About a month ago, I attended a lecture led by an advocate for online learning from clrn.org. He stated that online learning is a “disruptive innovation,” meaning it is an innovation that is new and different from what is already existing. People are often turned off by a disruptive innovation at first because they are accustomed to what they know, but some people are excited by disruptive innovations. Over time, an innovation like this can gain popularity and also become more affordable and user friendly. Eventually, a disruptive innovation can become the norm, making what was once popular a thing of the past.
The term online learning can refer to a full curriculum being offered online, or also just individual classes. Students taking 100% of their middle school or high school classes online is rare, but it is common for schools to offer some courses that can be taken online instead of in the classroom. Schools that do offer online learning opportunities allow students to take more of the classes they want. A variety of AP classes can be offered without the limitations of a finite staff and without needing a minimum number of students for each class.

Online learning does come with potential problems. Students who learn online have shown a greater dropout rate and lower performance. This could possibly be due to the fact that students are not currently used to learning this way. In addition, teachers and administrators need to be comfortable with this way of providing instruction. There is also another potential issue with online learning. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but not everything on the internet is of high quality (shocker, I know). An online learning program has to be chosen very carefully. An online textbook is not an online course. A multiple choice test can’t be the only method of assessment. There needs to be multiple ways of teaching and assessing. The technology needs to be accessible and should be user friendly. There are many factors to consider.

What do you think? Are you ready to accept online learning as a legitimate method of education in middle schools and high schools?



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