Digital Textbooks vs. Online Schools

For K-12 students, online-only learning is likely to leave more people behind than it is to help them advance.  According to a recent report from researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the Mathematica policy research group, online pupils fell far behind their counterparts in the classroom. In math, it was the equivalent of pupils having missed an entire year in school.

The study’s findings: far too little teacher/student interaction time and low levels of student engagement (for a medium that requires MORE student engagement to work):

  • Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction.

  • Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day.

  • Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge.

  • Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56 , and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction.

Read the complete study here.  It’s clear that online-only, while it has its uses, is more limited than supporters would have you believe.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it was already tried at the college level.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were the hot new flavor some time ago.  San Jose State University’s partnership with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider, ended in a “breather” several months later when it turned out that their students needed more of everything that can only be delivered by a teacher in person.


BulbgraphOnOffArt images can be used to discuss the differences between visual and textual sources.

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akamran2014

Dr. Annelies Kamran is Senior Editor at WorldView Software, Inc.

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