For an intro to cyberschooling – whether full-time, online delivery of classes or “blended models” (the combination of online classes with traditional face-to-face instruction) –check out this special report from Education Week. The report highlights the increase of national online learning opportunities for students and explains their benefits: they create more course options for students, expand individualized delivery methods, and result in potential efficiencies for schools and districts that may translate to lower operating costs.
In addition to the “101” material, there are some key components associated with online delivery of material worth noting. First and foremost, there’s a human component that is critical: a mentor or guide for students. This mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be a content expert (as there are teachers for that), but the mentor does need to oversee coursework, troubleshoot problems, and be available for regular communication with student.
Second, course content should be packaged in chunks of time conducive to learning from a computer or other appropriate device (i.e., don’t give a kid two back-to-back three-hour blocks of reading and math online – you’ll lose them). Third, online learning programs should be conscious of providing sufficient interactive opportunities for students, regardless of whether the course is in a fixed medium (e.g., a recorded webinar) or live.
There are some interesting policy nuggets in the report, too – principally that China’s K-12 material has gone digital, as has Mexico’s, and that Turkey now educates 15 million students annually online. Meanwhile, the U.S. (sigh) is still grappling with state caps on enrollment and backward funding mechanisms such as state appropriations (as opposed to funding that follows the child), neither of which make much sense given today’s economic context of shrinking resources and budget cuts. The report is available here.