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From examining the information offered on the current condition of research on K-12 online schooling, I gathered that many variations exist in the design, instruction, facilitation, purpose, and content of online instruction. Even though some grounds have been broken and some strides made, online learning is largely in its infancy.
For all intents and purposes, it appears that questions being asked currently are not posited correctly. We are redirected to ask the right questions that will allow us to examine critically (and legitimately) the available information about K-12 online education.
To the point, there are four questions that will guarantee securing us more productive efforts and discoveries as we delve into attempting to gauge the success and growth of online learning. We must 1) ask the right questions; 2) answer the critics [legitimate and illegitimate ones]; 3) appreciate the complexity of online education; and 4) understand the resources available and unique to online learning.
By channeling our attention to the right questions, we can begin to determine under what conditions online learning works. It is apparent that it is working by evidence of its explosion at all levels. Backed by this growing (astronomical growth, really), we need to focus our attention on exploring the conditions under which online learning has been successful thus far. We need to examine instructor preparation, course offerings, and course tailoring to specific students and their career goal.
On a personal level, I enrolled at an online university to begin my doctor of philosophy degree. What impressed me the most was that after I completed the career survey and specified what I would like to accomplish and do after my advanced degree journey, the university tailored my plans into a unique area of concentration. I felt valued, appreciated, and individualized.
Unfortunately, the university did not accept student loan or the student loan establishment would not recognize the university as an entity for its financial aid disbursement purposes. I ended up trying to find another institution and hoped that the new one would carve out a major based on my future needs and career aspirations. I am still searching for that specific degree concentration as opposed to the one-size-fits-all or fits most that generally exists in most post-secondary institutions.
Surprises and Confirmations
What surprised me was the use of the phrases legitimate and illegitimate criticisms in the body of literature provided for this activity. As I try to overlook the negative connotation in the latter term, I also bristle at the idea that just because I do not hold a high degree or expertise in online learning does not make my criticisms illegitimate.
By virtue of having been in the K-12 education arena for almost three decades, I consider my opinions legitimate as they concern the welfare/wellbeing of our K-12 students as we explore the largely uncharted area of online learning. I maintain my concern for their socialization skills, which continues to be an issue even for the face-to-face students who spend most of their time outside of the classroom in front of stationary objects (vis-à-vis, gaming consoles and the television). Their parents’ presence notwithstanding, these students need socialization skills and continue to give rise to the rate of obesity even as they attend traditional schools and engage in the 50-minute mandated daily physical education activities. I knew a mother who prided herself with buying all the latest gaming consoles for her young son as soon as they are introduced into the market.
Before my eyes, the boy kept growing rounder with each passing week to the point that I could not keep silent any longer and strongly recommended that she enroll him in an after-school sports event. She did, and he shed all those belaboring pounds from the demands of little league baseball. That is my concern for the larger K-12 student population whether they are homeschooled, “face-to-face schooled,” or online schooled and whether their parents are at home with them or not.
For confirmation, I know we are making impressive strides in online education as more states and more choices become available to our students and their future. I have never feared that online education machinery will replace the instructor. Students need guidance, structure, set goals and objectives, and other pedagogical requirements to help them as they explore the unfamiliar territory of online learning.
I know the amount of research continues to increase even as we need more latitudinal ones more so than longitudinal ones at this time. By their nature, longitudinal studies are financially and time consuming; some of it exists. However, we need more of them. Obviously, what we need are comparative studies of a lateral nature that will help us to determine how online learning is succeeding, under what conditions, and for what particular set of students.
Granted, self-motivated students and advanced placement students (by virtue of their intellect and personality dynamics) have shown marked success in online learning. Unfortunately, the majority of the student population is not composed of these two sections. The majority of the K-12 population (if you will forgive the label) falls under the “regular” education category.
Not to oversimplify the list of achievements in education, but something of a transformative nature has to be done to open opportunities inherent in online learning to that biggest section (regualar education) whether using the blended format or another format. The door needs to be opened wider for the regular education population and a better assessment of online learning’s success needs to be determined.
In “The ultimate History of Distance Learning,” Tom Clark details the evolution of online learning through many of the rudimentary stages. With the advent of the Boston Gazette seeking short-hand students in 1728 to the birth of GoToMeeting access for every student in a higher institution of learning, his work shows a very detailed undertaking.
All these developments are, according to Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson (2011), “disruptive innovations” that have and will continue to revolutionize education, the way teachers instruct, and the way students learn. Just like Tom Clark, the authors of Disrupting Class followed the progress of technology in and out of the education arena in order to determine the impact of technology on student achievement.
What has been dubbed “student-centric” education is focused on online learning that will allow educators to tailor technology-centered instruction to each student. School districts are trying everything financially possible to close the gap in student achievement across schools and are spending millions of dollars in technology programs with the hope that gaps will close and raise student success where all other efforts seem to have failed.
Another author who chronicles the progress and process of technology adoption and usage is Everett M. Rodgers in Diffusion of Innovations (2003). He discusses the elements of diffusion and traces the innovation-development process through generation of innovations.
I have been reading a lot about different perspectives of the stages, progress, and evolution of the different facets of technology and the inroad and impact of these revolutions into education. I have been blessed to be at the forefront of technology adoption before or as it makes its way into the larger population.
I might not have been born during the early part of the technology adoption of previous centuries, but since the 1980’s and 1990’s, I have remained conversant with technology upheavals (or disruptions) as they upset, upstage, and revolutionize learning. I have tried to be one of its champions. All those years of being on the sidelines as a helper of those who are challenged have spurred me finally to pursue a career in the front and center of technolog.
My name is Frances Ohanenye, the CEO of Youkay Educational Innovations. I am working toward a Specialist degree in Instructional Technology, and an essential part of that journey is to discover technology innovations that will provide an outlet for me to achieve and celebrate academic feats, explore technological advancements, share victories in all things academic, and assemble pedagogical brick-a-bracks.
I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication, a Master of Arts in Journalism, and several current educational certifications (middle school education, gifted in-field, middle school social studies and English language, and K-12 English language) in Georgia.
There are many reasons for my involvement in MOOC (massive online open course), but the most essential of them is that MOOC, an online course, allows participants like me access to unlimited course materials distributed and dispersed across the web, according to Wikipedia. A form of distance education, MOOC provides a positive experience for online users and allows for connection and collaboration. I am hoping to acquire a high level of technology savviness through this one-month intensive journey.
Over the last decade or so, certain technology terminologies have been arriving and getting muddled up in what they are and how they can be used. Prior to my involvement in this course, I never paid much attention to the distinctions among those concepts. After listening to Dr. Micahel Balfour’s clarification of Classifying K-12 Online Learning, I have gained a clearer picture of the different types of online/distance learning classifications as they apply to the K-12 arena so that I can use them appropriately. After all, this is going to be my new area of involvement, certification, so I must be politically correct in my usage of pertinent terminologies.
I have been involved in technology adoption and in the spread of it to students and colleagues, but I never concerned myself with the specific nature of the correct identity of what I was doing all those years. It appears that I have been involved in three of the four major categories of online/distance learning at one time of my learning and teaching experience: virtual, cyber, hybrid, and blended.
I am enrolled currently in a virtual class this semester at the University of West Georgia, started my doctoral degree at a cyber school, but I had to withdraw when I realized that my online degree and credits would not be recognized by brick-and-mortar universities. Also, I engaged my students in blended online learning by instructing them face-to-face while they performed instructional activities online. For a learning platform to be accepted as blended, the face-to-face and online activities must occur simultaneously as opposed to hybrid which does not have to happen at the same time. My department offers several courses in a hybrid format, so I have been familiar with the hybrid format.
I believe that of the four methods that have arisen over the past two decades, the blended format is the most apt for middle and elementary school students.