Does Online Learning Break Down Traditional Educational Structures?

learning-blocks2.jpgFirst published July 9, 2008

The National American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) defines online learning as: instruction and content delivered primarily over the Internet.

A newly released survey of 232,781 K-12 students, 21, 272 teachers, and 15,316 parents conducted by Project Tomorrow and sponsored by Blackboard, states that one in five students in grade 6-12 have taken an online course at school or on their own and one in three students chose online classes as a part of their ideal school. The report states:

As online learning becomes more integrated into day-to-day instruction, the compartmentalization of education breaks down. Everyone becomes a learner and an expert with opportunities to seek and share what they know, critique what they learn, and become more engaged and involved with the global community.

The following numbers make it clear that the pace of change outside the school represented by students and parents is more accelerated than the pace of change inside the school.

While 30% of 6-8 grade students, 30% of 9-12 grade students and 42% of parents believe that online classes are a good investment to improve student achievement, only 18% of teachers do. Does this mean that teachers are threatened by the advancing opportunities in online education? It appears from these numbers that students and parents are ready to embrace online learning as a component of their child's education, but teachers are remarkably less ready.

Why should we expect our schools to be less immune from the effects of advancing technology than our businesses? It seems logical to expect from these results that there will be increasing pressure by students and parents (primarily as a result of increased bandwidth and online communication tools) on educational institutions and practitioners to change the way we educate students.

Is community pressure (both from the business community who are not getting the caliber of graduates that they need to run their businesses and students and parents who want the best education for their children) finally arriving at the tipping point necessary to reinvent our educational institutions? And how will that change the way K-12 publishers deliver their content?

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