Information Age Education Blog

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6 minutes reading time (1146 words)

Requiring Online Learning

 

Distance learning (correspondence courses) has a long history. Quoting from http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/spring01/declair/history.html:

Correspondence education, the earliest version of distance education, developed in the mid-nineteenth century in Europe (Great Britain, France, Germany), and the United States, and spread swiftly. In 1840, an English educator, Sir Isaac Pitman, taught shorthand by mail (Encarta). In the United States during the nineteenth century, there were several opportunities in adult education prior to the advent of university extension beyond campuses. In 1873, Anna Ticknow established a society that presented educational opportunities to women of all classes to study at home (Nasseh). Ticknow's Boston-based, volunteer endeavor provided correspondence instruction to more than 10,000 students over the course of 24 years (Nasseh). Communication, teaching and learning all took place through printed materials sent through the mail.

The development of the telephone, radio, airmail, television, audio recorders, and video recorders provided more distance learning options. Now we have the Internet.

Online learning has made a significant difference for training in the worlds of business and industry, and for instruction in higher education. It is now of steadily growing importance in precollege education.

As distance education via the Web became more readily available, many students have had the opportunity to try out this online learning environment. Results have been mixed. Many students did all right, but many others did not. In 2001, a Website was developed to accompany the 5th edition of Thomas L. Russell’s book The No Significant Difference Phenomenon. (See http://www.nosignificantdifference.org/.) The book and accompanying website provide evidence and arguments that people learn about equally well in traditional courses and in distance learning courses.

However, both then and now there remains the problem that more students drop out of distance learning courses than from traditional courses. It is easy to see why. Students spend years getting acclimated to the classroom environment. Each time they get a new teacher, they use their previously developed skills to “scope out” the teacher and adjust to the teacher’s characteristics.  At the same time, the teacher is scoping out the students. Eventually, students and their teacher adjust to each other.

When students encounter their first distance learning course, it is an entirely new experience. How do you “scope out” a computer delivered course? This is different from scoping out a teacher. Also, the computer delivery system does not adjust to students in the same way that a human teacher does.

In recent years, many school districts have decided that it is educationally appropriate to make distance learning courses available. Some states have mandated that they be available. The next step that is beginning to occur is that of actually requiring students to take such courses.

The logic supporting this seems to consist of two parts. First, students will be forced to learn to learn in this environment. Second, school districts are finding that it is less expensive to teach students in this online mode as compared to traditional classroom teaching.

A third supportive argument is that the newer highly interactive intelligent computer-assisted learning (HIICAL) systems are more effective (on average) that a human teacher working with 30 or so students. Moreover, HIICAL can scale up to work with thousands or tens of thousands of students all at the same time.

Examples

Online Course Requirement Advances in Idaho. See http://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/virtual-schooling-in-the-news-300/.

State school board members in Idaho voted to give preliminary approval to a plan requiring high-school students to earn two credits online before graduation. Proponents of the plan say it will help prepare students for college and also cut costs for schools, but critics are concerned about replacing teachers with computers. Previous measures to require eight and four online courses both were scrapped by the legislature. (Associated Press, 9/9/2011.)

Update on Idaho requirement November 5, 2011:

Russell, Betsy (11/3/2011). Idaho to mandate online classes. The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 11/5/2011 from http://www.spokesman.com/stori...e-classes/. Quoting from this article:
BOISE - Despite overwhelmingly negative public comment, Idaho’s State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to give final approval to a new rule requiring every Idaho student to take two online classes to graduate from high school....
Idaho will become the first state to require two online classes to graduate from high school. Just three states, Alabama, Florida and Michigan, now require online learning at all.

Update added 11/20/2012:

In an article from The Spokesman Review available at http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2012/nov/19/idaho-repeals-online-graduation-requirement/ it is reported that this graduation requirement has been repealed. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Online Education Now Required In NY State Schools. See http://www.educationnews.org/ednews_today/158728.html.

The world of the 21st century is one in which those who hope to succeed are going to need to know how to navigate the information superhighway. In the state of New York, education officials have some ideas about how best to accomplish this. High school will become a virtual learning experience for more New York teenagers under a sweeping new state policy that promotes online instruction. The Board of Regents approved new rules easing the “seat-time” requirements that spell out how long a student must physically spend in a classroom to earn course credit.

Final Remarks

Over time, students will become acclimated to taking online courses, and the online courses will become “acclimated” to ordinary students. We will also see a lot of hybrid courses, in which a course is taught in a combination of face-to-face and online instruction.

My guess is that, over the long run, students who learn to learn on their own via distance learning will gain an advantage over students who are more dependent on a "traditional" teacher and classroom environment.

What You Can Do

You may have heard the statement, "Computer-based distance learning is here to stay." What are your thoughts about this statement? Do you foresee a time when most students are schooled through a combination of human-taught and computer-taught courses? What can human teachers do better than computer teachers, and vice versa? If you are a teacher, what are you doing to prepare yourself to be an effective teacher when some of your current duties are shared with computers?

Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications

You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.

Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.

Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.

A game changer in higher education. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-game-changer-in-higher-education.html.

A major turning point in education. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-major-turning-point-in-education.html.

Children will learn to do what they want to do. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/children-will-learn-to-do-what-they-want-to-do.html.

Expanding the science and technology learning experiences of children. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/expanding-the-science-and-technology-learning-experiences-of-children.html.

Home and school environments—and games‚in math education for kids. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/home-and-school-environmentand-gamesin-the-math-educati0n-of-kids.html.

School learning and game playing. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/school-learning-and-game-playing-.html.

Stanford University is offering a free online Artificial Intelligence course. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/stanford-university-is-offering-a-free-artificial-intelligence-course.html.

Video game research results applicable in education. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/video-game-research-results-applicable-in-education.html.

 

IAE

 

 

Accountability Gauge for Teacher-Training Programs
Intelligent Computer Tutor Systems
 

Comments

David Moursund (website) on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 16:43
Learning to learn in an online environment

Written by davem, September 17, 2011.

We are all naturally born learners, and we all continue to learn throughout our lifetimes. However, we have developed an educational system that tends to make learners highly dependent on the "system" and on human teachers. In the process we have lost the idea that people are quite able to learn to take responsibility for their own learning and the full range of aids that are available. It pleases me to see the progress that is occurring in moving in that direction.

Written by davem, September 17, 2011. We are all naturally born learners, and we all continue to learn throughout our lifetimes. However, we have developed an educational system that tends to make learners highly dependent on the "system" and on human teachers. In the process we have lost the idea that people are quite able to learn to take responsibility for their own learning and the full range of aids that are available. It pleases me to see the progress that is occurring in moving in that direction.
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