Virtual instruction, real learning

Interesting article in the News today titled “Virtual instruction, real learning” providing a ‘good news’ story about the impact of online learning opportunities for school age students in the US.

The article reports on the small, but growing trend among students in Washington State public schools – . The number of students studying online and receiving course credit from public schools has more than tripled over the past five years. Some interesting examples to illustrate this, plus a useful list of characteristics of successful learners in an online environment at the end.

This supports the view I have of what is happening in New Zealand. I’ve recently been collating some information from two of the video conferencing clusters, OtagoNet and Cantatech , to explore how well these clusters have performed in terms of the retention and achievement of students learning in this environment.

Initial analysis of the data reveals that schools in each of these clusters are seeing a 30% improvement in the retention of students at the senior level of the school over the academic year. In addition, achievement rates are between 68% – 78% of the total number of achievement standards that are available in the courses offered.

For a more complete picture of the extent of involvement in clusters such as these in NZ check out the Virtual Learning Network website which brokers courses between and among the clusters.

The Tribune article also refers to the benefits of online learning for those who are unable to participate in regular schooling for a variety of reasons (health, beliefs, phobias, transience etc.) Again, similar experiences exist in NZ, with innovative online programmes such as LearnNow involving students from around the world in thematic, collaborative projects that are mentored and assessed by a teacher. In addition to being used by a number of individuals who are unable to attend school, the LearnNow programme is also being used within a number of schools to provide an enrichment/extension programme for more able students.

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