What is Online Learning?

Online learning is not new. What has made the topic new is the recent and unprecedented focus on providing learning via the Internet that has been stimulated by Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) — but which is distinct from most discussions of MOOC other than those that hew to the original constructivist vision put forth by the early proponents of the movement to rethink online learning. What is new is this space is that online learning has “come of age;” the design of online learning is (more and more) specifically intended to encompass the latest research, the most promising developments, and new emerging business models in the online learning space. At many institutions, online learning is an area ripe for experimentation — some would argue it is undergoing a sea change. On campuses around the globe, virtually every aspect of how students connect with institutions and each other to learn online is being reworked, rethought, and redone — but it will be some time yet before ideas coalesce enough to be validated by research and implemented broadly.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Opens the door to greater choices for students: selection of course, time, location, environment, cost, even instructor, interaction of students beyond their 4-walls. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 3, 2013- Derrel.Fincher Derrel.Fincher Mar 5, 2013 - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013 yes - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 6, 2013 - sharyn.gabriel sharyn.gabriel Mar 7, 2013
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 4, 2013 Hmm...somehow lost my original posts. I'll try to reconstruct. Online Learning is my #4 priority...behind Mobile Learning, Virtual Worlds and Games/Gamification. My current campus is boxed in on all sides...there's no room to expand physically...only way to increase enrollment is to go online. We also have the simultaneous problem of limited staffing but steadily increasing demands for class variety. Not too many, e.g., Japanese teachers in Mexico! So online learning is crucial to our as well as many other international/independent schools' survival. Got to mention the competition...everybody else is doing it, so we have to as well. Amen! If we don't start making changes to how we deliver instruction, students will choose to go elsewhere and brick and mortar schools may become irrelevant. - alice.owen alice.owen Mar 11, 2013
  • More than 3 million students are enrolled in online courses every year (www.inacol.org) and a majority of US colleges and universities offer online courses. K12 education must embrace this learning environment and encourage or require students to take online courses in order for them to be prepared for college and career. - kecia.ray kecia.ray Mar 4, 2013
  • Online learning is an enabler, and apart from the MOOC hype, it has also become a powerful force in reaching students in regional and outback Australia (as an example) ensuring that students have the same opportunities as their city cousins. Distance education is not just about online learning. It's also about the infrastructure, and the nature of the communcation tools available. Online does not highlight sufficiently the sense of immediacy and contact that can be provided. After all, we had 'online learning' in Australia in the days of pedal radio, which was innovative. So lets focus on the full dimensions of the online experience and emphasis the global classroom experiences, learning with peers, mentoring with significant experts and more. - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Mar 7, 2013
  • - helen.padgett helen.padgett Mar 5, 2013 Thomas Friedman wrote …there is one big thing happening that leaves me incredibly hopeful about the future, and that is the budding revolution in global online higher education. Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty — by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. And nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC, platforms that are being developed by the likes of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and companies like Coursera and Udacity.http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/opinion/sunday/friedman-revolution-hits-the-universities.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=1&

  • - ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013Its time to start rethinking how we deliver great teaching and learning to students. We need to break free of either/or thinking and adopt educational systems that offer a number of learning modalities to meet the diverse needs of students. Online learning needs to move from an alternative program to a core suite of educational services a school district offers. It should expand access to instructional resources and learning opportunities. Many online learning programs were created that have reduced the role of teacher and "teacher proofed" curriculum. Perhaps this was a way to increase profits and reduce costs. Online learning need to move in the direction of increasing teacher interaction, learner engagement, and student personalized learning. - digitalroberto digitalroberto Mar 6, 2013Yes.

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • What happens to the sense of belonging to a school spirit, face-to-face contact and the soul of the school? - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 3, 2013 We have conducted informal focus groups with students and they report the number one reason they come to school is to see their friends. Right now we are doing more with online professional learning with teachers than students accessing online learning experiences. Roger Schank who writes in "Taching Minds", "How do you build a new high school system? Very simple: one curriculum at a time. The trick is making sure that you put the curriculum online...A curriculum offered online is available to everyone and eventually can provide an alternative to a sysem that offers boring and mindless education." It is about getting the system right.- jmorrison jmorrison Mar 4, 2013
  • Is online the beginning of a 24/7 instructor? If so, what are effects to the teacher? - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 3, 2013 and will this lead to casualisation and outsourcing? - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 4, 2013 True, online learning is not new...certainly not in higher ed...nor in K-12...but it is relatively new to independent versus public schools. I'm enrolled in an online course management class for independent schools, and believe me, all of us are just getting started...from scratch. I think the "economics" are missing from the above description. The money is the reason we're doing it...I'm sure it's the same for other independent schools. I've mentioned the scarcity of certain language teachers...wanting to teach IB courses is another factor. We simply can't afford to have a staff teacher whose only class is Sports Science, for example. The bottom line: If we don't offer online classes, some other school will! ;)
  • The description is too simplistic - and does not capture the essence of innovation and the impact on kids lives. Emerging business models is about commercialization. Leveraging the new technologies is about creating dynamic learning experiences in online environments. Mention the accessibility issue as well, for different abilities and disabilities. - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013 - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013- ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Mar 7, 2013
  • Mention that online learning requires an adult "learning coach" or similar for most K-12 students. While we would like all learners to work "independently" the learning coach, typically a parent or grandparent for fully virtual students, helps students stay on track, and also track time. Part of the reason to track time is to meet "seat time" requirements where states have not yet changed laws, but another reason to track time is because the intervention for a student who is struggling but spending little time on the subject is quite different from the student who is struggling and also putting in tremendous amounts of time. Also need to make clear that online learning will become more effective when students are required to collaborate and co-create with other students. Some programs are doing this, but far too many are not. - Derrel.Fincher Derrel.Fincher Mar 5, 2013- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Mar 7, 2013 This is huge! We are finding supporting students taking on-line classes during the school day may be the sweet spot that allows for access to variety while maintaining the support and social aspects of brick and mortar. - sharyn.gabriel sharyn.gabriel Mar 7, 2013
  • I think one thing that is missing is the diversity of these classes and programs. Not all online classes are made alike. There are differences in individual teachers, content development (in-house, purchased, blended), program principals, timeilne expectations, homework expectations, hardware issues, etc. The definition of this trend needs to reflect that diversity or encourage the best practices to bubble to the surface. - kari.stubbs kari.stubbs Mar 6, 2013- ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Mar 7, 2013
  • - helen.padgett helen.padgett Mar 5, 2013 New data from a long-term study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College suggest that some of the students most often targeted in online learning's access mission are less likely than their peers to benefit from -- and may in fact be hurt by -- digital as opposed to face-to-face instruction. http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/adaptability-to-online-learning.pdf
  • The best results are obtained through a mix of online and in-person learning -- blended learning (http://jime.open.ac.uk/article/2008-14/352). However, the best blending model has yet to be found (reinforcing the concluding statement in the writeup). The Innosight Institute has a taxonomy of blending models http://www.innosightinstitute.org/media-room/publications/blended-learning/. While I think the taxonomy has some flaws, it's the best we have so far. - brandt.redd brandt.redd Mar 7, 2013

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Mar 4, 2013 Via my other responses, you know that I'm somewhat enthusiastic about Virtual Worlds! I'm planning on taking our online classes worldwide via a combination of 2D and 3D...kind of a multi-D-MOOC. Talking with my fellow independent school professionals reveals that many of them are concerned that our special offering (in our own humble opinions, anyway) of personalized, individualized education is going to get lost in the transition from onground to online learning. I disagree! I think that our making our classes online is going to make quality K-12 education to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't be able to access it, for financial, geographical or whatever reasons.- ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013
  • I agree with David...creating online courses increases the quality of K12 education and levels the playing field for many students attending school in areas challenged to recruit AP, foreign language, and other hard to staff courses. There are so many opportunities for virtual courses to maximize student learning and offer them courses they may not otherwise have the chance to take. - kecia.ray kecia.ray Mar 4, 2013- ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013
  • David has the "ideal" view - but I've also seen far too many examples of courses where online is a bunch of dressed-up worksheets with teacher intervention. And we have to bypass some enthusiasts' view that programs are so well designed that it can create ideal learning for each child. The apparently weren't around from the Computer Assisted Instruction of the early 1980's. - Derrel.Fincher Derrel.Fincher Mar 5, 2013 Yes. The critical factor is still the teacher regardless of the model. - sharyn.gabriel sharyn.gabriel Mar 7, 2013
  • And one other thing - who are the teachers for online? IN the U.S., we have much criticism about the for-profit companies in the arena. Current public K-12 schools need to realize that they should be doing online with their own teachers, not outsourcing. I am fortunate to know of several districts that have embraced the variety that online can bring their students when combined wiht in-district offerings. Hopefully, in five years, online and f2f courses will all be part of the mix in public schools. - Derrel.Fincher Derrel.Fincher Mar 5, 2013 Yes. - sharyn.gabriel sharyn.gabriel Mar 7, 2013- ryan.tomaps ryan.tomaps Mar 6, 2013great point!- alex.podchaski alex.podchaski Mar 7, 2013
  • None of this is new in terms of impact, it's more about some folks just catching up. We need to focus on the potential to do more with online learning beyond just making up the gap in local staffing or whatever. How about the ways that online learning can improve the best education we already have? Whether it's Skype in the Classroom, or Massively Minecraft, or subjects delivered by various providers, its equity of access and accessibility that needs to to be the focus. The Tennesee Virtual School mentioned is another great example. - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Mar 5, 2013
  • How can students begin taking college courses online to count toward their college degree? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/education/colorado-state-to-offer-credits-for-online-class.html?_r=4& - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 5, 2013
  • - helen.padgett helen.padgett Mar 5, 2013 North Research Associate and online learning specialist, Dr. Tony Bates, has released his fourth annual predictions on how online learning will change in 2013. He believes that 2013 will prove to be a “transformative” year for online learning worldwide.http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/bulletin/top-ten-predictions-for-online-learning-in-2013/9709

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.