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February 3, 2012

Virtually no information

I’m going to do something I rarely do.

I’m going to write a blog post without information to support it.

While you might think this goes against everything the Center stands for — and in many ways it does — I have to. You see, there just isn’t information out there.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about the explosion of virtual learning options and the lack of information on any of them. For instance, there are the virtual charter schools, of which some are being sued for allegedly making false statements about students’ poor performance. And there are also online credit recovery programs, run by districts in the hopes of getting more students to graduate. The term “virtual learning” also covers everything from online higher-level courses that increase access to a diverse curriculum, graduation requirements for students to take at least one online course, curricula offered to the homeschooling market, and for-profit online colleges.

Yet for all of these subjects we have very little data. Our recent report on credit recovery, compiled by our policy intern Julie McCabe, shows how very little we know about the approaches taken and the results of those approaches.

Frankly, it makes me uneasy. In these tight budget times, there’s more political push behind virtual learning options simply because they’re less expensive — like the push from corporations to move to electronic banking. But if we know nothing about all these options, why are we pushing them? They could be valuable tools or wastes of money. We just don’t know.

Why, when all of the data from online courses is presumably also stored online — student data, grades, and outcomes — do we not have more answers about how all of these options perform? And why, since all of these options are vastly different, do they all get lumped together as “virtual learning”? I, too, have more questions than I have answers.

What would be the first question you would ask on this subject?

–Rebecca St. Andrie

Filed under: technology — rstandrie @ 11:19 am





One Response to “Virtually no information”

  1. Seth says:

    I have two to start: Can you learn “teamwork” from a laptop and an ethernet cable? How much public money is being funneled to private companies through these “virtual learning options?” Makes me “uneasy” as well…

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