Online Alternatives

In this Oregonian article the successes of an online school are touted as a potential solution for students looking for a new mean of success.

And it works for some.

Over 1800 students are enrolled in this online school with high levels of success in reading, scores comparable to public schools in math and reading, and special needs students with passing rates near their fully-abled peers. Sounds wonderful.

Except there’s a catch: “Connections Academy is off-limits for any student who can’t arrange for a learning coach to be home with them for five or six hours, five days a week.”

I would contend that any student who is getting assistance online and who has a full-time tutor is going to perform quite well. This signals to me children of middle to upper-middle class parents who normally outperform their peers in public schools anyway.

While I like the opportunities afforded (pun intended–sorry) these students, I do believe the comparisons are a bit disingenuous.

My high school uses online learning to allow credit retrieval, but we encounter a few major difficulties with normal hours online credit retrieval:
1. The curriculum is not aligned with ours.
2. The rigor falls far short.
3. The course requirements (of the course being made up) are not required of the online students.
4. The students regularly finish the retrieved credit in less than six weeks (with no real plan for the other 12 weeks).
5. The students have a high failure rate in the next teacher-led course in the sequence.

However, we are seeing some successes with Moodle. This Blackboard styled online system allows teachers to require the same knowledge as our normal classroom setting courses, but also allows the work to be submitted and worked on online. It’s not a cure-all, but it does greatly improve the online systems and programs we have used in the past, especially the current credit retrieval programs.

I would love to see online learning take hold in my community, but I also believe the rigor and content requirements must be included. In addition, I think teachers from our school (preferred) or teachers with the skills and and background in the content area (who understand our aligned curricula and become part of our departments) must instruct the online courses.

This requires support from the district in dollars, time, resources, and people, so we’ll see how serious it is to provide online classes with the rigor and high standards of the regular classroom.

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