Ask most any traditional K-12 teacher about online classes, and she’ll probably snort, roll her eyes, and give a sigh. Or maybe even a piece of her mind. In fact, this one even might. (My reaction, however, tends to be wrapped up in the delivery of said courses and not necessarily the existence. More on this at a later date.)
An article from T.H.E. Journal’s David Nagel last week points to the recent Ambient Insight Research report stating that “by 2015, preK-12 academic institutions in the United States will spend $4.9 billion on ‘self-paced’ electronic learning products and services”, a spending growth trend that outpaces even higher ed and healthcare.
To anyone paying attention, the presence of more online classes is hardly a surprise. Situating the phenomena within the theory of disruptive change and using substitution curve analysis, authors Christensen, Horn, & Johnson (2008) indicate that as soon as 2014, 25% of high school classes could be offered as online courses, and that by 2019, the number of all high school courses offered online could be as high as 50%.
Yet the Ambient Insight Research report indicates that at least two of the four listed reasons are due to the current state of the economy: both the recession and state budget cuts were listed (though how one can be delinked from the other is beyond my current understanding of how economies work). The other two factors, the “rapid growth of virtual schools [and] the dramatic increase in online students”, seem more an outgrowth of Christensen’s argument, however.
The proliferation of online courses and e-learning in general begs several questions of particular importance to anyone interested in the future of education: how will these courses be structured? who will be teaching these courses? what credentials will they possess? what expertise in online learning communities, new technologies, and digital literacy will they bring to bear on their new classes?
I’m left with Leu’s (2000) observations that
Traditionally, we have selected teachers who were already literate and could pass their literacy along to our children. Now, however, the very nature of literacy is regularly changing because of new information and communication technologies. Many teachers, literate in older technologies, quickly become illiterate as newer technologies of information and communication replace previous technologies. If educators fail to continually become literate with rapidly changing technologies, how will they help their students become literate?
In other words, if we, ourselves, don’t figure out the literacy of the (near) future, how will we ever prepare our youth to be literate?
Christensen, Clayton M.; Horn, Michael B. & Johnson, Curtis W. (2008). Disrupting Class: Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York: McGraw Hill.
Leu, D. J. (2000). Literacy and technology: Deictic consequences for literary education in the information age. In M.L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research III (pp. 743-770). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.