Five Myths Surrounding K-12 Online Learning
Vadillo, Guadalupe, Distance Learning
Frequently, when presented with an opportunity to innovate, we just go back to our old practices and assume that things are meant to be a certain way. This inside-the-box comfort zone can be a barrier when trying to profit from new scenarios. For example, it was not until a backache patient came to therapy and refused to He down at a major hospital setting in the United States that psychoanalytic couches were replaced by chairs so clients could sit down and talk directly to the therapist. The therapist in charge decided not to do what he had been trained to do, thus introducing a new era in therapy and he came to manage a 25 million patient therapy service (Kottler & Carlson, 2009).
When we observe what is going on in the majority of the institutions dedicated to online course design, we can see the inertia from face-to-face schools' practices. It seems that curricular design, timetables, sequences, human resources, and materials mimic those from brick-and-mortar settings. In this sense, the introduction of online learning has been seen as a sustainable innovation and not as a disruptive one, in Christensen, Horn, and Johnson's (2008) terms. That is, rather than addressing a lack of offerings, online learning has been conceived as a substitute for face-toface learning. This nostalgia from the way we were (and still are, in many places) is preventing accomplishments we could attain if we had a wider spectrum of possibilities. Those possibilities stem from the abolition of a series of myths the author of this article has observed in her professional practice:
1. COURSES SHOULD LOOK LIKE COURSES
How do courses look? They are generally presented in an orderly fashion, have a beginning, a body, and an ending, they have tests, quizzes, or other evaluation procedures, they have a teacher or expert, and they follow a certain pattern. However, a learning program that promotes math skills could resemble more of a Guitar Hero videogame session, or a course on economics could look like a level of Age of Empires and lack almost all of the abovementioned elements. Students may not embrace them as courses, but if they promote the desired learning outcomes, could they be considered as such?
Even in online master's degrees related to distance education, where ultimate innovation should be showcased, on the contrary a concern exists for having certain structures that relate the educational product to a traditional course. For example: it is often thought that there must be a paragraph establishing the educational objective of the course, another referring to the requirements and so forth. In invariably including these elements, we are restricting the creative possibdities the media has to offer. It is probably because we are still not fully comfortable with media that we tend to resort to our old habits. But we have to bear in mind that we can develop courses that look like games, letters, a visit to Universal Studios or to the Louvre, a secret mission, the play-offs, or any other means imaginable, and they can still be valuable learning experiences. Not only that, for thousands of students bored with traditional courses, they represent a golden opportunity to increase deep comprehension levels.
2. ONLINE EDUCATION IS SECOND BEST TO FACE-TO-FACE EDUCATION
Because a great proportion of online leaders at present have a long history in face-to-face education, many developed a hard-to-change premise related to the desirability of online learning. They came into the field believing that online learning should be used only if there was no faceto-face option. In doing so, they contributed to diminishing the real potential it has, for digital natives continue to demand this type of education as well as some traditional learners who prefer online learning over traditional face-to-face education (Daniel, 2007). The most recent meta analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Education (2009, in Patrick & Powell, 2009) concluded that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those in face-to-face instruction. …