Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Online learning

An interesting new report on online education that is mainly focused on higher ed, but the findings are, if anything, more applicable to younger students. The overall conclusion that at-risk students are, in general, least likely to benefit from online learning is spot on:
The report makes fact-based arguments for why online education is not the best way for underserved students to get a quality education.  For example:
• Underserved students frequently need substantial hands-on non-classroom academic support—e.g., financial aid, advising, counseling, and tutoring services.
• The digital dived still exists, meaning that there are major inequities between those who have regular, reliable access to the Internet and digital technologies and those who do not.
• Underserved students perform substantially better in face-to-face settings than online settings.
• There are much higher withdrawal rates for community college students in online versus on-campus courses.
• Social interaction for underserved students has a positive impact on performance.  When they interact with instructors and fellow students, they do better.
The report states, "Clearly, it is not enough to just promise increased access to higher education through online learning.  It is critical to understand what works and for whom... For most American students, who are increasingly diverse, low-income, and academically less prepared for the rigors of collegiate study, an uncritical rush to 'online everything' may, despite the promise, ultimately provide only access to failure."

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