Utah leads in online learning

Utah is leading the way in digital learning, writes Matthew Ladner on Jay P. Greene’s Blog. A new state law based on Digital Learning Now’s Ten Elements of Quality Online Learning “funds success rather than just seat time, has no participation caps and allows multiple public and private providers.” The program starts for public high school students but then adds home-school and private school students.

Tom Vander Ark’s predicted “radical choice” at the lesson level,

We’ll soon have adaptive content libraries and smart recommendation engines that string together a unique playlist for every student every day. These smart platforms will consider learning level, interests, and best learning modality (i.e.,motivational profile and learning style to optimize understanding and persistence).

Smart learning platforms will be used by some students that learn at home, by some students that connect through hybrid schools with a day or two on site, and by most students through blended schools that mix online learning with on site support systems.

West Virginia’s state board of education has adopted the Digital Learning Now recommendations, writes Vander Ark on EdReformer.

Florida’s legislature passed a bill requiring high school students to take at least one online course. The law also ends the Florida Virtual School‘s monopoly on online classes.

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    I would be very surprised if online learning changed K-12 much.

    1. The two biggest determinants of how much students learn are motivation and preparation. This doesn’t have much to do with either. Some students will be more interested if they can “move at their own pace” but other students will be less interested because they are sitting in front of a computer screen doing something they don’t care much about.

    2. A major function of public school is, and I don’t mean this as an insult, day care. Five to eighteen year olds are taken care of while parents work or whatever. Parents aren’t going to want to pay for their kids to stay home in front of a computer.

    3. Taxpayers would like to save money with online learning but the teachers, ed schools, and state Departments of Education do not want to lose any jobs or money. At least for now, those latter have the upper hand.

  2. 1. Motivation, at least, is partly a function of the expectations the kids encounter. Inasmuch as teaching skill isn’t valued by the teacher’s employer it’s hardly much of a stretch to assume that that indifference comes through to the kids. At least with on-line learning the kids don’t encounter teachers who know their skills are viewed as immaterial by their employer.

    2. Then public education ought to be a great deal cheaper. Day care doesn’t require anywhere near the administrative overhead that burdens the public education system.

    3. Don’t take a long nap, Roger. The results of the 2010 mid-term elections are starting to be felt and they aren’t good for the public education status quo.

  3. Also, while self-paced learning may not be especially good for the kids who are determined not to learn (And, honestly, is there ANYTHING good for those kids, other than maybe having to get a real job and learn what they don’t know?) self-paced learning will be REVOLUTIONARY for the kids who do enjoy school and learning.

    For gifted kids in areas without easy access to magnet programs, APs, etc, self-paced learning will mean a chance to test limits and progress more quickly.

    In an ideal world, the online schooling would also allow for optional overtime– so that a kid who wanted to spend a bit of the summer getting ahead in Math or Histiory COULD. While many kids will just see this as drudgery on the computer instead of drudgery in a classroom, a subset of previously bored kids will get a chance to work hard and be challenged.

  4. Roger Sweeny says:

    For teenagers who have a major desire to learn traditional high school subjects, self-paced learning may be revolutionary. For teenagers who really, really, really want to build a resume for college applications, and thus want as many certifications as possible, self-paced learning (with a credit at the end) will be revolutionary.

    But those two groups together don’t even make up a double digit percentage of the people in high school.

    There are some kids who just don’t want to learn, and self-paced learning won’t make any difference to them. However, there aren’t that many of them either.

    The vast majority of kids aren’t terribly interested in high school material but aren’t actively opposed. They don’t mind coming in every day and seeing kids their own age. They’re acclimated to the school system: listen, do some classwork, do some homework and projects, put down what you can remember on a test, get a grade, and then forget most of it. They will acclimate to any new system, but I very much doubt they will go any faster or learn any more.