So a new bill in Virginia, where I spent a good portion of my childhood and attended high school is now (starting fall 2013) requiring students to take an online course to graduate.
With that news comes a whole lot of ballyhoo against it. Settle down folks. Its one class, online.
The biggest arguments against this plan is budget, legitimacy of providers and efficacy of online learning. Valid concerns – but they are over thinking this.
When considering massive districts that have to find funding for massive initiatives, one has to appreciate the challenges in that. The naysayers are worried that because of budgetary constraints, districts will opt for lower cost providers which will bring down the level of education provided. They then say, “Well kids don’t learn online…studies have shown this or that!”
All I hear is “Blah, blah, blah!” and to that I say “Stop over thinking things!”
There is critical thinking and then there is negative nancy thinking – yes that is an actual thing and if its not, I just trademarked it,
a) Online courses are easy to setup.
b) If you don’t want to set up yourself, there are also 1000’s of classes one can take for free!
c) Places like Atomic Learning and Lynda provide a massive array of tutorials with materials and have fairly affordable licenses (and 1000s of highly competent educators that would set up a class if you asked nicely and threw in a stipend)
d) One class in four years is not much to ask of an individual who will be going to college and entering the real world. They will have to learn how to communicate online and manage projects and work with digital/online resources.
e) They will learn something despite what studies say…it will be an experience they may not have had a chance to have and now they will be given that opportunity.
f) They can use this opportunity to learn something not provided in their schools
g) They will meet and collaborate with people from different areas, states or even countries.
Will this turn schools into online diploma mills? Hardly. Virginia is suggesting one course. ONE.
If they are doing this in effort to reduce workload on teachers in their districts or reduce the number of paid teaching positions, then I think they are going down the wrong path.
Here are my suggestions:
1) Don’t require them to take any major subjects like Math, Science, etc..
2) They can select an online course that compliments an existing subject they are taking which will help them even further
3) They can take a course on programming or design that isn’t tied to the school’s test scores
4) A small team could produce a few classes for the state and host them using Moodle. There could be stipend positions to evaluate the summative assessments where teachers in the district (a la IB) would evaluate sets of submissions
5) Don’t tie the course into their test scores.
In closing, I laugh when I see that Colorado spent $100+ MILLION on online schools where they had a 50% drop out rate…apparently kids dropped of their virtual schools to go to normal schools. Duh! These are kids…one of the biggest aspects of school is the social education they learn along the way. Not to mention they get to chat about their latest app achievements, Modern Warfare exploits and who dumped who. they get to hold hands with their sweetie pie and play ball at recess or lose their voices at pep rallies.
My final solutions: If you have a $100 Million to throw away…give it to me. I will first buy a yacht, a villa and a benz and then will create a butt-kicking whatever you want me to build and still have loads of money left over for charitable activities. Boom! Done!