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The Problem With Online Education

I sit across the kitchen table from my education-major roommate as she complains about the decline of traditional education. “I may soon be sitting in front of a webcam instead of standing in front of kids,” she says.
As crazy as it sounds, my roommate has a valid point. The New York Times reports that online educations at both the elementary and secondary levels have seen an unprecedented 50% increase in the last two years. Online education may seem compelling for many students and school districts, especially with many persuasive advertisements from online education companies. One specific company, K-12 Inc., advertises the benefits of online education in the headlines of their website, “Individualized learning customized to each child’s needs.” Although the benefits are tempting, online education will lead to deterioration of the education system and the corruption of the future of our children.

 Throughout my elementary and secondary education, I learned a significant amount of material from both my teachers and peers. I took the average standard core classes that consisted of reading, writing, and arithmetic. However, what I remember most and what I have carried with me throughout my academic life are the lessons that cannot be found within a textbook. The discussions, debates, and life lessons that took place in the classroom taught me not only to be an attentive and engaged student, but also to be a well-rounded citizen of this country and the world. It is impossible to have a debate with a computer, and there is no possible way to give the nerve-racking presentations in front of a webcam. These are valuable skills are lost with online education.

 In 2009 The New York Times reported about the United States Department of Education’s online review of education opportunities. Although benefits in online courses for college students were discovered, policy makers claimed to “lack significant scientific evidence” for the benefits of K-12 online education. 
Many public schools have started adding online classes to the traditional curriculum as “makeup classes” for those who have failed the course in the traditional classroom setting. This helps to increase graduation rates, which in turn increase funding for the school. 
But how, I argue, is this fair? 

Those children who pass the course in the traditional classroom setting work hard to do so, while those taking the online version may be using Wikipedia, online translators, or other reference websites in order to pass the course. It is impossible to prove whether the increase in graduation rates is artificial or genuine, which then raises the question of how to compare these students in class rankings for college admissions. Furthermore, it is important to ask the question, how do they compare to students nationwide?

The companies that provide online education for students are supposed to have certified teachers employed to grade the students – but how can we be sure this is true? Just this week Bay News, a local Talahassee news station, reported the largest provider of online education – K12 – is being investigated by the Florida Department of Education for employing uncertified teachers. This for-profit education service allegedly asks teachers to sign off on students that they did not teach because they are certified to teach that subject.
This investigation is casting a new light on online education and is leading even the biggest proponents of the tool, such as the state of Florida, to question its legitimacy.

However, some districts may promote online education because it is significantly cheaper than employing teachers and resources. 
For districts that are tight on budget, which so many are, online education is a cheap way to get graduation rates up and to steer government funding back on track. Schools are using online education as a way to cut corners on spending – to the detriment of their students’ education.

 Florida is not the only state that has turned to online education for better looking statistics. A public high school in Memphis, Tennessee was once nicknamed a “dropout factory” because of the small percentage of graduating students. However, with the promotion of online education, a school that used to have a graduation rate of less than 60% has increased to 86% for the class of 2011. 

This dramatic increase is due mostly to “recovery classes”, which are offered online. This leads me to believe that the online classes must be significantly easier than the traditional classroom, or that students are not being honest with their work. 

Online teachers have admitted that plagiarism is an increasing problem with the online classes because the students have such a strong desire to pass but have little work ethic.
I think that online education is deteriorating our educational system and robbing students of a full educational experience. 

Photos from:

http://www.napavalley.edu/Academics/CareerTechEd/PublishingImages/online…

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