The Rise of On-Line Courses in U.S. High Schools

In a recent NYT article of 4/6/11 “More Pupils are Learning Online, Fueling Debate on Quality,” more and more high schools are resorting to classroom instruction provided by computers versus teachers. The proponents of on-line courses in high schools argue that it provides students the computer skills they would need for college where on-line courses are commonly offered. Critics see this as yet another step toward spending less on education by cutting back on teachers and buildings. But does this movement to embrace on-line instruction at such a nascent stage of a student’s learning development adequate preparation for college? What learning is a student really gaining from on-line courses which lack the immediate input and interaction with teachers and fellow students where debate and exchange of ideas fuel critical thinking? In the short run, this may be a cost-effective plan, but in the long run, how will this impact quality? And most importantly, how would this give the US high school and future college graduate the competitive edge needed to succeed in a global economy?


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2 responses to “The Rise of On-Line Courses in U.S. High Schools

  1. Dawn

    I live in North Carolina and I teach at a Kansas high school — online. The classes I teach are very rigorous — every bit as rigorous as what I teach in a brick and mortar high school. We have threaded discussions that promote critical thinking. Sometimes the discussions are better online than in person, because people find it easier to express their thoughts when they are not as much in the limelight. The students are required to use a lot of multimedia tools. They work with students from all over the state. They are exposed to as much culture and diversity online as they are in the classroom. I think that some of my online students will be better prepared for college than brick and mortar students. The difference is that in order to be successful, the students online have to be more self-disciplined and be more self-motivated than my brick and mortar students.

  2. Thanks Dawn! Your first-hand experience as it relates to this topic is very helpful and offers another perspective. But are we moving toward a future where we resort more and more to communicating via technology (we already are with FB, Tweeter, etc.) and less and less on face-to-face live physical human interaction? Shouldn’t learning encompass the physical as well as the virtual? Does the person, empowered to express him/herself in the virtual classroom, have the capability to engage in debate and dialogue in the traditional brick and mortal classroom or work place?

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