I recently attended a presentation by online learning vendors who have been awarded a contract by our local BOCES. They offer online courses for students who need to make up missed or failed classes (credit recovery) or want to get ahead or take a low-enrollment class (credit accrual). The vendors offered to us through this contract are Apex, Aventa, Florida Virtual Schools and Pearson NovaNET.
- Online learning is big business (as evidenced by the reps who flew/drove in from all over the country)
- Online learning is an inevitable, rich, plausible model for delivering instruction (note the order I put those in)
- Online learning is most effective when there is human interaction with real people along the way (read: teachers are still the most important part of learning)
IMHO, based solely on the presentations I saw (and not too much additional research on my part yet), the programs I like the most are the ones where students have access to teachers/experts as they experience the online course. Some of the products appear to have more of a support system for this while others seem more stand-alone. All of the reps talked about how human guidance was important (although not all the products had that guidance built-in).
It goes back to the basics of teaching and learning – anyone can be an expert in a content area. It is people who go beyond the knowledge and use their passion to connect with students who are successful in helping students achieve. All of these online systems offer the content in some rich-media, sequenced, accountable fashion. I think the ones that will be most successful for student learning are the ones that include the most important part of the learning process – people.
Image courtesy of Shira Golding on Flickr