Perils of On-Line Education

When the word “perils” entered my mind as a title lead for this blog on on-line education, I immediately thought of the “Perils of Pauline.” The “Perils of Pauline” featured Pearl White as a “damsel in distress.” She was always in danger but was either rescued or escaped her situation. The “Perils of Pauline” was a 1914 film series that ran for 20 episodes. 

My feelings on on-line education are undoubtedly influenced by my remembrance of my years on college campuses as being among the best years of my life. It was not only the educational experience, but the social interaction, the introduction to a rich cultural life and access to major sporting events that the University of Michigan, in particular, provides. As is the case with many people, my high school experience remains among the fondest memory of my life.

It is not only that I feel those who get their education on-line are missing out on a lot of enriching experiences, there are a number of other drawbacks to on-line education, including a political one for my life-long political party.

When President Obama held a well-publicized meeting with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, he gave prominence to the GOP’s goal of breaking teachers’ unions through use of vouchers, increasing the number of non-unionized charter schools and promoting on-line education. Jeb Bush is the GOP’s “go-to” guy on education and has been a principal promoter of on-line education. Bush, himself, has possible conflict of interest problems, as a brother of his sells education products tailored for on-line education.

On-line education has a number of drawbacks, besides those of a more personal nature mentioned above: 1) it siphons money and other resources from public institutions into for-profit companies; 2) it undercuts public employees and their unions; 3) it is beset with allegations of fraud; 4) on-line schools rank among the most troubled schools; and 5) and digital learning products tend to be of low-quality.

There tends to be little teacher involvement in on-line education, with parents and guardians doing most of the teaching. Class sizes tend to be large, as illustrated by more than 100 students in some Wisconsin on-line classes. In the on-line company, ECOT, teachers’ salaries comprise just 17 percent of the budget, compared to 75 percent of the education budget in Ohio’s public schools. Spending priorities can be very skewed in on-line education companies: A Acadeny Wisconsin spent $424,700 on ads to promote its product in one year.

Finally, a CREDO research study shows learning gains significantly worse than in traditional public schools.

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