Earlier this week an Education Week blogger posted an entry entitled “The Global Race for Online Learning: How Does America Compare?“ It was an interesting, American-centric piece. Basically, it was a look at the United States – we’re leading the way; without really much in the way of evidence. In response, I left the following comment:
I’m not sure I buy your premise (or your facts). You use England (a small geographic, densely populated country) and China (a country that has sizable populations in regions that have little to no infrastructure).
The Canadian comparison is a fair one, but the facts are off. Teachers unions are not hindering the development of K-12 online learning in Canada. The vast majority, including are supportive (additional evidence of this can be found in the second half of http://www.bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Issues/Technology/VoraciousAppetite.pdf ). Teachers unions just want to make sure that online learning doesn’t become a dumping ground for hundreds of students for a single teacher or a teacherless environment and that online learning is adequately supported at the local level – both lessons that the “leading” United States should learn to improve the somewhat dismay performance of many of their programs.
Further, you indicate that there are about 2 million K-12 students engaged in one form or another of online learning in the United States. There are about 55 million K-12 students in the United States, which means that there are about 3.6% of K-12 students engaged in some form of online learning. Now correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the 4.2% of students reported in Canada higher than the 3.6% in the United States?
So it looks to me that Canada is leading the United States. There are a higher proportion of students involved and they appear to have found ways to establish K-12 online learning systems in such a way where all stakeholders – including teachers unions – are supportive of the process.
If you want a fair comparison, I would look to comparing the United States to jurisdictions like Singapore, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The United States is far from a leader in this group!
Interestingly, the author of the entry simply thanked me for my comment – as he did anyone else who challenged his premise or spoke in a negative fashion about K-12 online learning. Granted, it seems like I’m the only one who actually left a comment that was on topic, with everyone else either bestowing the virtues of K-12 online learning or questioning the value of K-12 online learning. So, I encourage you to go over there and add to the discussion.