Classroom Technology

Calif.'s Online-Learning Potential Evaluated

By Andrew Trotter — October 23, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

California’s 6 million students would benefit from a statewide system of online courses, or “e-learning,” if its education agencies and other organizations worked together to develop such a system, a recent study concludes.

Read “The California Virtual School Report,” a national survey of virtual education with recommendations for California, from Educational Pathways. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

“California, with its unique educational, corporate, technological, and entertainment resources, is perfectly positioned to develop a virtual school system to better serve the needs of students,” according to the report, which was commissioned by the University of California College Preparatory Initiative at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The state already has a solid data infrastructure, a prerequisite for effective e-learning, said Gordon Freedman, one of the study’s writers and the founder of Knowledge Base LLC, an education consulting company in Carmel, Calif.

But the report outlines a host of issues that need to be tackled—particularly in the areas of policy, curriculum, course delivery, and public acceptance—if e-learning is to succeed in California. One major issue is the cost of a statewide virtual school, which would be about $5 million just for the first year, the researchers estimated.

The state already has several homegrown “virtual school” projects, the researchers said.

“What California has been slow to do is realize the possibilities of a statewide effort” in e- learning, said Francisco J. Hernandez, the director of the UCCP Initiative, which commissioned the report.

UCCP, the largest e-learning project in the state, offers Advanced Placement and honors courses to 2,900 students from about 200 California schools that do not offer college-prep courses on site, said Mr. Hernandez, who is also the university’s vice chancellor for student affairs.

He said the report—which is based on a review of virtual schooling around the country and interviews with about 700 California school administrators, teachers, students, and parents—has ideas that could be a foundation for a comprehensive system of virtual schooling in the state.

But Alan Warhaftig, an English teacher at the Fairfax Magnet Center for Visual Arts, a high school in Los Angeles, said he fears that a statewide virtual school risks undermining efforts to provide an excellent high school education to every child in the state, because it will absolve schools from providing a full range of courses.

Mr. Warhaftig, a well known critic of the overuse of technology in education, also suggested that online courses tend to be impersonal and not as intellectually stimulating as face-to-face courses.

‘Ultimate Virtual School’

Among their recommendations, the researchers say online courses should meet California’s academic standards and be aligned with state tests.

They say courses should also serve many types of students, including those wishing to accelerate their learning or to catch up after falling behind, those seeking access to courses that aren’t offered locally, and those making up courses they need for graduation.

In addition, the system should be designed with higher education as well as precollegiate education in mind, eventually serving students from kindergarten through graduate school, the researchers conclude.

“The ultimate virtual school would be the integration of teaching and learning from the college level on down,” said Rob Darrow, the online-learning specialist of the 34,000-student Clovis school district in central California, who helped write the report.

That way resources could be shared, Mr. Darrow said. “Kids in our AP government class here are taking the same class as the [political science] one at our neighboring college—it’s the same content, so we should begin to share content,” he said.

The researchers outline significant work that the state must do to develop the necessary policies, curricula, and delivery systems—and sufficient acceptance of virtual education. Two pressing policy issues are how to promote equity, so all students in the state have access to the system, and how to pay the heavy costs of a virtual school.

Beyond those challenges, a state-level virtual school would need strategies to win acceptance from many quarters, including schools and universities, families, the general public, and teachers, the report says.

“We’ve learned that not all teachers like teaching online,” Mr. Darrow said.

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology Big Numbers of Teens Are on TikTok 'Almost Constantly.' What Should Teachers Do?
A Pew Research Center report confirms what most middle and high school teachers already know: Teens are spending way too much time online.
3 min read
Image of a group of teens using their mobile devices.
iStock/Getty
Classroom Technology Software That Monitors Students May Hurt Some It's Meant to Help
Instead of referring kids to counseling services, the software is often used for discipline purposes, a tech policy group says.
2 min read
Students using computers.
E+/Getty
Classroom Technology Q&A Superintendent: Recruit More Black Male Educators, Get Tech in the Hands of All Students
Middletown, Ohio, school district chief Marlon Styles Jr. is the first Black superintendent of that school system.
9 min read
Middletown City School District Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. speaks at the 2022 ISTE Leadership Exchange in New Orleans on June 26, 2022.
Marlon Styles Jr., the superintendent of the Middletown City School District in Ohio, speaks at the 2022 ISTE Leadership Exchange in New Orleans on June 26. The session was part of the International Society for Technology in Education's national conference.
Courtesy of Marlon Styles Jr.
Classroom Technology This Technology Can Write Student Essays: Is There Any Educational Benefit?
Educators don't yet know what to make of GPT-3, an artificial intelligence application that generates text on command.
6 min read
Blue artificial intelligence woman made up of dots with sound waves coming from her mouth.
iStock/Getty Images Plus