Friday, October 24, 2014

Measuring quality in blended and online learning

A friend passed along a blog to me that shared some initial insights into how educators measure the quality of blended and online learning programs. The blog is published by an online curriculum and services provider.

It was an interesting read, but it did forget to state how the provider and the districts they serve measure up to the standards identified by the educators in this survey. And, I will also bypass the nuance of it being an "annual" survey when the provider itself just launched earlier this year. Instead I want to focus on the results of the survey of educators.

When specifically asked how educators gauge the quality of an online or blended course, following were the top four responses:
·         The student has high attendance and active participation in the course.   
·         The student scores at or above the level of other similar students on end of year standardized tests.
·         The student passes the course.
·         The student re-enrolls in other online courses after completing the current online course.

One of the main issues with the current virtual school model is attendance and participation. Attrition rates approaching 40-50% within the academic year seem to undermine this first response and causes one to wonder how well the virtual schools are measuring up on this one.

Currently, virtual schools are not performing well on state tests compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Simply Google this topic and you will quickly see the results.

Students passing the course is quite difficult to ascertain without inside knowledge on each school. However, retention rates from year-to-year continues to be a struggle for most virtual schools and they must constantly find new students to replace those who have departed.

What this means is, by all accounts, the current model is broken because very few are measuring up to the quality standards identified by educators.

It's time to re-imagine virtual schools. It's time to build something truly remarkable instead of continually attempting to apply a fresh coat of paint to cover up the decay.

It is also time to take a survey of parents and students to determine what their quality standards would be, and determine if current virtual schools are meeting them.

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