Online Learning

(Originally posted on my previous blog on 03/03/06.)

An article in USA today discusses the growing use of online courses in public schools.

Three things that stood out to me in this article:

1) The author does not equate doing public school classes at home as homeschooling. Two different monsters, often times confused in mainstream articles.
2) Michigan is working on making it mandatory to take at least one online class. What is up with taking a good thing and making it mandatory? If it’s that good, and that useful, everyone will want to take it. Making it mandatory takes away choice, and makes it a chore. If it’s that wonderful, leave it as an option for anyone who wants to do it, don’t mandate it.
3) The article touts lots of support for online courses. But the one worry, the one criticism, the one fear – money. But who would lose money? The schools. Why would it matter if kids aren’t there to support, that they lose money? Why do they need money from the kids’ butts if the kids aren’t using resources? Online courses, once established, would cost FAR less than teaching kids in school. Wouldn’t the gain of not having to spend so much money on supplies, space, teachers and time far outweigh the loss of revenue from kids not sitting in a classroom? Doesn’t matter – money will cure education woes. If it’s broken, give them more money, that’ll fix it.

Online courses = good. Mandates from the governemnt that kids have to take them = bad. Kids are enjoying these courses. They work for them. The kids who choose to use them are happy. Why screw that up? Cuz, we gotta worry about what our tax dollars are doing. That’s why some homeschoolers don’t like public schools offering online courses to homeschoolers. Because public education is about the money, not about the content. The most important thing is that the people who are using it (not everyone, just the people who want to use it) are getting something very useful out of it. How do you know if they are? By offering it and watching as people sign up for it, with smiling faces. Turn that into a mandate so the schools can get more money for it, watch the faces fall. Focus on money = sad faces. Focus on content and choice = happy faces.

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