Just last night, I had dinner with a couple of teachers who teach at our local Lutheran high school and the topic of online classes came up. One of the teachers posed the question: How can an online teacher do a better job than me who is in the classroom? This is a question that is gaining credibility and concern. Maybe I am more aware of this topic due my involvement of the Masters of Classroom Technology Program, but I have noticed a lot more chatter about online classes and their replacement of living, breathing teachers in the classroom (yes I know there is a living person teaching the online class as well). Since the movement of teaching is heading towards online classes, I must vocalize my concern. I agree with the teacher above as I don’t think that an online course could replace me AND do a better job. The book Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen also supports the idea that education is moving towards online classes for a number of reasons but mostly for economical reasons. After exploring a few of the virtual schools, I discovered that at the K-12 School, it would cost a student $230 to take my class for the entire year. This is no doubt more economical than what it costs for a student to attend a school. I believe that there are some advantages to online schools. In smaller, private schools I think that they could help diversify the curriculum and offer subjects that small schools are not able to provide. Examples would include foreign languages, business/economic or technology classes. However, as a whole I do not agree with online classes that would replace the core subjects. As a teacher in the classroom, I think that I can better meet my students needs and develop a stronger relationship with them. Being in close proximity to them, I can gain their attention, motivate more easily, and adjust or emphasize what a student needs if there are issues.
With the movement towards online classes growing stronger, as evidence by K–12 Distance Educators at Work: Who’s Teaching Online Across the United States by Leanna Archambault, there are some students who would benefit from these classes. Those students being motivated and intelligent and interested in pursuing a variety of classes as those mentioned above. However, these are the type of students that will succeed regardless of the setting or instruction method. My concern is for students who have learning disabilities or at least difficulties in the classroom. I believe that I am better able to suit their needs than a teacher who is online and less accessible. Students with these challenges also suffer from motivation issues or emotional problems. One of the show in the K-12 video showed indications of learning disabilities, however his mother was there to serve as his “learning coach” and monitor his progress along with his teacher. We know that not all parents are as dedicated or able to serve as involved “learning coaches.” Online classes can be good to supplement curriculum, but not to replace core teachers and meet the needs of those with difficulties.