Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Learning Online in a K-12 Setting

My presentation from the Iowa 1:1 Institute

Learning Online in a K-12 Setting
Iowa 1:1 Institute - 4/07/10
Evan Abbey - AEA Project Manager for Online Learning

This presentation is aimed to build advocacy in school leaders for online learning, giving leaders discussion points and resources to have conversations in their home district.

Urgency: In his book Disrupting Class, Clayton Christensen boldly predicts that 50% of 9-12 courses will be online by 2019. And colleges are seeing unprecedented growth in online course enrollments. Never before have students had the economic market-based power over their education that they do now. They are not limited by geography or time restraints. And, the monopoly educators had over determining the format for learning in the school is coming to an end.

In the past, the "online learning" discussion in schools has revolved around whether online learning is as effective as face-to-face learning. Despite research affirming the effectiveness of online learning, the debate has slowed action to a standstill, both at the local and at the statewide level. The time for debate has passed. Students are taking online courses regardless of a person's viewpoint of their effectiveness. We must now look instead at the most effective way to teach online, and rapidly prepare our schools for this change.

1. Cost - Both in teacher time and in compensation
2. Misunderstanding of what online learning can be - Thinking online learning is like an NWEA test where you read a passage and take a multiple choice quiz repeatedly. Online learning is so much more, including forums, online collaboration, social networking, online portfolios, synchronous virtual classrooms, simulations, and even interactive gaming.
3. Iowa's Tradition - Iowa has a deep history of educational excellence. That is a good thing. But it also makes embracing change, especially in non-traditional formats, very difficult. Iowa's tradition has slowed down efforts and killed urgency more than anything else.
4. Resolve - To be fully honest, online learning can happen, regardless of the perceived roadblocks. This is the one that can kill it, however. If there isn't the resolve from a group of school leaders who are dedicated to seeing it happen, it will always be passed by more "pressing" issues of the day.

What You Need to Know:
1. There are several districts in Iowa that are currently developing online courses or are in plans to develop courses. Your efforts would not be alone in the state.
2. To help prepare the districts for teaching online, the AEAs have developed a module on Online Instructional Design. This module is designed to be a 45-hour (3-credit) course, facilitated locally in a district, where teachers collaborate face-to-face in learning teams, online in online communities, and individually as they build an online course. The topics in the module include
• Guiding Principles to Online Education
• Online Course Orientation, Policies, and Structure
• Objectives
• Assessment
• Instructional Strategies
• Resources, Teachnologies, and Copyright
• Online Facilitation
• Putting it all Together
3. The AEAs and several Urban school districts have teamed together to write an ARRA grant for online learning. This grant will provide funds for online content, courses, and professional development, all of which will build the capacity in the state to teach online. The efforts of the grant will work to build a statewide system of courses, shared between districts, available for 9-12 students.
4. There are other professional development offerings available right now. Here are 3 online license renewal/graduate credit courses in online pedagogy:
Technology for Online Instruction: Moodle (2 credits - May 3-June 6)
Technology for Online Instruction: Adobe Connect Pro (2 credits - June 21-July 26)
Online Learning Instructional Design (2 credits - July 5-Aug 8)

Where to Start:
1. Become an Advocate. If you the school leader do not vouch for the importance of online learning, it will not happen
2. Have Conversations. Just like with starting a 1:1 initiative, moving a school to teach online takes many informal conversations before you can have formal ones. Visit with your most influential teachers, your technology personnel, your curriculum director.
3. Get connected. See Arlan & Evan's contact info below.
4. Get your early adopters going. The schools that are the most successful identify those 1-2 teachers who are willing to learn on their own and try something brand new. Get those teachers inspired and then get everything else out of the way. Piloting a successful course not only gives other teachers an example of how it can be done, it allows you to look for the logistical issues to offering online courses and it begins your marketing of your courses before you have large numbers.
5. Get informed. Many resources to read about effectiveness in online learning. It is not the same as face-to-face learning. Below are resources to get started.
6. Plug in. Have teachers take a course online to get a feel for how it works and see the benefits of learning in that manner. Connect with other schools and school leaders looking to use online learning. And start selling your vision to your local community, touting the benefits it will bring your community.
7. And now... Plan. Now its time to start looking at technical hardware and the logistics of setting up courses.

Resources and Information:
• Evan Abbey - AEA Project Manager for Online Learning -
• Arlan Thorson - School Liaison for Iowa Learning Online -
Power Point presentation
Sloan Consortium 2008 Report on K-12 Online Learning
Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies by U.S. Department of Education (2009)
National Primer on K-12 Online Learning by North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) (2007)
Keeping Pace - an annual review of state-level policy and practice (2008)
Changing Face of Education in Iowa - Evan's blog

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