E-Learning Gets Real: Call It Virtual, Distance, or Online Education. for Today's Curricula, It's No Longer a Question of Whether or Not to Try but When to Start Our Survey of Educators Who Already Use These Technologies Can Help the Uninitiated

By Livingston, Pamela | Technology & Learning, May 2008 | Go to article overview

E-Learning Gets Real: Call It Virtual, Distance, or Online Education. for Today's Curricula, It's No Longer a Question of Whether or Not to Try but When to Start Our Survey of Educators Who Already Use These Technologies Can Help the Uninitiated


Livingston, Pamela, Technology & Learning


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For motivated students led by online-savvy teachers, amazing learning outside of the brick-and-mortar school can take place and expand curricular possibilities. Somewhere right now a student is studying Mandarin online, another student recovering from an injury is working from his home, and a student who doesn't learn math quickly is uploading her algebra problems. All the while a teacher is multitasking via IM, Skype, and Twitter and checking Moodle for responses to the latest class inquiry. Unconstrained by place and time, students are learning and teachers are teaching, virtually and rigorously.

E-learning is filling other educational needs and scenarios. There are those students who have dropped out of traditional classes for emotional, physical, or academic reasons and are ready to learn from home. Other students simply can't fit another thing into their schedules. Then there are those virtual students who feel too old for the class that they would be assigned to--students old enough for high school, for example, but whose grades and past performance placed them in middle school.

Additionally, homeschoolers are seeing virtual learning as a component, while others are fulltime cyber students, attending asynchronously, and never go to classes in a traditional school.

"The greatest advantage ... to me [is] being able to help those students who, for whatever reason, cannot or have chosen not to attend a brick-and-mortar school. For many of my students, they would have no other way to finish their education."

--Debbie Piper, adjunct business-technology teacher for a virtual public high school in Ohio, run by Connections Academy

Other schools have found the possibilities for online learning to be rich and varied, allowing AP classes to happen, for instance.

"We run one shared class of AP Calculus from one school to another. Students enjoy distance learning field trips to locations and meet specialists and have experiences that are too costly to enjoy otherwise."

--Ann Thorp, Northcentral University doctoral candidate, Ottawa Area Intermediate School District

Independent Learners, Please Apply

While virtual learning offers answers to myriad needs, it is not without its challenges. If prior learning experiences include the traditional classroom--and its expectations, pacing, and teacher oversight--virtual learners must now work at a different pace, setting many of their own expectations, with oversight taking on a different nature. While some students fell through the cracks of a traditional classroom and welcome a new environment, other students may find the change in structure hard to overcome. …

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E-Learning Gets Real: Call It Virtual, Distance, or Online Education. for Today's Curricula, It's No Longer a Question of Whether or Not to Try but When to Start Our Survey of Educators Who Already Use These Technologies Can Help the Uninitiated
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