Monday, July 26, 2010
I was recently given the opportunity to take a look at an online alternative to the typical school setting. This was offered to me through MomSelect.
So as a teacher, I was excited to see what would be offered. And I was curious to see how learning would take place over the computer instead of interacting face to face with others. I started by going to onlineschoolsolutions.com where I was asked to choose my state to see exactly what is offered in my state. I then took a peak at the different course offerings for the middle and high school levels. I was able to watch a previously recorded session where students were interacting with their teacher through the Internet. And finally, I was able to watch a multimedia presentation from Aventa Learning.
SO here are some of the things that I liked about the program:
* students can repeat lessons over and over if they missed something
* students can interact with other students and teachers in several different ways (posting messages, one on one conferencing using computer capabilities, email)
* there are multiple ways of assessing the learning that takes place (tests, essays, projects, research papers, etc.)
* students can take classes anywhere and any place (great for students that need to be out of the country for extended times, students that become ill, students that have mental health issues, students that need extra support but are busy with extracurricular activities
* parents can view grades and how well students are doing over the Internet at any time
* students do love using computers and having a say in their learning...
* AP and honors level classed are offered
* the curriculum does look age appropriate and challenging
* curriculum for made using backwards design
* students can "test" out of things that they already know so that they won't be bored
* this is a great option for homeschooling families where the parent/teacher may not have a firm foundation or understanding of the content being taught
* cheaper for districts than creating new classes and hiring more teachers for special circumstances
As a educator in New York State, here are some of the negatives that I see:
* Prices of classes ranged anywhere from $200 - $600 per class. Public school would be free. So this could be a high cost to parents if they chose to use it as a tutor for a class or two. (Although, I have heard of $50 per hour fees for tutors, which would make this a bargain.)It would be even more expensive for the parent that chose to enroll their child in this type of school full time.
* Classes do not align with state curriculum.
I only looked at the standards for New York Math classes since that is what I teach. The math classes do have a great curriculum, but it does not follow what is being taught in the public classroom.
* Limited Electives
One of the things students love are electives. This gives them the choice of what subject they are being taught. I didn't see a whole lot of options under this category. All of the "electives" being offered at the Middle School level were already mandatory at the school I teach at. I was hoping to see specific topics that cater to what kids want to learn since the goal of this program seems to be catching students that aren't able to go to school or aren't successful at a traditional school.
* Limited Interaction
I was pleased to see that students could conference with their teachers to have discussions. But this can't possibly happen as often as my students can come to me. I can have a face to face conversation and answer questions on the spot for students when they have them. They can come to me at lunch or after school. I don't see this being possible over the Internet to the same extent.
Plus students, especially at the high school levels, need to interact with others to learn how to deal with people for the real world. If students are using this as the only source of their education they are going to miss out on meaning learning from just dealing with peers.
* Will all schools except this for credit? I know New York can be picky on what they give credit for. Students may have to get a GED instead of a high school diploma. This may not be considered a bad things to some.
I think that this is a great program for a very small population. There are students and situations were this would be a better solution than the public or private school systems. For these students there haven't been good options. So this is exciting to have to offer to students that normally failed or dropped out or just had circumstances that made it impossible for them to go to school. It will give students that were hard to reach a chance at success. This program also seems to be a great way for busy students to get help or tutoring. I don't think that all students would be successful at school online. I also don't think it would be wise to let all students go to school online. However, for the students that need something different, this is a great option. I will be holding on to this imformation to offer to future parents and students that I meet.
Well readers, what are your thoughts? Do you think online learning could work? What do you think would be the benefits or the drawbacks? Any homeschoolers out there? Would you use this program? I'd love to hear your thoughts.