The Center for Educational Excellence, a project of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, has released a new study on the benefits of educational innovations that capitalize on new and emerging digital technologies, Online Learning: Maximizing Results by Leveraging Technologies.
“Online learning, often referred to as ‘anywhere, any time learning,’ is an education model whereby a student completes his coursework through internet-based programs,” writes MHPC Education Policy Analyst Amanda Clark.
“Given the laptop programs and online learning programs already in place throughout our state, Maine has the potential to revolutionize education to such a degree that every student can realize his full potential.”
The study, which is available for download at GreatSchoolsForME.org, examines current and potential applications of online learning in Maine’s schools. Although Maine does trail national leaders, advocates of online learning have made significant progress since the passage of charter school legislation in 2011.
“Just in the past year, the number of Maine state-approved online learning providers has increased from three to seven. These private providers, approved for use in the public school classrooms, are: Advanced Academics, Apex Learning, Connections Academy, K12, Inc., Lincoln National Academy, PLATO Learning, Inc., and Virtual Learning Academy.”
According to the study, online education can take several forms including complete virtual learning, blended learning, and supplemental.
Complete virtual learning, most commonly used via virtual charter schools and by homeschoolers, still involves interaction with accredited teachers, but allows students to learn from the comfort of their home, which is ideal for students suffering from long-term illnesses or developmental disorders.
In the blended model, teachers can lead entire classrooms through online exercises, meaning students can utilize virtual learning without sacrificing the vital socialization that comes with interacting with other students.
“Students’ time is divided between online learning and teacher-led, hands on workshops where there is engaging discussion and activities which complement the individual learning taking place through the online programs. Traditional desks are replaced by mini cubicles containing personal computers.”
When online learning is used as a supplement to traditional education, students have the option to enroll in one or more of several classes offered. Such classes may help students improve in areas of weakness or allow them to explore previously unavailable subjects.
“Some students, especially those who live in rural areas, would not otherwise have opportunities to learn Mandarin Chinese or take an Advanced Placement course in preparation for college. Others need to catch up on a particular subject over the course of the summer; perhaps they were sick for an extended period of time or just simply succeeded in all but one subject. Those who don’t like to get their hands dirty, can even virtually dissect a frog in an online biology class!”
To see an example of online learning in action, check out the video below of students at Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle School in Yuma, Arizona.