Classroom Technology

Online Ed. Growth Prompts Teachers’ Concerns

June 05, 2009 1 min read

From what I know about Jim Burke, he isn’t the type to worry about his relevance as an English teacher. Burke, the founder of the English Companion Web site, Ning, and a long-running listserv, as well as the author of a bunch of books about teaching, has had a huge influence on thousands of his colleagues around the country, and untold numbers of students throughout his career.

But a conversation Burke started recently on the popular Ning site hints at his, and other teachers’, anxiety over the rapidly growing world of online education.

As his district outside San Francisco turns to online programs to supplement summer school programs, Burke worries that more and more students will start to demand them as an alternative to regular classes throughout the school year. Indeed, many students across the country are already doing just that. Like many teachers, Burke’s concerns include academic quality and student-teacher relationships in virtual learning. Others who have joined in the discussion have misgivings as well, particularly about student engagement and retention rates for online courses.

Some of the participants in the discussion are downright skeptical about the effectiveness of online courses. But one commenter, Andrea Z, is a bit more positive about the trend:

“I often think about how many highly regarded intellectuals in centuries past have been described as ‘self-taught,’” she writes. “Education can take many different forms, including the idea that learners who chase down whatever knowledge they find useful and interesting in whatever ways that learning occurs best for them.”

What are your thoughts? Jim is waiting for you to join in the discussion.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.

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