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  • The Offline Implications Of The Research About Online Charter Schools

    Written on February 27, 2019

    It’s rare to find an educational intervention with as unambiguous a research track record as online charter schools. Now, to be clear, it’s not a large body of research by any stretch, its conclusions may change in time, and the online charter sub-sector remains relatively small and concentrated in a few states. For now, though, the results seem incredibly bad (Zimmer et al. 2009Woodworth et al. 2015). In virtually every state where these schools have been studied, across virtually all student subgroups, and in both reading and math, the estimated impact of online charter schools on student testing performance is negative and large in magnitude.

    Predictably, and not without justification, those who oppose charter schools in general are particularly vehement when it comes to online charter schools – they should, according to many of these folks, be closed down, even outlawed. Charter school supporters, on the other hand, tend to acknowledge the negative results (to their credit) but make less drastic suggestions, such as greater oversight, including selective closure, and stricter authorizing practices.

    Regardless of your opinion on what to do about online charter schools’ poor (test-based) results, they are truly an interesting phenomenon for a few reasons.

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  • The Real “Trouble” With Technology, Online Education And Learning

    Written on July 24, 2012

    It’s probably too early to say whether Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a "tsunami" or a "seismic shift," but, continuing with the natural disaster theme, the last few months have seen a massive “avalanche” of press commentary about them, especially within the last few days.

    Also getting lots of press attention (though not as much right now) is Adaptive/Personalized Learning. Both innovations seem to fascinate us, but probably for different reasons, since they are so fundamentally different at their cores. Personalized Learning, like more traditional concepts of education, places the individual at the center. With MOOCs, groups and social interaction take center stage and learning becomes a collective enterprise.

    This post elaborates on this distinction, but also points to a recent blurring of the lines between the two – a development that could be troubling.

    But, first things first: What is Personalized/Adaptive Learning, what are MOOCs, and why are they different?

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  • Cheating In Online Courses

    Written on July 11, 2012

    Our guest author today is Dan Ariely, James B Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, and author of the book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty (published by Harper Collins in June 2012).

    A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that students cheat more in online than in face-to-face classes. The article tells the story of Bob Smith (not his real name, obviously), who was a student in an online science course.  Bob logged in once a week for half an hour in order to take a quiz. He didn’t read a word of his textbook, didn’t participate in discussions, and still he got an A. Bob pulled this off, he explained, with the help of a collaborative cheating effort. Interestingly, Bob is enrolled at a public university in the U.S., and claims to work diligently in all his other (classroom) courses. He doesn’t cheat in those courses, he explains, but with a busy work and school schedule, the easy A is too tempting to pass up.

    Bob’s online cheating methods deserve some attention. He is representative of a population of students that have striven to keep up with their instructor’s efforts to prevent cheating online. The tests were designed in a way that made cheating more difficult, including limited time to take the test, and randomized questions from a large test bank (so that no two students took the exact same test).

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  • Becoming A 21st Century Learner

    Written on April 16, 2012

    Think about something you have always wanted to learn or accomplish but never did, such as a speaking a foreign language or learning how to play an instrument. Now think about what stopped you. There’s probably a variety of factors but chances are those factors have little to do with technology.

    Electronic devices are becoming cheaper, easier to use, and more intuitive. Much of the world’s knowledge is literally at our fingertips, accessible from any networked gadget. Yet, sustained learning does not always follow. It is often noted that developing digital skills/literacy is fundamental to 21st century learning but, is that all that’s missing? I suspect not. In this post I take a look at university courses available to anyone with an internet connection (a.k.a. massive open on-line courses or MOOCs) and ask: What attributes or skills make some people (but not others) better equipped to take advantage of this and similar educational opportunities brought about by advances in technology?

    In the last few months, Stanford University’s version of MOOCs have attracted considerable attention (also here and here), leading some to question the U.S. higher education model as we know it – and even envision its demise. But, what is really novel about the Stanford MOOCs? Why did 160,000 students from 190 countries sign up for the course “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”?

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