Not all online education programs are the same. Currently, most conversations on the topic on online education are oversimplified. Complexities must be addressed on this topic for a true critical assessment of online education to actually happen.
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The first significant distinction that must be considered for the conversation about online learning to be valid is that between synchronous and asynchronous instruction. In synchronous or live online instruction, students and teachers log on together in the virtual classroom. This is pure -- unfiltered by reflection -- interaction and in this live setting the social element of learning is not compromised. The exceptional moment occurs in meaningful inspiration and encouragement in the timber and inflection of a voice, in the subtleties of harmony of thought process in synchronous time and the authentic epiphany.
The teacher cannot be factored out of the equation of learning. Teaching in the moment is quite different from the packaged/canned asynchronous learning environment -- particularly in terms of critical discourse. Canned/pre-packaged curriculum with asynchronous online education does not embrace reflection in the way that Web 2.0 tools – like collaborative sites such as discussion boards and online presentation tools – do and curation sites -- like Pinterest -- do. Synchronous fosters expression and non- pre-packaged asynchronous encourages reflection – both elements of the learning process are necessary ones. . Oversimplification of the definition of online learning is not helpful to anyone and it seems that online learning has a negative connotation that it does not deserve.
Laura DeSena is a Teacher of English at West Milford High School (NJ). She is also the Founder of Innovations in Online Education, Inc. You can check out her blog HERE.