Domestic, Education Quality, Elementary / Primary / Junior, High school / Secondary 2, Publishers, Required - Written by on Thursday, November 3, 2011 7:13 - 0 Comments

More States Require Online Classes, but Less Quality Control?


Rock-bottom quality? Image by robotson via Flickr

The AP reports that Idaho will be the latest state to require K-12 students take some classes online if the school board approves the plan. Three other states already require online learning:

Schools nationwide offer virtual classes, but just three states — Alabama, Florida and Michigan — have adopted rules since 2006 to require online learning, according to the International Association of K-12 Online Learning.

The states require online classes, how is the quality and what are the outcomes?

Texas has not required students take online classes. But like Florida, the state has dedicated substantial resources to e-learning. Patrick Michels over at The American Independent writes about online education pioneer Texas State Rep. Scott Hochberg’s dissatisfaction with the quality of Texas’s online offerings.

The promise of online education also included lower costs, because the computer could stand in for a classroom teacher. But Hochberg points out that — especially for special needs students, or students in juvenile detention — you’d still need an adult in the room to keep an eye on students and offer help, so there are no savings in personnel costs.

“Where it does give you an opportunity is you can have varied lessons going on in the same classroom,” he said.

But instead of diversifying students’ options, he said schools are typically delivering core courses online in order to create flexibility in their schedules — offering the same classes, just at different times.

“They’re being used to time-shift the education and make schedules more convenient more than they’re offered to broaden the offerings,” he said. “I think that’s a waste of time and money.”

Hochberg says the lack of quality control and ways to evaluate new education products is a serious problem:

“Virtual has a place, but I think the educational entrepreneur world overblows that place substantially, and really doesn’t bring much new to the table,” Hochberg said. “I think it’s easy enough to make money in the business that nobody’s been pushed to creat the top-notch product — and there’s not necesasrily any indication that you’ll make more by producing a top-notch product.”

For all its students, Texas still hasn’t bought into online schools the way that, say, Florida has. Hochberg said that still gives Texas the chance to do it right. He’s not opposed to online learning in general, he said, but the state needs to start operating on measures of quality — a problem that remains even with analog materials.

“We don’t know if Pearson’s textbook is any beter than McGraw Hill’s textbook, so it comes down to who does the best sales job,” he said.

via Hochberg: Online education business growing fast, without quality control from state (The American Independent)

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