Tag: online learning

Student-Teacher Interaction Essential in Online Courses


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Student-teacher interaction is essential in online courses. Online courses require rich content that includes many modalities for students to choose their learning path, including text, audio, video, kinesthetic and other modes. This is one of the features of online learning that is difficult to produce and separates from traditional classroom learning. Learning in most classrooms is largely auditory with some visual aspects. Once kids know how to read, we largely teach through talking and listening.

The individualized tracks allow students to slow down or speed up their learning. If they want to watch a video to learn the content, they can. If they want to read, they can do that. This freedom is essential because it’s possible.

The above chart shows a triangle where students interact with the content as they would in any course through essential understandings, course goals, the insights they develop.

Teacher student interaction occurs through email. Online discussion boards are excellent ways for teachers to give every student feedback and additional ideas to consider. This is not possible in a traditional classroom, where discussions are dominated by the articulate few. Additionally, online sessions using video conferencing allow teachers to further explore concepts, assess students’ understand, and clear misconceptions — the essence of what teachers do in a traditional classroom.

Further another part of the triangle includes student-to-student interaction. This can occur through group projects, discussion boards, and discussions in video conferencing software, among others.

A strong combination of content, interactions with other students, and active interactions with their online teachers, students in virtual programs (online/blended/etc) can be successful.

Deregulation of Education 3: Show Me The Money

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Wes Freyer recently reported on a digital learning conference in Oklahoma.  In this report he included a video about the money potential in digital learning that is embedded below.  The presenter outlines the money in Pennsylvania Cyber Charter Schools along with the scope of the money involved in digital learning and executive salaries.

Education is already dealing with big money;

  • School Lunch program cost $10.8 billion in FY10 (reference)
  • In Illinois, school transportation costs approached $1 billion in Fy09 (reference)
  • Putting computers in schools have cost about $20 billion during past twenty years (Disrupting Class, 2011, p. 81)
  • Total annual spending on education in U.S. is $800 billion (reference)
The point is that education is already big business.  To vilify the digital learning movement over executive compensation is a red herring.  Nobody is in the education “market” for altruistic motives.  While teachers pledge to help students, they have mortgages, children’s college tuition, and utilities to pay.    Everybody gets paid.
The video ends with a student staring into a computer screen into a darkened room.  Another red herring.  As has been written here before, learning online is not learning alone.  Interactions with other students and teachers are essential for digital learning.
The challenge for educators is that we need to be engaged.  We have been able to block many movements, but this one has the capacity to change schools as we have known them.  It’s more than “integrating” technology into classrooms.  Digital content a new way for students to learn and a new way for teachers to teach.
Other postings about digital learning:

Normal is Revolutionary

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 “What’s revolutionary for adults is normal for kids,” stated Jaime Casap of Google to technology leaders at a meeting of the Illinois Chief Technology Officers today.  Casap implored school leaders to build great teachers, appeal to students’ motivations, focus on the basics, and prepare students for more education after high school, although not necessarily a four year college.

While many adults look for printed documents to learn new ideas, children look for YouTube videos for instruction and feedback on their skill development, Casap argued.  Times have changed:  revolution to normal.

Casap weaved stories from his life into his presentation about how education changed his opportunities.  He made his case for developing important skills like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, among others that cannot be assessed easily.  Even with these opportunities he is concerned that the digital divide is growing larger.  While cell phones have allowed more people to have Internet access, wired broadband is the true future of rich media digital learning.  Broadband is lacking in homes of low-income families.  It is hard to fill out a job application or write a paper on a smart phone.

Casap encouraged technology leaders to mesh technology tools with classroom learning for learning purposes.  Further he stated that ” We should stop memorizing.  This allows us to free our minds for other things.”

Standing at the edge of this revolution, children are eager to address their normal.

The Illinois Chief Technology, NFP is a non-profit corporation that provides professional development for K-12 technology leaders in Illinois.

Technology-Rich Classroom is Not Blended Learning

A technology-rich classroom is not a blended classroom, according to Heather Staker, Senior Research Fellow at the Innosight Institute, speaking at a recent professional development session for the DuPage County Regional Office of Education. (A recording and slides from her presentation are available here.)  Ms. Staker states that data continues to support the predictions made by Clayton Christensen in Disrupting Class that 50% of all high school courses will be online by the end of the decade.  She estimates that approximately 3-5 million students are in at least one digital course this year with 10.5 million predicted by 2014.

In the models of disruptive innovation, Dr. Christensen foresees that classes will be disrupted not entire schools and so the issue of blended learning:  Digital content that is available online in combination with students attending school in a brick and mortar setting.

As the slides in the presentation, referenced above, indicate, Ms. Staker states that the types of blended learning are as varied as schools and local contexts.  The power lies in customizing courses for local needs and individual students.

Developmental Education

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At a recent SLATE meeting, Blackboard and K12.com presented a Blackboard-branded program about a service for higher education:  Developmental education.  This is a polished name for remedial courses.  The presenters stated that “60% of all students in higher education need at least one remedial math course.”  Blackboard has a small program that  provides courses (from K12’s Aventa Learning), instructors and supporting services in higher education.  Institutions can use this methodology in conjunction with traditional remedial programs, although the online program supports students with documented challenges, such as family, distance, and time constraints.  The program includes using video conferencing software, student services, and analytics.  The presenters stated that some students can move through multiple paths so that they can enter credit granting courses.  While current enrollment numbers are low, the presenters report high satisfaction with the program.  While I will not publish the costs that were cited in the presentation, the presenters reported that this program could save institutions about 30% of the their expenses in working students through remedial courses.  As this program continues, the proof will show in the long-term completion rates of these students as well as the cost savings.  Further, will these students be successful when they enter subsequent credit-granting courses where the remedial courses were foundational to the credit courses?

Technology is Distraction in Schools

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Ron Packard of K12.com spoke today at an Illinois Policy Institute program today in Chicago.  He thinks technology is a distraction in schools because it in not fully part of the core learning.  A classroom may have a few computers at the back of the room and they become diversions from learning rather than being core parts of the learning.  Further, technology has not produced much efficiency based on the number of adults employed in schools, although he misses the point that new regulations have caused
schools to provide more services.  When every student has a computer along with engaging curriculum and strong assessments, powerful learning can occur, he opines.  Further technology allows students to advance at their own rates because students can spend extra time on subjects.

He started K12 over a dozen years ago when he tried to find high quality math instruction on the Internet to supplement his the first grader’s math instruction.
In the past decade, K12 has grown to about 100,000 students.  He thinks that Chicago is the center of innovation in online learning.  His Chicago Virtual Charter School has about 600 students.  Students attend a school once a week and then learn online at home, with the help of certified teachers who track students’ achievement levels and then provide instructional assistance with video classroom software.
He observes that kids are asked to power down in schools.  When kids have access to powerful technologies at home, school does not look exciting.
Further, he forecasts that within a few years high school elective courses will be offered online.  He thinks this will help eliminate the maximum number of electives a student can take.  He thinks students will have more choice in courses and more opportunities at lower costs.
His catch words are:  Educational liberty, transformation, and open enrollment (across districts).

Packard claims he is not political and his words are the most neutral I’ve heard from the online providers and digital learning proponents. He did not talk about reforming schools, taking on teachers’ unions, or battling special interests, although he recognizes the political forces as he did not realize he would spend most of his work time tacking through the political headwinds.

He cited multiple successes in his schools that I will look at further and outline here in another posting.

His leadoff point was stated well.

Online learning: Shouldn’t We Do better?

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With online learning, shouldn’t we do better?  Shouldn’t we have higher expectations?  Shouldn’t we stop telling partial truths?  Partial truths don’t help online learning initiatives.  All learning through technology is not all powerful.

When I was in elementary school, the teachers used controlled reading projectors.  These contraptions used modified film strip projectors to display the text of stories.  The projectors fed the story’s text through the film gate while a single line was revealed from left to right.  The speed of the text was regulated from 15 lines per minute to 120 lines per minute.  Supposedly, the projector was used to help us develop horizontal movement of our eyes to read and to increase our reading speed.  Didn’t work for me.  My eyes sometimes do not track across the page and it helped make me a non-reader for most of my youth.  Technology “solutions” do not always work.

When I was in junior high, my oldest brother was in the U.S. Navy.  While he spent most of his time stateside, he was involved with the Navy’s target drones.  The Navy had small unmanned airplanes that they launched in the desert near Twenty Nine Palms, CA.  His crew prepared and launched the target and then another group attempted to hit it with it with a missile.  But I digress.

After Basic Training, he prepared for his work with targets in Memphis, TN.  He learned about them through programmed instruction.  He left his instructional materials at home when he went to his next duty station.

During those youthful days, I was fascinated with any vehicle propelled by propeller, jet or rocket engine.  Through the programmed instruction books he left at home, I learned about radial reciprocating engines and aircraft marshalling.  It was self-paced and interesting for me.  No teacher demanding that I put away the books so they could move on to the next subject.

My point is that programmed instruction has been used for many years.  It allows students to progress at their own rates. From theory developed by B.F. Skinner, it evolved into an instructional method.  With computers, it has been called mediated instruction or computer aided instruction.  We know that this is a highly effective methodology, but it has largely fallen from favor.  It is based on mastery learning, yet is not a favored instructional strategy.

There are readers who will claim that this time it’s different.  Yes, first there needs to be a sense of urgency. (See the national number about physics teachers below.)  Financially, the current educational system cannot sustain itself.  Yes, technology gives us a new dimension of student tracking not available before.  Technology allows us to add many different forms of exciting media.  However, the learning system is not new — programmed instruction, CAI, mediated instruction, yet it is rebranded as digital, blended or online.  There is no new methodology, and it is limited; it does not accent or support other skills students need to be successful in their world.

So I ask the question, “Are the blended learning models proposed in many circles a rebirth of programmed instruction?”  Earlier this week I attended a presentation by Bob Wise that was sponsored by the Illinois Policy Institute and the Peoria (IL) Chamber of Commerce.  Gov. Wise gave his standard presentation about the need for digital learning.  (I’ve heard this in other venues.  The video of the presentation will be added here when it is available from IPI.)  His reasons for favoring digital learning are around shrinking state budgets,  loss of experienced teachers and the need for an educated workforce.  He proposes that digital learning allows for comprehensive data systems that can track student learning, converting bubbles to clicks — as I have written about before.  The essence of Gov Wise’s thesis is that for our country to compete in a global market we need a highly educated workforce.  We need more high school graduates that move into higher education, he postulates.  Yet, where do we teach the skills that industry tells us students need: problem solving skills, ability to collaborate, communication skills, etc.?  These can’t be measured with a bubble or a click.

The online learning proponents must set the bar high as naysayers will continue to cite the latest alleged deficiencies quoted in the popular press (NY Times, AZ Republic).  We need to maintain and professionally enforce quality standards.

Here are three examples in Gov Wise’s presentation that need
sharpened:

  • We need digital learning for students who don’t have qualified teachers, for example, the state of Georgia only has 80 some physics teachers.  I have heard this before.  There’s never been a reference provided when I’ve heard this number cited by various sources.  Here’s some more powerful, documented information:  In 2007, 66.5% of the nation’s students were taught physics by a teacher without certification in the subject (reference).  In 2007, the Georgia’s higher education system produced only 3 physics teachers (reference).  The national number is frightening and a strong reason to provide high quality digital learning for these underserved students.
  • Carpe Diem, a blended learning school in Yuma, Arizona, is cited as having excellent results with low costs, lower than average Arizona costs and lower than national costs.  However, it is average in Yuma County, AZ (reference).  It’s ok to get great results with average expenses.  This should be celebrated, not selectively removed from the presentation.
  • Working with some of the district’s most economically challenged students, Valley High School has dramatically improved its test scores during 5 years.  While Gov Wise praises “longitudinal data systems,” AYP is not longitudinal.  Further the principal did not do this alone.  During five years, many of the students came from a middle/junior high school and that school had to be raising their test scores as well.  This was a multidimensional effort — not just that of one school.  It is a longitudinal effort not an AYP effort that focuses on results on single grades or levels.

I hope that he reads this to strengthen his presentation about the need for high quality learning opportunities for all kids.