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Online schooling wave of the future or failed experiment?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington


“You have probably heard the claim, “If you choose to educate your child online, he/she will be a social misfit.” To analyze this assertion, it is important to understand online education.

There are two basic types of online education: real-time and self-paced. In real-time online courses, students attend class on a computer. Classes are held at specified times and students participate in discussions during class periods. Each real-time online class is slightly different, because students participate in the instruction.

Self-paced courses are prepared in advance. Students progress through the material at their own pace. There is no real-time class interaction. Proficiency is sometimes tested with quizzes or tests that are integrated into the learning material. In this case, students must pass a quiz/test before they move on to future lessons. In other cases, students are required to go to proctored test centers to take exams.

In general, self-paced courses work well for material that requires little discussion. Real-time classes are more effective when most of the student learning occurs during classroom dialog.

Online education is appealing, because there is less wasted time. There is no need to drive to a physical location, worry about disruptions that occur in physical classrooms, or waste time dressing for school. In addition, students and parents have the ability to work school around other things in their lives.

Self-paced instruction is more cost effective than traditional classroom teaching, because lectures are prepared in advance and are used many times. In addition, this type of course delivery can be of higher quality than traditional classroom instruction, because the best teachers can present the content and there are no interruptions.

Some students find self-paced online instruction challenging, because they can procrastinate to the point that it is nearly impossible to learn the material. As a result, there is a reasonable argument that self-paced instruction is only appropriate for highly motivated and disciplined university and high school students.

Also, it is possible for students to succeed in an online environment without learning how to interact with others. As a result, it is imperative that online students have other avenues for developing social, leadership, and team skills.

Online education is not for everyone, but is an attractive alternative for motivated, self-disciplined students who have a strong social network and opportunities to build leadership skills and learn how to work on a team outside of school.


National Institute for STEM Education (NISE) Announces STEM Certification and Degree Programs for Districts, Campuses and Teachers

Business Wire – Staff Writer

“As science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs continue to grow, the U.S. Department of Education has set a priority to increase the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these fields. Yet, as school districts launch STEM schools and programs, there has been no easy way to certify that they are actually prepared to teach STEM — until now. Accelerate Learning today announces the formation of the National Institute for STEM Education (NISE)…Using an online learning platform and unique digital portfolio, NISE offers a STEM certification program for campuses and districts, as well as teachers…For teachers and educators, it certifies that individuals are incorporating the 15 key teacher actions necessary to create a STEM classroom of excellence.”(more)

College Free, Connections Costly?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington


In the End of the University As We Know It, Nathan Harden asserts that access to a college-level education will be free and available to everyone on the planet; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; the residential college experience will all but disappear; ten of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; and well-known and and respected universities like MIT, Stanford, and Harvard will enroll ten of millions of students.


Are Harden’s forecasts likely?


Technology has removed the geographic and time barriers to education. Students can listen to lectures real-time or save them for later viewing. Textbooks are available in electronic format. Groups can meet electronically for academic exchanges. Exams can be given electronically and will become accurate assessments of student proficiency as security issues are resolved.


Universities can and are extending their reach to students around the world at a fraction of the cost of what it takes to bring professors and students together on a physical college campus. A free college education is unlikely, but a very low cost college alternative is almost a certainty.


Technology has rendered many bachelor’s degrees useless. Rather than no bachelor’s degree, the degree will probably change form and name to note a broader, more well rounded education (advanced technical, humanities blend). The narrowing bachelor’s degree requirements will mean many students will opt for specialized, job specific, course-by-course certifications rather than a bachelor’s degree.


Technology has and will continue to change the classroom model. Professors can effectively lecture to millions of students at one time. This means only a small number of the best teaching professionals will be employed. In this new environment, prestige will be important. Top schools like MIT and Stanford will have millions of students and many lesser known schools will be forced to close.


Research at top universities will probably continue. The professors that had to endure teaching assignments to conduct cutting edge research will be able to spend all their time in the lab.


It is unlikely that the residential college experience will completely vanish. However, it will probably be limited to high profile universities and be embraced by a small segment of the population that is willing to pay a premium for contacts and networking.


With the radical changes coming to post secondary education, parents should think carefully about where their children attend college. In addition, parents may want to avoid prepaid college programs and allocate funds to high-quality primary and secondary education.


Some districts ditch online exams for paper and pencil

E-School News – Diane Rado

“The affluent Highland Park-based Township High School District 113 near Chicago has all the modern technology, bandwidth, computers and technicians it needs to administer new online state exams this spring — but it opted to go with old-fashioned paper and pencil tests instead. Likewise, some of the state’s largest districts have switched to paper exams, fearing technology glitches could create headaches for students and teachers alike. Some officials believe such distractions could skew results on the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams in reading and math. “Our concern was really that the results of this testing taken online wouldn’t necessarily give clear data on what students know and should be able to do,” said District 113 spokeswoman Jennifer Waldorf. With the main spring testing season just days away, hundreds of Illinois schools are eschewing the PARCC computer exams that include videos, drop-down menus, drag-and-drop exercises and other online functions, adding to the already-brewing controversy over state testing both here and across the country.”(more)

Editorial: There’s still time for a test reform pause

The Tampa Bay Times – Editorial

“A computer problem that interrupted FCAT testing for tens of thousands of students this week underscores the reasons Florida should slow down its overhaul of school testing and grading systems. Blind adherence to a deadline rather than making time for a reasonable implementation plan defies logic and threatens to run the state’s education system off a cliff. Again. It is still not too late to hit the brak.”(more)

What’s Ahead for Education in 2014

The Atlantic – Eleanor Barkhorn

“The last several years in education have been filled with turmoil: cheating scandals, debates and protests over curriculum and testing, big changes in the way students are taught. The new year offers brings more changes—but also an opportunity to find solutions to old problems and reach common ground on the divisions of the past. Here’s a look at some of the big questions in education for 2014.”(more)