I’m writing this blog post as I continue researching the topic of online education in high school settings. There is a lot of discussion in the news lately about states mandating online education as a requirement for graduation. Idaho was next up on the list to move toward this requirement (joining Alabama, Florida, and Michigan), but as of Wednesday, the state voted against it. Online classes at the college level are frequent, popular, and, at this point, somewhat expected. But when it comes to online education in high school, there is much to be debated and discussed.
On the one hand, online education is a good starting point to learn how to navigate the Internet from a “college and career readiness” perspective. I believe today’s high school students happily engage with technology and the Internet on a social level, as an extracurricular activity, but they might not have a sense of using the Internet beyond a personal/social realm. I think the requirement of online education helps put students in a place to learn about and navigate the Internet in different ways, especially in regards to business, networking, and preparing for a career. I also believe mandatory online education is an attempt answer the “technology is not going away” argument. By that I mean schools are feeling immense pressure to keep up with continuously advancing technology outside of the classroom—this seems to be one way to keep up.
Online education also has the added benefit of mobility, allowing students to learn wherever they are. The online classroom also provides a place where all students can participate equally (I’m thinking about what we talked about in class a little bit—about how shy students may feel more comfortable expressing their opinions in an online setting). Additionally, with an online class, a teacher could really take advantage of multi-media instruction, perhaps in a more complete way than in the physical classroom.
But the other side of the argument: is online learning the best for all students? Should online classes be mandatory? For starters, the requirement assumes that all students have access (highlighting the “digital divide” that we’ve discussed in class). What seems to be the trend in states that are going forward with required online courses is providing students with a laptop or tablet of some kind. I believe it’s necessary that any state requiring online classes as part of the high school graduation requirement should provide its students with the technology needed to access these online classrooms. But this also brings about the question of budget.
Arguments against mandatory online education say that the money for these programs should be going to support the teachers (not the computer manufacturers), providing resources for teachers to become better teachers and to enhance students’ experiences inside the physical classroom.
In the Huffington Post report on this topic, teacher Kendra Wisenbaker speaks to how I think most people are feeling: “I am a little conflicted, I am. It won’t work for every kid, and I think requiring it is a horrible idea.”
I would love to hear some feedback on this issue. (As you can probably guess, I’m going to continue compiling my research on this topic for the paper due Tuesday. I began my research with the broad topic of “technology in the classroom” but have become increasingly fascinated by the idea of “technology as the classroom.”)
So, are you in favor of mandatory online classes? Against it? Maybe in favor of online learning but not in a mandatory setting?