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District should explore educational benefits of online learning
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NEWS

District should explore educational benefits of online learning


By The Lowell Staff.
January 25, 2012 | The Lowell


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In a world of ever-expanding technological opportunities, the school district is falling behind. Across the country, online schooling is an emerging yet controversial feature in the educational world, and the San Francisco Unified School District is doing surprisingly little to embrace it.

One incident of the rising prominence of online education demonstrates the issues. Last year Idaho passed legislation requiring students to take two courses online before graduation, according to the Jan. 3 New York Times article “Teaches resist high-tech push in Idaho Schools” (www.nytimes.com). However, many Idaho teachers are opposed to the requirement, asserting that the state is intruding on their style of teaching and allocating resources away from traditional schooling, according to the article.

Now California is getting on the national bandwagon. The provisions in the California Student Bill of Rights Initiative, a proposal for the November 2012 ballot, aims to provide all California public school students with access to courses needed to satisfy the A-G requirements, partly by making online courses available.

SFUSD should prepare itself to successfully transition into offering a variety of online coursework, as it could greatly increase educational opportunities for students, which at this point are restricted.

The only online classes currently available through the district for course credit are offered through Cyber High, which can be used to take certain courses not offered at Lowell, like Writing for College and Sociology, but it is primarily used to make up failed classes at Lowell, according to counselor Jeffrey Yang, who directs Cyber High at the school.

One of the main arguments against online classes is the lack of face-to-face interaction with teachers to direct students and answer questions, a sentiment supported by several in the counseling office, including counselor Tony Lee, assistant principal of student support services Michael Yi and Yang.

Another potential issue is that students could get bored or distracted working alone at a monitor, without the social interaction of a classroom setting. Technology can help improve the quality of online courses, as many allow for synchronous interaction to aid learning, as with video chat, for example.

Another benefit of online courses is the differentiated instruction it provides, allowing students to self-pace and e-mail with teachers when they need help, as well as offering another option for students who struggle in the traditional school environment.

An extensive 2009 study for the US Department of Education showed that students enrolled in online courses in grades K-12 and college performed better than students at traditional, brick-and-mortar schools, according to an Aug. 19 New York Times article titled “Study finds that online education beats the classroom.” The report studied 99 cases of qualitative comparisons in the same course online and in traditional schools over a 12-year timeline.

Online learning can also provide greater course selection availabilities for students. According to a Nov. 23 article by California Watch (CaliforniaWatch.org), titled “Will online education expand in California?” around 27 percent of California public high schools do not offer enough sections of classes for all students to fulfill the A-G requirements during their time in high school.

According to a Jan. 12, 2010 discussion about online classes, published by The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), another benefit of online classes is that teachers are not geographically limited over the Internet, allowing a good teacher can reach many more students, increasing efficiency and lowering costs.

Florida Virtual School provides courses as an online public school in Florida and is offered to students nationwide for tuition. One rationale is that offering courses online is much less expensive than traditional public schooling, over $1,000 less per enrolled student each year in this case, according to a Nov., 2007 study by Florida Tax Watch (www.floridataxwatch.org).

SFUSD should explore options for digital learning to earn graduation credit and offer more online classes with fewer restrictions. The school district should not be constrained by past practices in education and tech-learning should not be limited to iPad apps and YouTube videos.

A version of this article first appeared in the Jan. 27, 2012 print edition of The Lowell.


Read the article at its source here: http://www.thelowell.org/opinion/editorials/4040….


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