Current Status of Digital Learning

The current state of digital learning seems to be one of growth and expansion.  More students and schools are accessing online courses which is offering a wider variety of options for courses for students within a public school setting as well as in private or homeschool situations.  The growth also seems to bring with it some complicated layers as there are more suppliers to consider, state laws to follow, and technology advancements to keep up with.  An area of impact on online learning I had not considered was teacher licensure requirements.  It can be very time consuming and expensive for teachers to obtain licensure in multiple states in order to teach online courses.  This limits teachers to teach only in the state that they have licensure in, which could impact the availability of courses to students if they do not have qualified teachers to teach the course.

Since I do not have a classroom, the resources I found most useful were how digital learning opportunities could help those students in homebound situations or those in need of credit recovery.  The options for AP courses or specialty courses not available in my school are also of interest since I want to know all that is available for my students and I provide academic counseling services in the form of scheduling and future planning.  On the iNACOL website there were several links under their Promising Practices resources tab that discussed credit recovery and blended learning environments.

Some things I did not find within these two sources was information on the resources needed for these personalized learning environments.  They sound great in theory, but where is the money coming from to pay for these online classes and to pay for the teachers to monitor them?  I also have some concerns in this area with credit recovery.  It is a wonderful option for that self-motivated student who can work independently.  But, usually “self-motivated” and “independent” are not traits we find in our students that require credit recovery.  In order to use online courses for credit recovery, I think we could benefit from an online period during the school day where a teacher can be monitoring and offering assistance to make sure the student progress through the courses in a timely fashion.

In addition to these questions, I am also wondering if online learning, at least at the high school level, has plateaued in its growth.  A traditional school setting is what the majority of students require to be successful.  In addition to the academics, classroom teachers are teaching students organization, responsibility, teamwork, leadership, I could go on and on listing skills our students need to be productive adults.  They cannot obtain these through strictly online interactions.  In addition to teaching these skills, classroom teachers model them and use incorporate so many teaching strategies that could not be replicated in an online setting.  However, for college level work, I see online learning continuing to grow.  More and more students will want to access online learning to supplement their college experience or to replace the traditional college experience all together.  This would allow them to work more and with college becoming more and more expensive, finances are a huge concern for students.  I also think it would allow them to access more programs and coursework if they are not bound geographically.

I read the blog post: Time Matters: How We Use Flexible Time to Design Higher and Deeper Learning.  I chose this one because of the tags “practice” and “accountability” and because the intro reminded me of a discussion I had with a student recently about using time efficiently.  The blog discusses the need for more long-term projects and assignments because learning on a deeper level takes more time to accomplish.  In my job, I am trying to help students learn the skills necessary to be successful learners throughout high school and as they enter higher education and/or the working world.  It is my goal, along with all educators, to send them out of our building equipped with life skills so that they may be productive citizens.  So, the long-term project I am focused on is the development of study skills, organization, and effective test-taking strategies.  This gets a little tricky, because success here could look different for various students.  Some students enjoy list making and paper calendars, some students prefer electronic alerts and using their devices to keep track of due dates.  My plan with my hybrid module is to offer various strategies and give them opportunities to use these (hopefully experience success with them) and thus improve their communication skills and their confidence in their academic abilities.  Goodness, what a lofty goal.  🙂

4 thoughts on “Current Status of Digital Learning

  1. I believe you brought up a great point about the skills that face to face teaching provides to students (teaching students organization, responsibility, teamwork, leadership) that online instruction may not be able to provide. I emphasize “may not” because as I read on the iNACOL site individualized instruction is a nascent (“especially of a process or organization just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential” ) process which means that as school districts create and develop a framework for online/individualized instruction they have the opportunity to develop required courses that incorporate those skills. Another idea would be for them to require students to participate in or show evidence of organization, responsibility, teamwork training while completing online courses. It may be the future role of school counselors in this framework.

    1. that would be great. If some administrative duties were shifted off of counselors and we had more time for actual counseling-insert hopeful laugh (not sarcastic)-it would be great to provide this service for students. If they are going to go through with the online experience and often this means investing quite a bit of money, it would be in everyone’s best interest to make sure that students are as prepared as they can be.

  2. Kelyn,

    I am curious about the credit recovery aspect of the online courses. Do we have any data on the success rate of those students? I also worry about situations where a student has been removed from the traditional classroom due to behavior issues, and then placed in an online version of the class. Often the behavior issues occur when the student is acting out due to their inability to handle the course material. How will they succeed online if they can’t handle the material when there is someone there to help them?

    1. Exactly Sharon! This is an issue that exists for sure-I have seen multiple students in this exact situation who are NOT prepared for online classes but because of discipline issues the online course is their ONLY option to stay on track for on time graduation. Most of the time they have the option to attend an alternative school situation to work on their online classes so ideally the proctor here will be able to provide them with assistance. I don’t think this is a perfect situation so it would benefit all to make sure the proctor is equipped to provide the necessary support across a variety of subject areas for online instruction.
      I do not have the data, although I’m sure someone does.

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