Should online learning be mandated in high school?

Over at the Tablet PC for Educaton blog, Robert Heiny suggested: “States are requiring online experiences or online learning, apparently at least 38 states.”  He based this statement on the recent article written by Patricia Deubel in the January 2007 issue of The Journal entitled:  “Should States Mandate Online Learning?”  .

What needs to be clarified is the fact that there is only one state that currently mandates some type of online learning experience in grades 6-12.   The report, Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning (2006), states that there are 38 states who currently have a “either state-led online learning programs, significant regulating online education, or both.”  And further on in the report it states that as of September 2006, there are  “24 states with state-led virtual schools.

In her article, “Should States Mandate Online Learning?”, Deubel’s suggestion that Michigan has mandated online learning is misleading.   If one reads the Michigan document entitled: “Michigan Merit Curriculum – Online Learning” requires students to:

“Take an online course, or participate in an online experience, or participate in online experiences incorporated into each of the required credit courses of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.”

Further in the report it states that an online experience is defined as: 

  • “Provide opportunities for students to interact with other students and experts from around the globe in authentic online learning activities in a controlled environment
  • Utilize webquests, blogs, podcasting, webinars, vblogs (videoblogs), Real Simple Syndication(RSS) feeds, or virtual reality simulations
  • Utilize an online learning management system that allows ongoing interactive opportunities for students
  • Use technology tools for online research or online projects
  • Develop and track an electronic portfolio (organized collection of completed materials)
  • Determine the value and reliability of content collected on websites and other online resources
  • Provide an opportunity for interactive discussion with an instructor or expert, such as an author
  • Communicate via threaded discussions with other students in and outside of their school
  • Provide authentic experiences through online fieldtrips by bringing the community into the school/classroom
  • Participate in an online project where students apply understanding of software applications to simulated or real data
  • Participate in ongoing online projects for teachers and students
  • Provide teacher-led, student-directed online learning activities such as test preparation tools and career planning resources

…Students must take an online course or learning experience or have the online learning experience incorporated into each course of the required curriculum beginning with the class of 2011.”

Every student in the U.S. should be having these “online experiences” today!  Ironically, many already are, but outside of the school day.  I can’t help but think how these recommendations will look in five years when they need to be implemented and the array of online tools that will be available for education.   I think the Michigan Merit Curriculum for online learning should be adopted in every state. 

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