iNACOL, 2010).
Options for full-time virtual schools are growing. Students from kindergarten through high school can seek out online schooling opportunities, which usually include virtual teachers and a combination of synchronous and asynchronous online learning (Education Week, June 15, 2011). These schools are starting to focus more on the issue of socialization for their students and some are incorporating more face-to-face instruction into their array of services to allow for student interaction both online and in person. They’re forming clubs, holding proms, and creating school newspapers.
At the end of 2010, 27 states plus the District of Columbia had full-time online schools serving students statewide, according to iNACOL’s report, “A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning.”
But full-time virtual schools also face the reality that for many students with two parents working outside the home such a scenario is not an option. Such students often cannot tap into full-time online schools for that reason, and virtual school providers acknowledge that their version of education works best, particularly in the lower grades, when an adult is present to assist.
In addition to courses that offer an online instructor, some researchers say students have had the most success with hybrid or blended education. That can mean that students use digital content with a face-to-face instructor, or an online instructor and an in-class teacher may work together to assist students. Hybrid charter schools, which use mostly digital curriculum with face-to-face support and instruction—sometimes even combined with an online teacher—are gaining a foothold in K-12.
At the same time, a growing number of students now have access to online courses in their brick-and-mortar schools. Schools are tapping into e-learning for a variety of reasons. Some schools say it saves money and allows them to offer a wider variety of courses, including Advanced Placement classes. Others say it can help with scheduling conflicts when a face-to-face class is provided only at a time when a student already has another obligation. In addition, online courses can provide highly qualified teachers for classes otherwise not offered by a school.
One of the fastest growing areas of e-learning, and a category that mainstream schools are increasingly turning to, is credit recovery. These online courses allow students to retake classes they haven’t passed, but in a new and different format. Many of these credit recovery courses give students a brief evaluation, then permit them to skip concepts they already know to focus on ideas they haven’t yet grasped. However, some educators and education experts have questioned the quality and academic rigor of these programs (Education Week, April 28, 2010).
So where are traditional schools getting these online courses? Some are developing their own, others are purchasing them from for-profit vendors and a growing number are able to tap into state virtual schools or state-led online learning initiatives that currently exist in 38 states. Some schools find it easier to use courses developed by a state-run virtual school, since it is already aligned with their state standards.
In closing, huge differences in technology infrastructure remain among schools in the United States especially along racial lines similar in scope and scale to “Banking Redlining”. And while chief technology officers generally say that school infrastructure is improving, many openly doubt that capability will catch up with demand, since new digital tools used in education are requiring ever-increasing amounts of bandwidth. The USA must get serious about solving this Education problem centrally because the longer we wait the further China and India moves ahead of the USA noting they also have larger human population which is a key driver to even greater growth output for China and India. Just something to think about as we moved back to a “Flat-Global-Economy” verses an Industrial Economy thanks to the Internet, similar to the time period prior to the Industrial Revolution when the country with the most human populations ruled the world based on economics and output(s).