CEP 812- Reflecting on Concerns Regarding Online Learning

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I am a strong proponent of the having virtual learning environments as an option for students. While not every student learns best in an online environment, it it important to have a variety of options available. Because of this perspective, I often read articles and sites that advocate for online learning and describe how best to implement this new technology.
In this week’s assignment, we were encouraged to find perspectives that were outside our normal media consumption. I looked for education sites that were more critical of the role of online education . I looked for sites that had RSS feeds that I could subscribe to and found the MEA, NEA, and NEPC. By examining some of the reasons for their concern, I can identify issues that may need refinement within the rapidly expanding field of online education.
The first site I looked at was the Michigan Education Association article entitled, “More students are taking online classes – is that a good thing?”. The article noted that the completion rate for students who took online classes was lower than that of students in a traditional brick and mortar school and that this completion rate decreased as students took more online classes. This article linked to a report by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute that looked at the effectiveness of virtual learning. The MEA article (2014) states that “Most of the students taking online courses are students who are academically behind and need to catch up on credits”. However, the data collected by the report did not include the reason that students were taking the coursework online (full-time online student, credit recovery, scheduling conflicts, course not offered at the local district) (Freidholff, DeBruler, & Kennedy, 2014, p. 4). If many of the students online are students who have not been successful in traditional classrooms and have a low completion rate online, it is important to think about what types of new supports could be implemented to help these students.
Next, I looked at the NEA site where I found an post entitled, “Age of Distraction: Why It’s Crucial For Students to Learn to Focus” linking to KQED article of the same name. In the article, Schwartz (2013) discusses the developing adolescent brain and makes a case for developing focus as part of overall emotional development. Since the digital environment is one where it is easy to become distracted, I think this holds significant implications for online students. It is important for families to build in screen-free time and encourage students to concentrate for sustained amount of time. It is also important for online programs to consider how they might be able to promote focus within the learning environment.
Lastly, I looked at the National Education Policy Center article, “Virtual Schools Continue to Proliferate”. This article was a press release discussing the summary from their 2014 report. Molnar, Huerta, Rice, Barbour, Miron, Schafer, Gulosino, and Horvitz (2014) find that important groups of students served such as English Language Learners, low-income students, students with disabilities, and minorities are still underrepresented in the online learning environment. Molnar et al, (2014) also find that virtual schools have lower rates of AYP, state performance rankings, and graduation rates. To address these issues, the report makes numerous recommendations to policy makers.
Many of the points raised these articles I read merit serious consideration. We must assure that we are implementing that option in a research driven way that will be most likely to benefit the students enrolled in those programs. I believe that as online schooling continues to grow and develop, it will continue to improve.

References:
Freidhoff, J. R., DeBruler, K., & Kennedy, K. (2014). Michigan’s K-12 virtual learning effectiveness report. Lansing, MI: Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute at MVU. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from http://media.mivu.org/institute/pdf/effectiveness_report_2013.pdf

Mathis, W., Molnar, A., & Horwitz, J. (2014, March 4). Virtual Schools Continue to Proliferate. National Education Policy Center. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2014/03/virtual-schools-annual-2014

Molnar, A., Huerta, L., Rice, J., Barbour, M., Miron, G., Schafer, S., et al. (n.d.). Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014. National Education Policy Center. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/virtual-2014-all-final.pdf

More students are taking online classes-is that a good thing?. (n.d.). Michigan Education Association. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from http://www.mea.org/more-students-are-taking-online-classes–good-thing

Schwartz, K. (n.d.). Age of Distraction: Why It’s Crucial for Students to Learn to Focus. MindShift. Retrieved April 10, 2014, from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/12/age-of-distraction-why-its-crucial-for-students-to-learn-to-focus/

twalker. (2013, December 10). Age of Distraction: Why It’s Crucial for Students to Learn to Focus. NEA Today. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from http://neatoday.org/2013/12/10/age-of-distraction-why-it%E2%80%99s-crucial-for-students-to-learn-to-focus/

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