If you've been in education for more than 5 or 6 years you have noticed that the trend is having students get much of their education on line. You may not be teaching this way yet nor may anyone in your school but you've seen the news and have heard multiple examples of classrooms where the focus is the internet. This focus may revolve around online activities, online testing, delivering content online or taking entire courses online. A popular technique for classrooms is the hybrid model where students come into a classroom, log on to a site that delivers the lessons and the teacher walks around the room and facilitates the course by offering help and guidance.  There are success stories that have shown increased test scores and stories of no measurable effect. The question I am raising is, is this the way our teaching should be going? First let me state that I don't know the answer to this and I am currently in the process of trying to decide for myself. I've taught 12 years and plan on teaching another 20 so this will affect me greatly.

The reason I question whether this is the right direction is because all the people in charge of guiding education: administrators, universities, education agencies, are all saying the same thing, students are more engaged when using using computers for learning and students want the flexibility of being able to take classes on line. When I talk to students directly I hear a different story. The upper level students tell me, almost without exception, that they prefer to learn from a teacher, in person, who uses a book. The lower lever students are about split. Half of them prefer a teacher, the other half prefer the computer. Obviously this is not a scientific poll by any means, it's just my personal conversations with students. The lower level students who prefer the computer almost all say, it's easier than having a teacher.

Clearly there are issues about the quality of the online and elearning experiences that students are receiving. Obviously, if they are getting poorly executed lessons then they are going to have a negative experience. My concern is that we, as educators, are driving this push towards elearning based on our opinions of how we think students learn best instead of how they actually learn best.

I think the first part of the answer is to decide, what are our objectives for what we're teaching. As of now, those objectives are standardized tests: state assessments, SAT's, and  ACT"s. Primarily we're judged by our students' scores on state assessments. Until we are being judged on how well our students collaborate, use their imagination, and how creative they are I think the focus on online, and computer-based learning may be falling short.

The powers-to-be are clearly pushing us in the direction of computer-based learning, which personally I enjoy, I just hope the tests that we're being judged by change also.

Let me know your thoughts on the matter, I think it's an interesting discussion.

Views: 62

Tags: learning, online

Comment by Andy Petroski on March 18, 2012 at 9:52pm

With more than 1 million students in cyber charter schools nationwide, there are obviously a lot of students who prefer online learning.  Unfortunately, some of these students are experiencing an inferior education.  But, there are also stories of students running back to traditional education because online learning requires more work.  These students pursued online education because they thought it would be easier. 

I think upper level students might indicate a preference for traditional education, because they are excelling in that environment.  The split in opinion from lower level (underperforming?) students is interesting.

Studies have shown that a blended approach of synchronouse and asynchronous is generally the most effective approach overall.  The question about what the best blend is still remains.  That may be indvidual based on the student, the subject matter or the stage of learning.

As school's move toward online learning I hope they keep a blend in mind and give opportunities for teachers and students to control that blend as needed.

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