A new report put out by the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University and the Education and the Public Interest Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder asserts that virtual education is growing at a rapid pace throughout the nation and suggests steps for policymakers to support high-quality virtual education for students.
The first suggestion that the paper’s author, Gene V. Glass, a regents’ professor of education at Arizona State University, makes is to adopt new regulations to govern K-12 online learning. Policies should be set that define what certifications teachers should have, how much interaction they should have with students, how those certifications would translate from state to state, as well as a formula that could determine funding, among other recommendations.
His second recommendation is to audit the private providers of virtual education as well as the public school districts that provide virtual education to their students to pin down the actual cost of online ed.
Next, Glass suggests that an accrediting body should be created to look at the different public and private providers of education in order to avoid abuses. And lastly, he asks that legislators call for credible assessment and evaluation in online classes in order to track the progress of students as they work towards a high school diploma.
I think both legislators and online education advocates agree that there needs to be more policies in place to both evaluate and support virtual education, like Glass says. The tricky part will be to make those policies strict enough to hold online education providers accountable for high-quality education while keeping them flexible enough for educators to be able to take full advantage of the differences between brick-and-mortar and virtual classrooms.
There’s a lot of information in this report, including sections on the growth of online education, research on achievement in virtual ed., the costs of online education, ensuring quality in online classes, and the push and pull between public education and private online education providers. This is a must-read for those who are following virtual education. Check it out here.
And for more information about online education, check out Technology Counts 2009, which examines recent developments in e-learning.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.