A new learning modality has emerged and it has the potential to turn the current model on its head. Online learning offers greater flexibility and fewer overhead costs (busing, building maintenance, etc) making it a financially viable solutions. Some, including Clayton Christenson, have predicted that online learning will become the dominant form of education within the next 20 years.
Despite this bold prediction, there are a few of challenges to an educational system that is entirely online:
1. Parental supervision
Most families feature two full-time working parents. School provides childcare as well as an education. Having students at home taking online classes would not work for most families. Potentially, a whole new industry of supervision could emerge for students who need a safe place to go during school hours.
2. Geocentric Thinking
The US Constitution gives responsibility for education to the states. This works great if education can be contained within state lines but in a virtual system everything becomes fluid and tracking students becomes more difficult. If a student lives in Michigan but attends a virtual school in Florida, who gets to count the student for state and federal funding?
Inconsistencies amongst the states in regards to online learning is a challenge that must be addressed. Some states have very clear and well developed policies while others have no policies at all. The iNACOL “Keeping Pace” report demonstrates that legislative inconstancies
between the states presents challenges for the expansion of online learning in the United States.
Teachers unions will also need to undergo significant reforms to adjust to the changing dynamics of an online industry. As geographic location become less important and more difficult to determine for both teachers and students, union membership will also be challenged as will support systems such as the PTA and school boards.
There is shortage of experienced online teachers. Teacher education programs are simply not preparing students for online learning. I have spoken to many new teachers about their pre-service training and only one had any experience facilitating an online course. While most college graduates have had a least one experience as an online student, very few have had any experience as an online instructor. Pre-service training must be rapidly reformed in order to prepare students for the current needs and demands of the industry.
What do you think? What are some other challenges to online learning?