The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
High Schools Joining Higher Ed in Online Revolution

Thus far universities have taken the greatest strides in the online education movement, but high schools are beginning to get in the act as well. The Wall Street Journal reports that many of the nation’s elite private schools are making use of an online venture called Global Online Academy. Under this program, participating schools offer online courses that connect students with peers around the world in an virtual classroom setting that maintains the small class size and interpersonal relationships that they’re used to:

Students log on to the venture’s site to view course materials, post responses to teacher questions and take tests, working within deadlines but at their own pace. Teachers hold “office hours,” when students can speak with them via web chat, and many projects are designed to encourage students to collaborate with each other. But teachers almost never interact with all the students at once. . . .

“I was skeptical of removing human interaction from learning,” said Emily McCarren, a Spanish teacher at Punahou School in Hawaii. “Would kids understand my jokes? Would they know that I cared about them?”

What she found, she said, “is that human interaction is not at all removed from the equation—it’s just mediated differently.”

The venture is still new, but it’s already making inroads at top private schools like DC’s Sidwell Friends School, which boasts Chelsea Clinton as an alumna and Sasha and Malia Obama as current students.

It’s interesting that even as elite schools for upper class kids embrace the potential of new technologies, teacher unions are fighting tooth and nail to keep public school kids from having the same kind of access.

Published on September 26, 2012 7:00 pm