What Teaching Or Learning Practices Are Problematic Online

The question of what online classes are suitable for kids has become something of a quandary.

It has been a popular topic that has been featured more than once on this platform, and hopefully it will continue.

From June 12th, 2016 to January 15th, 2017 was an 80-day-long national experiment by the United States Department of Education on how to determine if it was best to put together smaller, higher, earlier, and longer chunks of instruction.

The program lasted for roughly 2,800 schools, with 940,000 students.

There is no doubt in my mind that this program helped provide a myriad of valuable data that is applicable to the overall evolution of education in the US.

Though initial data was positive from an anecdotal standpoint, that is often times not the case for a scientific study when you move beyond the veneer of “alignment.”

It was from that spring that we started looking at early indicators of online problems. A common observation was that online students received better outcomes than traditional classrooms, but several detractors criticized the methodology and said the results were flawed. That was one legitimate point. Another was that while course content was not changing much, the amount of online instruction occurred, getting students “coaches” for accelerated learning was instead expanding. This was an issue that was probably far more prominent than some of the skeptics or failures with early testing.

Unsurprising, when you open the door on online instruction, you have no shortage of subject areas where you see quality instruction and groups of “scores” about the same. That is the beauty of online instruction. No matter which method you use in the present, that is always the case.

In general, we see two types of online instruction. Lessons are delivered digitally or through mediums like video and voice.

Learning mechanisms like SkillStreet have developed a program that provides a digital solution. Others like Virtual Education America are involved in online adaptive-learning.

The second type of online instruction is customizable, in theory giving students and teachers access to the lessons. Teachers may be able to create their own digital assignments or other tasks to create an online signature for individual students.

Now here is where it gets interesting. We see a great deal of variability, and it is easy to see why. You don’t have to be an expert in online instruction to understand how the learning experience can be different. There are examples of high quality instruction in many disciplines, and low quality instruction. An online teaching experience is always a learning environment.

What you would like to see is that the traditional instructional methods are swapped for what you can receive and create in an online environment. The issue is quite prevalent and interesting as it pertains to how teachers use technology, how students engage, and how schools and families can benefit from the exchange.

The issue for me is that the same classroom model is used for learning. There is a difference in online instruction, but that doesn’t mean there is a difference in how students react to learning.

Of the two camps, I see an important question of who is the teacher, where the student becomes the teacher, and who is the student.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done to determine how individuals and schools can become more flexible in how they teach. I am in favor of complete customization for people who want it, but ultimately it is up to each school and individuals themselves to make those choices.

I would imagine, though, that with the recent advancements in technology, parents, students, and teachers are going to get a real chance to interact with their lessons.

This will not happen overnight, but I would imagine that in years to come, the Internet will be a center piece in how this learning community works.

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