Recently I heard Susan Patrick from INACOL talk about online learning. This is something that New York has really lagged behind in compared to the rest of the states. However, I do believe that New York will finally start to support online learning as well as blended learning (meaning in person as well as online) in multiple ways. There are many events that are coming together that allow for online learning to be more successful for everyone in the upcoming years. Here are just a few.
Common Core Standards and PARCC
For the first time ever in the history of the United States, most (46 to date) of the states will be teaching to the exact same standards in English and Math. This may even expand to other subject areas. Not only that, we will also be held to a common national exam. Many leaders in the field, including Susan, believe that this will allow for online learning providers to really beef up their offerings. Instead of their content having to align with 50 different states, you will see more and more providers in every area being able to align to one.This is exciting since it allows them to spend much more time on content and less time aligning. Basic economy of scale.
As we all know, the baby boomers are starting to retire and every state in the union is feeling it and multiple areas. Education is no different. For years we have had a teacher shortage in the areas of math and science. It looks like that will spread to every content area at the seconday level as well as at the elementary level. The shortage, coupled with the fact that many parents, understandably so, want more offerings for their children, will force many schools to start to investigate online learning. Rural communities cannot be expected to offer every AP course as well as multiple foreign languages. However, with the power of online learning, this may happen.
The Pipe and the Content
When is the last time that you heard someone say that they still had a dial up connection? We are now in an age where most people have either DSL, cable modems, or even fiber in their homes. Schools have also responded with quicker connections. This allows providers to provide content that is not only text but have multimedia embedded. Providers can even get away with video conferencing and know that they are not going to bring down a school’s network. Providers can also provide online storage so students can get to their files wherever they are at. All this new bandwidth allows for richer content and more points of entry for collaboration.
The YouTube GenerationThe students that are in front of us want to learn in a totally different way than any previous generation. The great thing is that we have the technology to support it! They want to learn at any point and they want to be able to go off into multiple tangents. With online learning, this is possible. If students want to play outside because it is a beautiful day and crack the books later, with online learning, they can. Also, most online learning will NOT force students to keep moving forward before mastering a concept. Instead, online learning allows students to learn ath their own pace and access resources that they know will help them learn. Getting a failing grade in a subject area will become obsolete. Learning will more become about how much time and effort students are willing to invest to understand content. It will also be the onus of the provider to allow for the content to provide multiple ways of teaching the same content and for all the reasons listed above, I think that we are primed to see this happen.
Lastly, the states and the feds are getting behind online learning. Florida has hundreds of thousands of students who are taking online learning courses, while other states have made it a requirement that students take at least one online course before high school graduation. States are embracing and moving forward to make online learning part of the legislation.
Educators are living in an exciting era. Teaching and learning strategies are being redefined by modern technology; therefore, teaching has to change and multiple modalities have to be allowed. The best advice is for all of us to hop on board with online learning because this train is coming down the tracks.
James Yap and Teresa Ivey
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