Thursday, February 20, 2014

Online Learning: A Virtual Conundrum or the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread?

Guest post by Mr. Joey Clinton, Principal of Ashbrook High School, Gaston County Schools
Prior to becoming Principal of Ashbrook in 2011, he served as Principal at Grier Middle School. His teaching and administrative experience covers all levels, as he has spent time in Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. He was a finalist for the Gaston County Principal of the Year in 2013.

Online Learning:
A virtual conundrum or the best thing since sliced bread?
by Joey Clinton

As the old adage goes, the only thing constant in life is change.  The field of education is no exception, particularly as it relates to technology integration.  Today’s K-12 student experiences opportunities in the classroom on a much different playing field than even the prior generation.  Specifically, today’s youth are now afforded opportunities to learn in virtual classrooms around the world.  Some view virtual education as the proverbial fly swat as brick and mortar schools are the flies that lie in its wake.  I, however, feel that virtual education courses, when appropriately implemented and coupled with traditional brick and mortar instruction, can serve as the sweetest nectar our public education system has tasted to date.
Let’s face it.  It’s a daily challenge to reach each and every student in our schools.  Engagement, in and of itself, is a challenge, not to mention success in completing the actual course work.  Why not meet students where they are?  We are raising a generation of digital natives where pen and paper, much to our dismay, are nearing endangered status in our society.  This trend, as much as we try to resist, is here to stay.  It’s time to embrace it.  Virtual education courses allow us to reach more students and engage them in a manner we've never been afforded in the past.  Think about your own children.  When given the opportunity to complete their homework in a notebook or on an iPad, which will YOUR child choose?  My guess is that a majority of the population today would affirm the iPad as opposed to the NOTE pad.  This is the reality of today’s generation.  Courses delivered in a virtual arena have the potential to serve as the initial catalyst for student engagement in today’s K-12 education.   In more cases than not, students who are afforded the opportunity to complete course work online are more likely to maintain an “I get to” approach to learning as opposed to an “I have to” one.  If nothing else, virtual learning, when delivered well, has the potential to remove the “pulling teeth” element of student assignment submissions.
How many times have you scanned your classroom at 8:23 am and noticed that the better part of the group is in a sleep driven stupor?  It happens.  Kids often are not morning people.  Some are not even afternoon people.  The point is that each child is different.  With asynchronous online learning, students are given the opportunity to work WHEN and HOW they best learn.  This realm of choice, too, only augments student engagement and as a result, increased learning and improved academic achievement.  Courses delivered virtually provide students with choices they have never had in the past with regard to time and assignment submission options, all the while maintaining the rigor and relevance our curriculum demands.  What a breath of fresh air for the night owl student who truly does their best work at three in the morning!
Picture this:  You’re a principal in a rural North Carolina school with a population of 525 students.  You have one student who needs an additional Advanced Placement credit in order to be considered for a merit scholarship for a public university. Does your budget allow for hiring a highly qualified teacher to teach ONE student in ONE AP course?  Not likely.  Or, are you able to meet the needs of two senior transfer students in need of a Geometry credit to graduate on time when you only offer Geometry at your school during the fall semester? Probably not.  Enter the concept of virtual education.  At your very fingertips, as a rural school administrator, you are now able to offer your students EXACTLY the courses they need to be successful and competitive with their counterparts from schools ten to fifteen TIMES the size of your school.  From this perspective, we can’t afford NOT to offer these courses to our students.  As a result of the additional course options made available by virtual learning, high school administrators now have an added element of control over their graduation rates.  

With more tools in our belt and our hands free to use them as designed, we, as student “contractors,” are able to construct better quality institutions of learning with the aid of our virtual subcontractors.  For me the question surrounding online learning is quite simple. Why wouldn’t I embrace an educational opportunity for my students that is, in my opinion, the best thing since sliced bread?

1 comment:

  1. The age of virtual learning and virtual classrooms is upon us and at times we seem ill-prepared to embrace this rapidly evolving concept of engaging our learning population. I the real world individuals are evaluated on the ability to complete a task or assignment with competence and within established time frames. In other words -- it is by the achievement of the OUTCOME -- not the number of days a person shows up for work. Why is the same concept not applied in the realm of public education? Technology has created myriads of opportunities for people (care providers and care receivers) in the medical field (i.e. telemedicine). Is it not time for our educational systems to embrace the potential of this wonderful gift and begin to improve not only the quality of our educational offerings but also the outcomes of the global educational system.