As online learning becomes more normal, there is a growing need for research and training on effective online teaching. Last week, TIME magazine published a story about Jane Good, a full-time online K-12 science teacher in Colorado. She teaches 125 middle and high schoolers at the 21st Century Virtual Academy, part of JeffCo public schools. Good shares some thought-provoking reflections on the benefits and challenges of the virtual classroom.
There are many advantages to making online learning available to students, especially for those who are self-motivated.
Today's virtual students choose online learning for numerous reasons, from supplementing their studies with specialized courses to making up classes they've failed. Athletes, performers and students with special health needs may all be drawn to online studies.
One of the big challenges facing online teachers is how to teach students to be independent and active learners. Since virtual interactions are different than real-time interactions, Good reports the difficulty of diagnosing her students' problems via messaging due to her inability to read body language or hear tones in her students' voices.
Only 25 percent of teachers nationwide who were surveyed for "Going Virtual! 2010," a study by researchers at Boise State University, said they received training geared specifically to online instruction before beginning their work.
Obviously, online teachers need new training for the virtual classroom, but that will be difficult to develop until there is more research into the standards for measuring quality online teaching. Until then, Good and her colleagues are forging new territory.
Also, at the end of the article, I read the following statement:
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet based at Teachers College, Columbia University.
I learned later that The Hechinger Report and TIME agreed to an exclusive collaboration on this story. Shout out to Teachers College!