Monday, April 28, 2008

Growth in Online Learning: The Big Names Behind the Schools


I can't resit posting after reading and listening to the following article on Minnesota Public Radio: click here.

There is currently much debate around online schooling, as students seem to be flocking in droves to this new environment. The online world cannot be classified into a distinct learning environment, which is often classified as one in which students don't have much interaction. At our school, this is not true. As a teacher in the online world, communicating with people is not an issue at all. Just as before, I have to figure how to fit everyone in.

A couple of questions I have about this shift in students are:
  • Are the online providers responsible for the movement in students, or are do students feel like they have nothing to lose by trying something new?
  • Will this increase graduation rates?
  • Does an online environment inspire kids that haven't had success to get an education?
  • What will future online environments look like?
  • How will this effect our teachers in the future?
Currently, in Minnesota, we have three giant online providers either in the mix or will be full fledge players by next Fall 2008. K12 (MN Virtual Academy, based out of the Houston School District), Insight (adopted by Brooklyn Center School District) and Advanced Academics (part of the MN Virtual High School and Transitions Academy). To clarify, two of these are traditional districts, while the last name mentioned is a public charter school.

These online content providers are great at marketing. When I let my son pick the radio station, they are targeting the right demographic. Their message is on point... the marketing department knows what it is doing. When the individual schools or districts buy their courses, the marketing is usually a part of the package.

If you haven't made the connection, all of these are publicly funded schools, while the the providers of the educational content are private companies.

To further this interesting investigation, both Advanced Academics and Insight have parent companies that you may know well. Advanced Academics is part of Devry, while Insight is with the University of Phoenix (better know as the Apollo Group). (If anyone knows K12's Corporate parent, let me know) Thats right, the college providers have gone into the K-12 market. They don't even need to to through the PSEO paperwork nightmare to provide college credit. ?What will be the public sectors response

While I could just as easily chastise the public sector of education for not adapting earlier, it will be interesting to see where this leads. Online schools are often clumped into one big group, just like charter schools, no matter how different they are. In the end, I hope we truly do what is best for kids of our society. It is hard to argue that the current traditional educational institutions need to be updated, both at the K-12 and post secondary level.

At this point, I am begging higher education institutions to see the investment in K-12 that private business has. There is some momentum for developing a K-16 or K-20 model. Business has began to show us that it is possible to mesh K-12 and Higher Education. Let's innovate, shall we?

For the kids,

Aaron

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