There is a new player in the education arena. It began as an ugly duckling that was dismissed as a gimmick. But after the usual path of discovery that inevitably takes place with any program of substance, online education has come into its own as a program that offers tremendous value to students and teachers alike.
Online education frees the teacher from the tyranny of classroom management. The teacher is able to focus more completely on the most important part of their job, teaching his or her students. Because the coursework is administered online, many aspects of tracking grades and progress are automated.
Those tasks that are not automated are the ones requiring a teacher to assess work, such as essays and reports that can't be adequately done by computer. But even these important tasks can be made easier through collaboration tools that allow students to rework and rewrite papers and thereby learn to improve their skills in a much more efficient manner.
Thus, online education does what any useful tool should do: greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the teacher.
Online education frees teacher and student from the tyranny of location. No longer does a gifted student living in a remote location have to choose between lengthy travel to take a course in advanced physics or forgoing the course. A struggling student doesn't have to pass on taking a course uniquely suited to help him with his specific challenge.
All students now have the vastness of the internet and access to the world's best curriculum and the most qualified teachers at their fingertips.
Online education frees teacher and student from the tyranny of the clock. Some students take longer than others to grasp a concept. Some students require more interaction than others. Some students like to spread out course study evenly over the week, and some like to study in a more focused time frame.
What's more, which student goes into which of the above categories constantly shifts and changes as based on the course, the particular concept being studied, or simply what the student's circumstances are at the time. All of this means that asking this widely diverse set of students to come together at a set time each day equally prepared to learn the same material is a sure recipe for failure.
Many students will make this work, but many won't and the teacher may well have to make a sad choice between either teaching to the majority, focusing on the gifted or assisting the struggling.
Online education greatly mitigates all of these problems by offering flexibility to the student. The student can study the material on their schedule. They can contact and interact with the teacher when they have a question and are fully ready to learn and understand. The teacher can easily and efficiently interact with groups as large as the whole class and as small as a single student and give each of them the help they need when they need it.
Utah has taken a big step towards offering online education to every high school student. With the creation of the Statewide Online Education Program every high school student in the state will be able to take high quality online courses from reliable and trusted providers.
This is a great step in helping our students be more prepared for college and for leading successful and productive lives in a digitally connected world.
Bradley M. Daw is a state representative from Orem.