Killing online learning with kindness

Over the past few months, crusading Idaho state
supe Tom Luna has shepherded a flock of forward-thinking and cost-saving
reforms—including adoption of merit pay and a rollback of tenure and
collective-bargaining rights. Yet amid Luna’s bold reforms hides one black
sheep. If legislators agree in January, Idaho will become the first state to
mandate that all high schoolers take at least two courses online. (Currently,
Michigan and Alabama require students to each take one online course.)



eat your vegetables photo

You will take your online class. And you'll like it.
Photo by Justus Hayes

Further,
one of these classes must be “asynchronous”—think more “correspondence course”
and less “virtual classroom.” Gadfly is a firm believer in the potential of digital
learning to expand the reach of fantastic teachers, to individualize
instruction, and to allow for more choice in public education. But the goal
should be to expand access to digital learning, not to require kids to engage
in it against their will. Supporters of such mandates often claim that learning
how to take an online course is itself a critical skill to build. But if the
courses are well-designed (like, say, your iPhone), mastering the experience
should be a no-brainer. Luna might want to put the shears to this particular idea.

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