Exactly three years ago today, I posted a notice on several of my social networks about two blog entries that Larry Cuban posted to the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) blog. As best I can tell, these entries stemmed from the original Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2013: Politics, Performance, Policy, and Research Evidence.
For those familiar with past efforts to install new technologies in schools, the many claims for online instruction transforming traditional teaching and learning in K-12 public schools either cause snickers for their hyperbole or strike a flat note in their credibility. Consider the following answer Clayton Christensen author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Transform the Way the World Learns gave to an interviewer’s question: “Do you think that education is finally ready for the Internet?”
I absolutely do. I think that not only are we ready but adoption is occurring at a faster rate than we had thought… We believe that by the year 2019 half of all classes for grades K-12 will be taught online… The rise of online learning carries with it an unprecedented opportunity to transform the schooling system into a student-centric one that can affordably customize for different student needs by allowing all students to learn at their appropriate pace and path, thereby allowing each student to realize his or her fullest potential….
Such hype from academic gurus is unfortunate. Apart from mirth, they contribute to low credibility because of the history of exaggerated claims for earlier technologies (e.g., distance education, instructional television, and desktop computers) and thereby mask the complexity of online instruction. Moreover, the claims ignore differences among students who take online courses, how teachers deliver instruction, the quality of online teaching, assessments of student learning, and design of research studies.
K-12 online instruction attracts policy-inclined school reformers and reform-minded policymakers because it appears as a technological and inexpensive solution for serious problems at a time when public schools are viewed as a double failure: in urban districts where largely poor and minority youth get a third-rate education and many suburban and rural schools that fall short of producing skilled and knowledgeable graduates who can contribute to a strong, competitive global economy.
Here is a brief list of those problems that promoters say will get solved through virtual instruction.
The interesting thing about these entries is the fact that they are three years old, yet they could have also both been written today. The issues in the field and the problems with the current practice that Cuban identifies still persist. Three years of practice later, three years of research later, three years of regulation (or lack thereof) later, we still face these issues in the field!