Will E-learning Or Online Training Replace Classroom Training? Why?

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Will E-learning Or Online Training Replace Classroom Training? Why?

With online training thriving, when should teachers expect an e-learning rollout? What is the role of educational content?

It’s a question that is squarely and personally in my attention because I’m currently teaching at the Boston Latin School. My colleagues and I share a number of core goals—young people who do well academically, are civically engaged, and give back to the community.

One thing these young people cannot accomplish by doing well on paper, they have to embody these ideals in their heart. That’s why we as educators and school leaders must, first and foremost, put high expectations for our young people at the center of what we do as educators, and we must work to ensure our institutions of learning foster this. I think this is especially true for Boston Latin School (BLS). For over 300 years, BLS has been a magnet for students because of our excellence in a range of disciplines—from the classics, to social studies, to communications, music, and drama. When they reach high school, what do we expect from them? And we need to prepare them for the marketplace and beyond. The Common Core State Standards require that students complete more and more on-task assignments and take more and more required coursework. Meanwhile, they need access to job training, higher education, and post-secondary education.

One alternative, of course, is to do more online learning. Some teachers, parents, and education groups are questioning whether e-learning (that is, training, placement in schools, remediation and assessment, and lessons-loaded webcams) can replace live instruction in brick-and-mortar classrooms. While these concerns make sense, I would suggest that the answer is no.

Yes, online learning has its potential to work as an effective intervention and remediation tool, especially when blended models are used. What’s more, there are some interesting innovations going on in the classroom right now. My colleague Jason Zwick, of the Roosevelt Institute, just wrote a terrific piece about the shift toward what he calls “on-demand learning,” which aims to optimize the blended learning experience for students in many different ways—disruptive or modern business models, personalized instruction, end-of-course completion guides, and the like. It’s an important topic that ought to be more broadly explored, and educators ought to learn from tech companies when it comes to refining the digital learning experience.

In fact, there are a number of online-enabled strategies that are not only aspirational but actually contribute to the idea of student literacy. The practices come in the form of OER (open educational resources), which are a huge, growing, and underused resource. These open materials have become the predominant source of content for classrooms around the world, and, if given the right kind of training, as is so frequently the case, they can be just as effective and effective as their regular text peers. (The research is pretty obvious on that one.)

In addition, there are several efforts across the country to deploy a teacher learning management system (TMS) to go with teacher-embedded apps like the ubiquitous Khan Academy. I also like startup Good Teacher (goodteacher.com), which pairs content developers, curriculum developers, and others with teachers. Good Teacher pairs each of these groups to build an interactive learning platform that allows teachers to integrate self-paced tools into their classrooms. It’s a truly exciting project. (If you want to know more about that, you can read David Nash’s excellent write-up from the 4 Decades of Data project.)

BLS already has some work to do to streamline the ways in which we integrate state and federal learning standards and accountability measures with the concepts we’re supposed to be teaching in class. We need to be sure we’re teaching from the heart, the inside out, in mind and body. That’s the way to see our young people as full human beings. If we can do this, then as we train students for jobs and the world beyond (home and abroad), they’ll be far more prepared.

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