I Tweeted about an article that Laura Herrera published in the New York Times this week – “In Florida, Virtual Classrooms With No Teachers.” I know nothing about the schools in Miami, but I do know about school initiatives gone wrong. Miami-Dade county schools had begun a program where students could take online courses but some students apparently saw this as an unpleasant surprise. A student at the school was quoted as saying “None of them want to be there,”…. “and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice.”
Did this school really enroll students in online classes without telling them? I don’t know but that would have been a horrible mistake. It is also possible that the school could have thought they had communicated the change and what it meant to students and still missed the mark. I have often seen a good idea be tarnished by a lack of communication. All it really takes is for a few students or families to be misinformed for a promising program to fail. And once students and families get burned they will so very reluctant to try online learning again.
This article really frustrated me because I think online education in middle and high schools has a lot of potential – particularly if the blended model of online teaching is used. In order for students to be successful they at least need to be aware of how online learning is different than a traditional class, they need to be motivated and organized, and they will need to be supported by a qualified teacher. I hope more schools offer online learning for their students if they move forward in a thoughtful and well communicated manner!