It is undeniable that technological advancements has come of age. Technological advancements
are ubiquitous. The educational system is flaunted with various teaching aids. Notable, though, is
the internet, which has enabled education more accessible for students for those who are busy or
disadvantaged by distance. When the form of teaching became popular, students performed
exemplarily. However, performance began to wane as the schools increased. Over the years, too,
policies regarding online programs and virtual educations have been on the rise. There were 27
policies implemented before 2007. However, the number of policies rose exponentially from 27
to 157 by the year 2012. These policies have been passing the lawmakers' chambers despite the
fact that these institutions are recording poor performance and causing the tax payer to carry a
heavy burden. It appears that for-profit organizations benefit from these organizations largely.
The need for new policies is imminent. The United States needs policies that will reduce or halt
the growth of virtual institutions. Legislators should also enforce measures that will require
virtual schools to limit the number of students who enroll in any given year. Lawmakers also
ought to consider ways in which they can integrate technology while still maintaining some of
the old modes of teaching that give the teacher dominion and the students receive first hand
explanation of premises from lecturers.
Virtual education has the possibility of changing the manner in which students learn
(Rada, 2001). If the present studies are anything to go by, inclusion of technologies in the
classroom could mean the next big thing in the field of education. Technologies have taken the
world by storm changing the way people do things ant they could easily change the way students
learn in class, as well. With more than sixty million users of the World Wide Web in America
alone, figures like this make the internet the fastest growing innovations the word has ever
seen(Halverson & Smith, 2009).
The possibilities of enhancing education using the internet technology and its related
advancements appear to be boundless. Institutions of higher education are looking for alternative
ways to revamp education and turn around the way in which students learn. Technologies have
enabled educators to develop educational content and teaching techniques that are extremely
flexible. Such modes of education are vital today. In addition to that, technologies promise
presenting education even to those who are far from educational institutions. The much awaited
era in which world that is truly interconnected and an educational system that is borderless is
here and students can access material easily(Carter, 2001).
However, despite the many praises technologies in education receive, Smith (2009) fears
that schools are turning to technologies a little too fast are substantial. The author warns that
there is an imminent need to consider prudently about the implications of information and
technology on the educational systems and the society at large. Educational institutions need to
deliberate all aspects that the virtual universities so as to envelope the extreme expansion of such
universities and the always increasing recognition and dependence of formal
qualifications(Smith, 2009). Another study presents the same debates and fears whether
something as important as advanced education is being gambled when universities and colleges
alike take most of their courses online rather than in physical classrooms. Examples that have
been the core focus of research are the impacts of technologies on the emotional attributes of
learners(Halverson & Smith, 2009). This has been a core focus as most technologies in education
reduce face to face communication between teachers and students.
This policy brief considers the effects of IT on education and how it is changing the
traditional classroom. It explores the variations in the virtual classes and the traditional forms of
education. To date, the positive aspects of virtual systems of education are limited claims from
research on the impacts of distance learning where learners have the liberty to carry out their
own activities and tutorial support is deficient. With the epoch of integrative education, online
programs, however, have a lot to give in terms of interaction. Distance learning and classroom
methods of teaching are converging on a novel educational approach. But the consequences a
highly strong IT experience may be a hurdle to the education process with possible negative
effects to the quality of education people receive through the absence of interaction.
2. Policies on Virtual Education
State administrations in all the states in America have authorized various laws facilitating
the propagation of myriad forms of virtual institutions. The types of virtual institutions include
institutions formulated within the promote framework of public schools as well as additional
online programs brought up by state charter school legislation. More than twenty bills survived
the debates among legislators are currently facilitating the online charter to become actual laws
before 2007 (Secker, 2004). On the other hand, numerous laws support physical institutions’
venture in the development of online schools. Bills enacted in Georgia, Florida, and other places
permitted alternative educational institutions to set up online programs partly funded by the
public but independent of the traditional public schools (Glass, 2009).
An in-depth analysis of the policy trends in the United States showed that legislators are
geared towards online based schools. The federal government pledges support to the charter of
schools regarding modernization of the educational system in the United States. The support that
comes through State Educational Agencies and developers of charter schools provides financial
help for the designing, planning, and implementation of virtual schools. This support has seen
many virtual schools sprout. H.R. 2218, for instance, offers support to hybrid or full-blended
charter institution models. The aim is to assist students and struggling schools in improving
educational attainments and results (Glass, 2009).
Pennsylvania’s charter regarding online schools came into being in 1997. Later, the cyber
school provisions became law in 2002. From that time, the educational arena in Pennsylvania has
changed, and the physical and fully online schools have proliferated in other places reaching a
total of 16 cyber schools and 175 physical schools that are full operations. The intervening
decade has changed the way schools offer education to students in the locality as well as other
areas. The management of schools has also been shifted by these laws. In Pennsylvania, many of
the schools are hiring for-profit management service providers to oversee and operate the schools
As seen, most of the bills that have passed the hands of senators have concentrated in
encouraging educational institutions, especially those that are public, to avail their educational
content and pedagogy online. In 2005, Arkansas’ HB 2566 established the distance learning
program that sought to mitigate the rising shortage of teachers who are present and who can offer
additional courses through online means (Ghaoui, 2005). As from 2008 to date, more than one
hundred and fifty bills that support virtual education have become laws 39 states all over the US.
Up to now, little help has come from the federal government in the expansion of online schools
support to the creation of virtual campuses. Instead. Most of the support has been coming from
the state level. President Obama expressed his concern over the same stating that the White
House recognizes the value of online universities and programs in economic development, job
growth, discovery, and innovation. However, he stated, the fiscal milieu offers limited
probability for increased and stable funding from the central government (Cavanaugh, Gillan,
Hess, &Kromrey, 2012).
3. Increasing Online Programs vs. Declining Performance
The National Education Policy Center has been assessing the educational trend against
the increasing number of online institutions. A review of three hundred and eleven virtual
schools in the United States was looked into giving precise information regarding the impact of
online education. The national study finds significant and systemic issues with the fully fledged
cyber schools in the United States. Boulder Alex, who is a professor at the University of
Colorado, summed the findings this way: “Even a hasty review of online programs in the United
States would reveal a situation that resembles the Wild Wild West. There are oversized
assertions, poor performance, high conflicts, a lot of the tax payer’s money at state, and so little
proof to defend the explosion of virtual institutions”(NACOL, 2006).
3.1. Poor performance – increasing enrollment
Publicly obtainable measurements of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), online schools,
appear to lag behind substantially as compared to physical schools also referred to as brick and
mortar schools. The metrics offered by AYP offers a clue of the academic performance of the
nation. In 2011, a comparison of 52% physical school and 23.6% virtual schools revealed
significantly varying performances. The online campuses lagged behind by a 28% margin. This
is despite the fact that online schools enroll far fewer students compared to brick and mortar
schools. In addition to that, brick and mortar schools enroll a larger number of special needs
students, ESLs, and low-income learners as compared to virtual campuses(Glass, 2009).
The entry of virtual schools into the educational scene was met with joy. Their coming
revealed positive trends. However, it is now obvious that the virtual schools performed better in
their initial stages because the few numbers of enrolled students at the time schooled from home
under the guidance of parents. But as the schools have become popular, and enrollment became
high, the performance slithered intensely.
Currently, online schools account for thousands of student enrollments at the elementary
and post elementary levels in thirty-nine states and Columbia District. As things stand, a Virginia
K12 institution, McLean, is the biggest private institution in the virtual education system. The
institution operates fifty eight virtual schools alone, enrolling almost seventy seven thousand
students. By comparison, another institution named the Pearson enrolls twenty seven thousand
students in its twenty-one schools(Alex, 2013).
3.2. Expansion Drivers
Virtual institutions and online institutions continue to rise despite the fact that student
performance has been on the decline. The rate of schools offering online programs has also been
rising regardless of the fact that the dropout rate of students being high. From 2008 to 2012,
more than one hundred and fifty bills related to online and virtual programs and schools became
instituted in more than thirty nine territories including the District of Columbia.
Virtual schools dependent on tax payer’s money seem to be driven by advertising and
lobbying. The expansion is not justified by evidence from research, nor is it overseen by
thoughtful development of policy. Research data reveal shocking realities regarding the money
used to promote online programs. Figures from Kantar Media show that some of the largest
online institution offerers spend around $100 million in the last half a decade on advertising –
funds that emanated from public schools treasuries. Luis Huerta, a professor in Columbia
University noted that various states such as Michigan, Oregon, Louisiana, and Wisconsin either
removed or raised the enrollment limits for full-time online schools. Co-author Rice King of the
University of Maryland noted that no bill was passed in any of these stated regarding oversight
and accountability of online institutions (Cavalluzzo& Higgins, 2001).
3.3. Heavy burden to taxpayers
The total cost to American taxpayers for dreary virtual schools has been substantial. Ohio
stands as a perfect example; the virtual enrollment in the state topped 30,000 students and online
provides received $209 million from 2010-2011 taxpayers’ money, but failed to offer a detailed
report on how they used the money. Ohio gives online school offenders more than $6,300 for
every student. However, State Impact Ohio reveals that it only takes $3,600 per student to run
online programs(Glass, 2009). In addition to that, the high drop our rates in the region mean that
the cost of running these virtual campuses is lower(Barbour & Reeves, 2009). Nevertheless,
many states give virtual schools in their localities allocations that are similar to allocations given
to physical schools that have to cater for rent, textbooks, desks, and other expenses (Darrow,
Although online learning gives enthralling possibilities and models such as integrated
learning – where students receive instruction that is half traditional and half online – may hold
potentially, the continually poor performance of the online schools makes it vital to dig more
about the institutions. Advocates of online schools are decades ahead of researchers and
policymakers, and new opportunities are being promoted and developed mainly by for-profit
organizations answerable to stockholders and not the public as a whole (Su, 2011).
Larry Cuban from Stanford University and a contributor of research on virtual institutions
posits that the present climate of secondary and elementary schools reform that endorse
uncritical acceptance of virtual education does not have the backing of educational research. A
model that is founded around toss is not viable; the unrestrained growth of virtual institutions is
fundamentally an education-technology bubble(Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, 2011).
As evidence and policy trends show distance schooling is rising at a worrisome rate, and
companies that are out to make profit dominate the industry, especially K12 Inc. Although
technological innovations offer enthralling possibilities, the continually negative indicators of
fully-fledged virtual institutions necessitate further research and change of policy. Against this
backdrop, consistent, rapid development of virtual institutions appears unwise. Instead, shifting
policies from supporting these institutions to limiting their activities and growth appears a wise
Given the impacts of virtual education, the rising trend of technologies, the increasing
number of students, and the significantly poor performance in the virtual learning system, this
policy briefing recommends that:
Lawmakers should stall the growth of online programs and the slow down the
development of fully-virtual institutions.
Because for-profit companies are behind the growth of virtual campuses, the government
and policymakers should set limits on the number of students who can enroll in online programs
and set strict regulations on the involvement of these companies especially when it comes to
The education systems ought to demarcate virtual institutions and delineate these
institutions from brick and mortar schools or other models of schools.
Policies that ensure that schools expose students to more contact with teachers and
forums that promote discussion. This will put students at a better position to understand the
premises of teachers while giving the teachers the ability to dissipate information fully.
Policies should also limit online education but promote interaction of students with the
community and colleagues. Some things that are essential in life are not studied in class but are
as a result of community interaction. Without such, assertiveness and speaking skills among
students will wane over time.
Past data shows that virtual schools do not report fully and thus lawmakers ought to
ensure that the schools provide full and accurate data regarding the students they enroll, those
that they serve, and the dropout rates.
Federal and state policymakers ought to indorse efforts to design novel performance
measures that are appropriate to the special characteristics of fully-fledged online schools.
On a positive annotation, IT and technologies continue growing as days and years go by,
and their impact on education will always be felt. However, IT cannot alleviate all problems
such as the issue of students being shy, and schools should appreciate this fact and develop ways
to circumvent them.
Finally, educational systems should ensure that do not eliminate traditional classrooms
even as educational innovations are rising. The perfect thing to do is to create a balanced class
gives both the students and the lecturers or teachers an opportunity to give and receive education.
An example of perfect integration is the development of alternatives to traditional teaching that
are embedded in pedagogical methods that will assist the training and education sector.
Technological advancements have become universal, and every sector including that of
education finds them useful. They have led to soaring numbers of virtual institutions.
Unfortunately, data shows that they are the result of increasing dropout rates, poor performance,
and other negative outcomes. Regardless of that, policies have been promoting their creation and
enrollment of students. The institutions have also been the subjects of heavy and questionable
funding, which are burdensome to American people. This is an opportune time to limit the
number that enrolls in online and virtual schools, limit the rising number of the schools, and set
environments that can promote technologies as well as positive features of a traditional
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