19 May 2009

Virtual School Gaining Ground

Around the US, virtual online schools are allowing students much broader choices of curricula, providing the possiblity of "personalised" education for self-starting, ambitious students.
Self-paced courses allow students who learn quickly to complete courses at a pace that remains engaging and avoids boredom before they move on to the next course. Flexible courses give students who need more time and practice to accomplish course objectives the built-in opportunity to take the time without the stigma of asking for an exception to a rigid calendar. Millions of K-12 students have taken control of their learning time in distance courses. Distance education, as a learner-centered approach to education, is an efficient learning environment that focuses the teacher’s attention on the specific performance of individual students, guiding them as needed to achieve success. The student-teacher relationship is immediate and personal. _AmericanProgress
Although teachers' unions and other top-heavy bureaucracies are trying to limit student choice, the virtual school movement is spreading to every state, at all levels from K-12 through university. The cost advantage for schools is one of many aspects of online education that is attracting attention.
Based on a 2008 survey of 20 virtual schools in 14 states, UF researchers found that the average yearly cost of online learning per full-time pupil was about $4,300. This compared with a national average cost per pupil of more than $9,100 for a traditional public school in 2006 (the most recent year in which such data was available). Their cost estimates covered course development and teaching, and administrative and technical expenses.

“Online programs have little or no cost for instructional facilities, transportation and related staff,” Cavanaugh said. “The value of distance education also increases when considering the broad range of available online courses.”

She said investing in virtual education could allow schools to provide instruction before, during and after school — in essence, lengthening the school day and school year — without sinking millions of dollars into new buildings, additional personnel, professional development and other operating costs. Such school reform measures may not be popular with the kids, but America’s education system is falling behind our competitors abroad. Simply put, students in other developed nations are spending more time in school and learning more than our kids do. _UFlorida_via_SwampWoman
Wisconsin is one of the states where virtual schools have fought the unions and bureaucracies to come out victorious on the other side.
There are more than 2,300 virtual students in Wisconsin studying at 14 schools. It's becoming more popular. Virtual schools is kind of like home-schooling for the internet generation, but it lets students work with certified teachers instead of relying on parents to develop instruction.

"To me, it's the best of both worlds," says Marcy's mom, Julie. "You can work at your own pace but also have teacher support." _Source
One interesting development in online education at college level, is the free access offering of selected Kaplan Higher Education courses as part of the Open Courseware Consortium. As the open courseware movement expands, options for free online learning will grow. And that should open the door for more independent certification organisations that can test and certify students for the benefit of potential employers and learning institutions.

College students can also use free online courses as preparation for challenging courses via test, or for taking knowledge assessment exams for college credit. Students could easily test out of a year or more of college using these free online courses.

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Blogger Ugh said...

I know over the years I've commented on my experience with online education. While I was a complete skeptic at first... Amazingly after I spent 6 months in close quarters with my daughter in her senior year of high school I came away extremely impressed with virtual learning. I found the curriculum to be challenging and comprehensive. I know it changed her life in a positive way. Today she is pulling 4.0 work in college which I would have thought totally impossible just a few short years ago. Coincidentally the school she ultimately graduated from was just a few miles from Wisconsin...

Thursday, 21 May, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for the comment, Craig. Personal experiences and narratives are particularly powerful in convincing oneself and others of the usefulness of a technique, process, or therapy.

Tuesday, 26 May, 2009  

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