Virtual education is slowly transforming “old school” methodology and replacing it with computers, iPads and mobile devices. The minds behind education reform are gradually accepting the explosive growth of technology and realizing its benefits as it applies to the modern classroom.
Though many challenges still exist, advocates feel strongly about the forward progression of virtual education. In the wake of diploma mills and shady online institutions, the climate for change is challenging. But, proponents continue to make strides and “push the envelope” to prompt onlookers to open their minds to the possibilities of technology.
Virtual education includes online classes as well as blended onsite and online education. The blanket of virtual education also encompasses using technology to teach classroom lessons and cater to students’ interests. Advocates of online schooling propose that these programs can encourage kids to stay in school and help them to acquire their diplomas. Technology has also allowed education to meet student’s specific needs, and give participants the ability to study beyond the confines of the six-hour school day.
Many states are already in the process of reforming their education system and introducing online learning. Thirty U.S. states have full-time virtual schools and 225 exist in the U.S.
In Tennessee, the Virtual Instruction to Accentuate Learning (VITAL) program allows students to participate in online learning while connecting with an on-site facilitator. Though students frequent the on-site facility, they accomplish their work at their own pace. In yet another step forward, Tennessee lawmakers passed the Virtual Public Schools Act in 2011, which allows school boards to sponsor online learning institutions. The bill also defined teacher certification requirements and teacher-pupil ratios, a detail scheduled to be updated again this year.
Technology in Classrooms
With more than 80% of teenagers accessing cell phones, the education and technology industries have begun to form a tight bond. What once was restricted from the classroom has now been embraced and allowed for learning improvement and enhancement.
According to Chris Dede of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, technology is rapidly moving into school classrooms. He says, “They’ve [school districts] eliminated policies restricting using mobile devices for learning and they’re interested in developing mobile learning programs as fast as possible. We’re going from districts fearing it and blocking it off to welcoming it and making it a major part of their technology plan.”
According to some technology advocates, digital learning can benefit students by allowing them to learn at their own pace by adapting to a more customized approach. Each student can follow a curriculum tailored to their specific needs and move faster or slower depending on their grasp of the material. Online platforms can also take advantage of the internet and mobile computing, cloud technology and social media to enhance learning. Additionally, to shun the current criticism of virtual degree programs, digital education can work within the constructs of traditional curriculums while offering the full benefit of online learning.
Though online learning has many more mountains to climb and hurdles to jump, forward progress is evident throughout the U.S. Advocates continue to promote high-quality and well-researched studies so education reform can continue to expand and become a leading method of education for today’s modern student.