Policy Brief _Virtual Education
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Policy Brief _Virtual Education

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Virtual education is gaining popularity over the recent past, and it is supported by policies. But is it doing so at the cost of the students and the taxpayers?

Virtual education is gaining popularity over the recent past, and it is supported by policies. But is it doing so at the cost of the students and the taxpayers?

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  • 1. Running Head: POLICY BRIEF1 Virtual Education Policy Brief Name: Institution:
  • 2. POLICY BRIEF2 Contents Executive Summary......................................................................................................................................3 1. Introduction...........................................................................................................................................4 2. Policies on Virtual Education ...............................................................................................................5 3. Increasing Online Programs vs. Declining Performance ......................................................................7 3.1. Poor performance – increasing enrollment ...................................................................................8 3.2. Expansion Drivers.........................................................................................................................9 3.3. Heavy burden to taxpayers............................................................................................................9 4. Discussion...........................................................................................................................................10 4.1. Recommendations.......................................................................................................................11 5. Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................................12 References...................................................................................................................................................14
  • 3. POLICY BRIEF3 Executive Summary 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.
  • 4. POLICY BRIEF4 1. Introduction 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
  • 5. POLICY BRIEF5 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
  • 6. POLICY BRIEF6 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 (Glass, 2009). 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
  • 7. POLICY BRIEF7 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).
  • 8. POLICY BRIEF8 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).
  • 9. POLICY BRIEF9 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
  • 10. POLICY BRIEF10 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, 2008). 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). 4. Discussion 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
  • 11. POLICY BRIEF11 policies from supporting these institutions to limiting their activities and growth appears a wise move. 4.1. Recommendations 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 marketing. 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.
  • 12. POLICY BRIEF12 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. 5. Conclusion 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
  • 13. POLICY BRIEF13 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 classroom.
  • 14. POLICY BRIEF14 References Alex, M. (2013).Virtual Schools in the US.National Education Policy Paper, (May), 81. Alexandria, VA: Appalachian Technology in EducationConsortium. Barbour, M. K., & Reeves, T. C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers and Education, 52, 402–416. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2008.09.009 Carter, C. (2001). The Internet and Education : Findings of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Access, 20036, 1–10. Cavalluzzo, L., & Higgins, M. (2001). Policy and planning series #102: Who should fund virtual schools? Cavanaugh, C., Gillan, K. J., Hess, M., &Kromrey, J. (2012).The Effects of Distance Education on K-12 Student Outcomes.North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (pp. 1–32). Florida. Clark, T. (2001). Virtual schools: Trends and issues –A study of virtual schools in the United States. San Francisco, CA: Western Regional Educational Laboratories. Darrow, R. (2008). Review of literature: Cost items for implementing and maintaining a K-12 online school. Unpublished manuscript, California State University-Fresno, Fresno, CA. Ghaoui, C. (2005). Knowledge-Based Virtual Education: User-Centred Paradigms. Springer. Glass, G. V. (2009). The Realities of K-12 Virtual Education.Educational Policy Research Unit, (April). Halverson, R., & Smith, A. (2009).How new technologies have (and have not) changed teaching and learning in schools.Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 26, 207–232.
  • 15. POLICY BRIEF15 NACOL.(2006). Virtual Schools and 21 st Century Skills (p. 11). Washington DC. Rada, R. (2001). Understanding Virtual Universities.Intellect Books. Secker, J. (2004). Electronic Resources in the Virtual Learning Environment: A Guide for Librarians. Elsevier. Smith, R. D. (2009). Investigating the Disruptive Effect of Computer Game Technologies on Medical Education and Training.ProQuest. Su, S. (2011).Property Ownership and Private Higher Education in China: On What Grounds?Lexington Books. Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2011).Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice (2011).Evergreen Education Group (p. 170).