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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Requiring Virtual Schooling?

Well, let's take another familiar thread from the archives (see Mandatory Virtual Schooling). I have noticed that coming up later this week there is an entry on the "Virtual Schooling in the News" about Michigan and that state requiring that all students take a virtual school course in order to graduate.

Michigan First State to Require Online Learning
SYS-CON Media Fri, 21 Apr 2006 4:54 PM PDT

Michigan has become the first state in the U.S. to require students to successfully complete an online course or learning experience under new legislation signed into law on April 20, 2006, by Governor Jennifer Granholm. This action was part of a comprehensive legislative package to revamp Michigan's high school graduation requirements beginning with incoming eighth graders in the fall of 2006.
Only a few hours later, another message came through my inbox (this one via ITForum) with an article on the same topic:
April 20, 2006

Michigan Requires Online Attendance

This morning Jennifer M. Granholm, the governor of Michigan, signed a bill that will require all high-school students in the state to take at least one course online before they can graduate. This is apparently the first such requirement in the nation. The provision was included in a bill that toughened the overall state high-school-graduation standards. The online course students take does not have to be for credit, but observers expect many students to take Advanced Placement courses via
the Web.

Lawmakers initially questioned why they needed to require students who grew up on video games and the Internet to take online courses. In the end, they decided that making students conduct some of their education over the Internet would better prepare them for college and the workplace, which relies more and more on online tools.

For more information on this topic, see an article from The Chronicle by Dan Carnevale.


Others have been following this story as well (see Expand online college classes to reach more Mich. students - Detroit News from Online Learning Update and Michigan first to mandate online learning from Teaching and Developing Online as examples).

Again, as I think I have mentioned in the past - while I see virtual schooling as a great opportunity to supplement the curriculum and provide opportunities for students that wouldn't otherwise be available (particularly in rural areas), as well as providing students who have had trouble in the traditional school setting the chance to actually get an education - I still wonder if this is just too much?

In this age of digital natives (see Marc Prensky - Listen to the Natives and Wow... by Scott Adams, My students inspire me as they "get" Web 2.0 by Cool Cat Teacher Blog, and Digital Natives by Stephen's Web/Write Technology), I'm not sure I see the value in simply forcing them into an online class simply to gain the technology skills, or even the independent learning skills.

So, your mission should you choose to accept it, convince me as to why this is a good idea.

Tags: , , ,


Blogger Shel said...

You know, I have mixed emotions on this. Part of me says yes, this is good. This will prepare them for the real world and for college.
Except I've taught at the college level and I've recently taken my little brother on multiple college visits throughout the midwest. Colleges aren't completely there yet. There are still instructional technologists at each school with big ideas, banging their heads against the wall, trying to convince profs that Blackboard is okay to use. Yes, the students are digital natives and expect things to be "virtually" available. But the schools and profs aren't quite there yet. So does this really prepare them, or just get them accustomed to something that's not available to them just yet? (Not that we won't get there, but universities, as a whole, are moving much slower than you might think. For every university that has implemented an LMS, how many profs are actually taking advantage of it?)
The biggest advantage in the requirement, that I see, is the honing of self-discipline. Self-discipline is something you need to study in college and to work virtually in the work force. I personally have very little of it. Online courses demand it. Students who aren't used to cracking a book because its all so easy (the ones who have a rude, but quick, awakening in college), would benefit from the forced attendance at an online class.
Just some thoughts off the top of my head ...

8:15 AM  
Blogger MKB said...


Don't you think your little brother already has those skills that you speak of. Watch him the next time he sits down to play a video game. He can tell you where every little trick, hint, and item are located in that virual environment. He can navigate his way around. He has an understanding of who the bad uys are, what their powers are, and the best way to attack them. He has developed sophisticated strategies and tactics to defeat all of the bad guys.

And he learned all this without anyone telling him he had to, without anyone teaching him, and without anyone directing him. Talk about a self-motivated, self-directed, disciplined learner

If only we could design formal learning activities that could harness all of these characteristics in him. I would argue that an online course through the Michigan Virtual High Schoolis not that formal learning activity.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Vicki A. Davis said...

This is an excellent post on a tough issue. I think that my biggest problem with mandates of any kind in education is that I am a big believer in decentralization.

I believe that the real power and the ability to get things done has and always will rest with people in their own communities. People who draw the line in the sand and say enough is enough and get down and take care of it.

There is so much whining and finger pointing going around in education and not enough local folks saying "We're going to handle this and make sure our kids are technically literate."

I am all for accountability. However, I believe taking responsibility for decision making out of the local community results in demotivation of that same local community.

We are Americans. It is our job to take care of business and teach these kids so we will have a future generation of ethical decision makers.

I don't know the answers, I just know that if you find a school succeeding in an island of failure you will ALWAYS find strong, visionary leadership that often rocks the boat. We seem to discourage such behavior because of a bloated educational bureaucracy.

There was legislation being toyed with in the Georgia House of Representatives requiring that a certain percentage of funds (65% I think) be REQUIRED to be spent in the classroom and the educational establishment has gone nuts!

More power to the teacher! More power to local decision makers and leaders. And with more power, give more responsibility and accountability. Responsibility and accountability without the power to do anything result in hopeless impotent school systems.

Don't get me wrong, I do think that some virtual schooling is good, however, it cannot substitute for teachers using blogs, wikis, and the like in their classrooms. I wonder if it is a thinly veiled effort to circumvent teachers that may not want to change to expose the students to these technologies.

Lots to think on. I guess they are trying to do something! (Everybody wants to make a statement like Maine did on 1:1 -- this is a cheaper way to do it, I guess.)

Great post and thank you for quoting me!

7:01 PM  
Blogger MKB said...


I'm going to have to disagree with you on one point. While it may be the American way, I don't think that more power to local discision makers and leaders will necessarily make a better system, particularly in a system of education where local taxes pay the lion's share of educational funding.

I think what would happen in this type of situation is a gap in education achievement and educational oportunity would widen based upon race and socio-economic factors (I say widen because it already exixts).

Granted, this is far afoot from the discussion of requiring virtual schooling. I still don't see a logical rationale being presented as to why this is being brought about. I say logical because most of the things I see all drone on and on about twenty-first century learning skills. the problem is that kids these days are getting them and school, brick and mortar or virtual, usually only serve to hinder the development of these skills because the vast majority of teachers (even virtual teachers) are less equipped for what it takes to be a digital learner than their students.


9:37 PM  

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