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Posts tagged ‘Learning’

Learning in the electronic way


Digital learning is advanced ways of making the students learn in an interactive way. Many schools are bringing in the latest methods of learning to make the students learn after their school hours. Technology has drastically changed in the recent years and also has developed mew methods in the education field. It is helping people learn in a new and interesting way which has probably changed the teaching methods in many schools.

The new interactive learning concepts have made people learn even with a small device. Digital learning is possible beyond the schools through the electronic learning concept. Many educators around the world are unaware about the latest technology. They help them to make kids learn very easily along with the practical knowledge. The organization’s community is very much keen to develop the digital learning method in the schools after their school hours to let the kids gain extra knowledge.

It helps one to create live models about various subjects to give a live demonstration about the subjects. Also the e-learning methods allow kids to educate themselves anywhere with just a mobile learning device. The youth staffs would know the technology very well and also can handle the e-learning technology well. Many of the organizations are unable to help their individuals to learn through the digital learning concept due to the lack of the infrastructure and staff facilities. But the e-learning concept is now being spread and is being incorporated in every institute to benefits the students. The digital and e-learning concepts support all the electronic form of teaching and learning techniques. The basic need is an electronic device connected to a network and anyone can start using the digital learning the service. The web based learning technology allows one to get details about any subject and also upload their piece of knowledge to let other people learn.

Apart from the advantages it also has many drawbacks. The technology is changing and hence the already running systems need to update their old technology. In many cases the devices go obsolete and cannot be configured with the new technology. Also when a new technology is introduced its cost may be very high which cannot be used by all the institutes. There are also security and privacy issues along with the outdated equipments. These are the reasons why the e-learning and the new learning concepts are not yet widely accepted by many of the organizations.

About emPower

emPower  is a leading provider of comprehensive Healthcare Compliance Solutions through Learning Management System (LMS). Its mission is to provide innovative security solutions to enable compliance with applicable laws and regulations and maximize business performance. empower provides range of courses to manage compliance required by regulatory bodies such as OSHA, HIPAA, Joint commission and Red Flag Rule etc. Apart from this emPower also offers custom demos and tutorials for your website, business process management and software implementation.

Its Learning Management system (LMS) allows students to retrieve all the courses 24/7/365 by accessing the portal. emPower e-learning training program is an interactive mode of learning that guides students to progress at their own pace.

For additional information, please visit http://www.empowerbpo.com.

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My Takeaways from the 2012 Digital Learning and Media Conference


On March 2 and 3, I attended the third annual Digital Media and Learning Conference in my home city of San Francisco. Though I missed the first day of the conference, I got so much out of days two and three, connecting with educators and thinkers and other folks who are passionate about how we can use technology in smart ways to improve education and expand elearning beyond the classroom.

I won’t summarize all the panels I went to and the conversations I had, but instead will talk about two panels in particular that I found especially inspiring and that highlighted a concept frequently at play throughout the conference: Learning partnerships do not have to begin in the classroom to affect what happens there, and learning partnerships will be integral to the future of education.

The first of these panels, DML: Case Study in Digital Media and Learning Partnerships: A Youth-Centered Design Framework in San Francisco, featured Jill Bourne, Deputy City Librarian for San Francisco; Elizabeth Babcock, Chief Education and Digital Strategy Officer at California Academy of Sciences; Ingrid Dahl, Director of Next Gen Programs at Bay Area Video Coalition; and Matthew Williams, Educational Technologist at KQED. These four individuals, and the institutions with which they are affiliated, have come together to contribute the room, the resources and the expertise required to train youth to create digital media. Bourne explained that San Francisco’s main library would be allotting some 5,000 square feet to develop a teen-friendly space for young people to learn all manner of media production under the guidance of instructors from Bay Area Video Coalition. Cal Academy is hoping some of what the students will produce will be interesting multi-media productions aimed at helping children and teens get excited about science. And by airing the content the teens create, KQED can help bring these productions to a broader audience.

Here’s what I love about this partnership: First, each group brings something to the collaboration, and they each get something from it as well. And second, the partnership fills a need. Most schools do not have the money to buy and maintain the kinds of equipment necessary to do high-quality video and audio production, and they also lack the staff with the expertise required to teach these skills to students. This collaboration among various parts of the community helps to fill a void in “traditional” education. Jill Bourne, the Deputy Librarian, told me that she has recently formed working relationships with three different public high schools in San Francisco. I’m excited to track the progress of this partnership and see what the teens produce and how the teachers work with the group to incorporate media projects into their curricula.

The second panel discussion that had me feeling all fired up was Short Talk Panel: Playful interventions: libraries, college access, after school and media arts, which focused on creating richer learning experiences through games. “Gamification” (“Is that seriously a word?” a friend asked, when I was telling her about the conference. “Yes it is,” I replied) was a popular theme at DML2012, and I’ll be honest when I say people might be a little too game-crazy right now, for my taste. Learning activities need more than just badges to be innovative. Still, I also subscribe to the Alfred Mercier notion that, “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” And I’ve been know to create games in my own classes when teaching elements of syntax and sentence style, and I’ve found those games to be quite effective in reinforcing the “nuts and bolts” of solid sentence structure. So I was down to hear what the folks on this panel had to say about the role of games in teaching and learning.

Adam Rogers, Emerging Technology Services Librarian at North Carolina State University, gave a lively and interesting presentation about how he and his colleagues redesigned freshman library orientation at NC State by using iPods with the Evernote app installed. Freshman Composition instructors singed up their classes for orientation, and the students in the classes were broken up into teams of four or five students each, with one iPod per team. The students were also given maps of the library and a list of scavenger hunt questions to answer and activities to complete. They logged their answers using Evernote, which allowed them to do things like capture pictures of themselves with a librarian and make note of information contained in certain volumes in the library. It was a fun, engaging way to introduce the students to the library, its staff, and even each other, as they worked together to complete the scavenger hunt. I told Adam that I thought his game had potential to be reworked throughout the year to help students become really good at research. Teachers in various disciplines could work with the librarians to craft a similar game that results in the students collecting preliminary research on a specific topic, further helping them internalize where various kinds of information are to be found in the library, and where to turn if they need help finding better information than what their own search yields.

What both of these panels highlighted for me is the idea brought up at one of the plenary sessions–that education is moving from a one-to-many model to a many-to-many model. That is to say, it really does take a village to raise our youth and educate them and give them the skills they’ll need to survive and succeed in this rapidly changing world. Districts can and should capitalize on the potential of this “many-to-many” model by evolving traditional professional development days into learning partnership days. Teachers often have very little time or space for networking with others–inside and outside of their schools–and yet building relationships with other educators and with those who could contribute to education beyond the school walls helps to make the educational experience for both faculty and students so much richer. I left DML2012 full of hope for the future of teaching and learning and fully ready to be part of that future. My hope is that schools will embrace this future by thinking outside the classroom to find innovative ways to help the village contribute resources and expertise to the educating of our youth.

This article was originally posted at http://verbalcupcake.net/2012/03/my-takeaways-from-the-2012-digital-learning-and-media-conference/

Faculty Initiative: Technology in the Classroom


Colleges and universities across the country are rising to the challenge of utilizing technology in the classroom and meeting the demands of students in the technology age. St. Norbert College is not far behind the pack with a new faculty initiative.

Last February, President Kunkel and the Office of Faculty Development led a forum called “eLearning in the Digital Age.” This forum was held to raise awareness of the growing trend in higher education to make use of digital technologies in the classroom.

Dean Jeffery Frick then appointed a panel of faculty members called the “Digital Learning Initiative” task group (DLI) to continue with the discussion.

Members of the task group include Paul Johnson, associate professor of philosophy, Reid Riggle, associate professor of education, Gratzia Villarroel, associate professor of political science, John Frohliger, associate professor of mathematics, Blake Hensen, assistant professor of music and Kristin Vogel, director of the library.

The group has released a DLI report on technology in higher education. The report includes the context of the discussion up until now: a history of digital learning, the group’s guiding principles, the group’s recommendations, and the group’s vision statement.

The vision statement of the DLI is: “St. Norbert College shall work to establish and foster a culture of collaborative entrepreneurship across the campus which incentivizes, supports and acknowledges the development and successful incorporation of digital learning skills and technologies into the educational Mission of the College.”

The task group is interested in the pedagogy, or the teaching techniques, implementing technology in classroom and what this can bring to education.

One of the guiding principles in the document is, “Change is imminent, and St. Norbert College must adapt.”

“Until now, the discussion was kept to faculty and staff at St. Norbert College,” said Johnson, “but now an important next step in the process is to involve the students to broaden the conversation.”

The committee plans on taking the next step of involving students through general surveys and forums which students along with the St. Norbert College community would be invited to attend.

“I would like to see student focus groups,” said Riggle. “I think a focus group would be more structured and the dialogue would contain specific questions or concerns.”

An example of one of the questions the DLI has is the use of social media in higher education. Social media does not always transfer to the classroom and the task group needs the students’ opinions and thoughts on why this is.

There are two ideas the DLI has presented to boost technology in the classroom. The first is to provide faculty with a small stipend to promote the use of technology. The second is to delegate one faculty member in each discipline to be the technology advisor.

“The committee has the idea of the full spectrum pedagogy,” said Johnson, “One end of the spectrum holds the traditional professors and the other end holds the entrepreneur professors with all the colors in between.”

The committee values both ends of the spectrum because both are extremely valuable to the Liberal Arts experience.

Something the task group is aware of is the push and pull of the spectrum. “If we lean far towards technology then what do we lose in the classroom?” said Johnson.

“It’s important to maintain balance,” said Riggle, “We don’t want to leap into technology, but what is the best course environment as we progress into the future?”

The school plans to place implementing technology into higher education high on the school’s Strategic Plan.

This article was originally posted at http://www.snctimes.com/news/faculty-initiative-technology-in-the-classroom-1.2808205#.T1Wmml21uT4

From Laggards to Leaders


Secretary Duncan joined FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a Digital Learning Day town hall at the Newseum in Washington. Feb. 1, 2012. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

The numbers tell the story.

Two million students, 18,000 teachers, 36 states plus the District of Columbia, 26 national organizations, 24 companies, and 16 state governors joined forces on-line last week to celebrate the first ever National Digital Learning Day.

Their message was clear: Digital technology powers elearning.

Technology in the classroom is not just about the latest tools; it’s an imperative for a country with a high dropout rate competing in a globalized world.

As smart use of digital technology expands, it could boost high school completion. More than 1 million of our students drop out every year — something that’s referred to as the “leaking pipeline:”

Across the country, 24 out of 100 9th graders are below “Basic” on NAEP reading scores and only 72 will graduate from high school. Forty-four of those students will enter college, but 16 will need remediation, and only 20 will finish with a college degree.

Digital technology makes it possible for teachers to differentiate more effectively by personalizing the learning to meet the needs of each student at every level. With the right use of technologies, we can shift our time from classroom management to focused learning on HOW to teach depth of content and concepts. This is especially critical for our newest teachers.

Mooresville Graded School District in N.C., understands the important role digital tech can play. The district made a huge push to integrate digital technologies, and raised its graduation rate by 25% and is now 3rd out of 115 school districts with one of the lowest per-pupil expenditures in the state.

But what I most appreciate about digital technology is what it does for the teaching profession.

Smart use of technology simply develops our skills as teachers.

“As a teacher, I’m no longer just a repository of information. My role as a teacher has shifted. With technology, students are engaged,” said 25-year teaching veteran Esther Wojcicki, who teaches journalism in Palo Alto, CA.

And for those who think technology is not feasible because our teaching force isn’t ready, we need to clarify.

America’s teachers know technology. The number of Americans who have grown up on touch phones, Google, Facebook, and Twitter is growing. At the same time, we know that technology has gotten easier and more compelling for everyone: We all use it for work, to research, and to socialize.

So it’s not the technology that we need to train teachers on; it’s the pedagogical shift that needs to happen to use that technology well.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama asked us to think about an America that leads the world in educating its people and digital technology can help do just that.

Secretary Duncan was right when he said, “Technology going forward is going to revolutionize how we provide education.” As a teacher, I can’t wait to be a part of that.

Learn more about ED’s National Education Technology Plan and the Digital Textbook Playbook.

Claire Jellinek is a 9th-12th grade social studies teacher at South Valley Academy in Albuquerque, NM and a 2011-2012 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

This article was originally posted at http://www.ed.gov/blog/2012/02/from-laggards-to-leaders/

Top Education Next Articles of 2011!


Which Ed Next articles were most popular in 2011? What follows is a countdown of our top 20 articles, measured by page views.

Several of the articles take readers inside classrooms to see how some much-vaunted policies and innovations (e.g. differentiated instructionblended learning) are working in practice. Several other top articles look at howthe performance of U.S. students compares to that of students in other countries. Quite a few relate to teachereffectiveness and compensation. Only two of the top twenty articles focus on technology and learning.

Which Ed Next authors penned the most articles in our top 20 list? Eric Hanushek leads the pack with 4, followed closely by Ludger Woessman with 3 articles. Paul Peterson, Mike PetrilliJune Kronholz, and Michael Podgursky all wrote 2 articles in the top 20.

While most of the articles on our list were published in 2011, some are oldies that generated new interest this year (including two articles from our archives about teacher pensions and other benefits).

Here are the top 20 articles for 2011:

20. “Gender Gap: Are boys being shortchanged in K-12 schooling?”
by Richard Whitmire and Susan McGee Bailey
In this forum, two experts consider whether, after years of concern that girls were being shortchanged in male-dominated schools, boys are now the ones in peril.

19. “Merit Pay International: Countries with performance pay for teachers score higher on PISA tests,”
by Ludger Woessman
This study finds that student achievement is significantly higher in countries that make use of teacher performance pay than in countries that do not use it.

18. “The Turnaround Fallacy: Stop trying to fix failing schools. Close them and start fresh,”
by Andy Smarick
This article reviews the evidence on school turnaround efforts and concludes that they are not the solution for the nation’s failing schools.

17. “Academic Value of Non-Academics: The case for keeping extracurriculars,”
by June Kronholz
This article looks at links between student involvement in afterschool activities and academic achievement.

16. “An Effective Teacher in Every Classroom: A lofty goal, but how to do it?
by Kati Haycock and Eric Hanushek
In this forum, two experts debate the best ways to identify effective teachers and to increase the number of effective teachers in high-poverty schools and communities.

15. “Teacher Retirement Benefits: Even in economically tough times, costs are higher than ever,”
by Robert Costrell and Michael Podgursky
This study documents the growing gap between high employer pension costs for public school teachers and lower employer pension costs for private sector managers and professionals.

14. “Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete? The latest on each state’s international standing,”
by Paul Peterson, Ludger Woessman, Eric Hanushek, and Carlos Xabel Lastra-Anadon
This study found that U.S. students rank 32nd among industrialized nations in proficiency in math and 17th in reading.

13. “Fringe Benefits: There is more to teacher compensation than a teacher’s salary,”
by Michael Podgursky
This article examines the ways in which simple comparisons between teacher salaries and salaries of other kinds of workers can be misleading.

12. “Challenging the Gifted: Nuclear chemistry and Sartre draw the best and brightest to Reno,”
by June Kronholz
This feature story takes readers inside the Davidson Academy, a public school in Nevada for highly-gifted students.

11. “Sage on the Stage: Is lecturing really all that bad?”
by Guido Schwerdt and Amelie Wupperman
This study finds that students score higher on standardized tests in math and science when their teachers spend more class time on lecture-style presentations and less time on group problem-solving activities.

10. “When the Best is Mediocre: Developed countries far outperform our most affluent suburbs,”
by Jay Greene and Josh McGee
The first-ever comparison of math performance in virtually every school district in the United States finds that even the most elite suburban school districts produce results that are mediocre when compared to those of international peers.

9. “The Flipped Classroom: Online instruction at home frees class time for learning,”
by Bill Tucker
This article traces the development of “flipped instruction,” in which students view video-taped lessons or access online material at home and then use class time to work through problems and engage in collaborative learning with their teachers.

8. “Valuing Teachers: How much is a good teacher worth?”
by Eric Hanushek
This analysis considers the economic impact of replacing ineffective teachers with effective ones, and estimates the gains to U.S. gross domestic product that would result from boosting academic performance.

7. “Time for School? When the snow falls, test scores also drop,”
by Dave Marcotte and Benjamin Hansen
This article examines the evidence that expanding instructional time is as effective as other commonly discussed educational interventions intended to boost learning

6. “Creating a Corps of Change Agents: What explains the success of Teach for America?”
by Monica Higgins, Wendy Robison, Jennie Weiner, and Frederick Hess
This study examined the work histories of people leading entrepreneurial organizations in education and found that Teach for America alumni were heavily overrepresented.

5. “Teaching Math to the Talented: Which countries—and states—are producing high-achieving students?
by Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessman
This study compares the percentage of U.S. students with advanced skills in math to percentages of similarly high achievers in other countries, and finds that 30 of the 56 other countries participating in PISA have more students scoring at an advanced level.

4. “All Together Now: Educating high and low achievers in the same classroom,”
by Mike Petrilli
This feature shows how one school is making differentiated instruction work–challenging every child while avoiding segregating classrooms.

3. “All A-Twitter about Education: Improving our schools in 140 characters or less,”
by Mike Petrilli
This article looked at the role Twitter was playing in education policy debates and ranked the top 25 education policy/media tweeters and the top 25 educator tweeters based on their Klout scores.

2. “Future Schools: Blending face-to-face and online learning,”
by Jonathan Schorr and Deborah McGriff
This feature, an early article on blended learning, profiled several charter schools using the hybrid approach.

1. “Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: Can classroom observations identify practices that raise achievement?
by Tom Kane, Amy Wooten, John Tyler, and Eric Taylor
This study of Cincinnati’s teacher evaluation system finds that the teachers who receive high ratings from trained evaluators who observe them are also more effective at promoting gains in student test scores.

Congratulations to all of our authors, and stay tuned — next Friday we’ll post the top 20 blog entries from 2011.

-Education Next

Ways To Make Money From Your Job Through Learning


Evert business has to struggle hard to extract the best performance out of employees. While some companies use the mix of various managerial tools, there are others who believe in the process of earning from learning. As a matter of fact, learning is one of the simplest ways to improve the performance of human resource of an organization. For those organizations, which seek to find cost effective ways of imparting learning process, e-Learning is the best tool at hand.

However, learning is sometimes frustrating and uninteresting. But when learning is inherent in a job, the task of the management becomes easier. There are various things that one must incorporate in order to accelerate the process of learning. Firstly, if employees know that have to learn, things will get pretty difficult for the management because employees have a tendency to repel new changes. As such, learning should be inherent in the business, so that the employees know that they are gaining something out of the process.

E-learning is straightforward and uncomplicated. Organizations that have incorporated e-learning in daily routine have witnessed improved performance overall at all levels. Management might have several issues with a new system, just like the employees, but the top management needs to find the return on investment. Needless to mention, just like employees, management, too has to involve a lot of efforts and time, which often can be of real worry.

There are many companies in the world, which have been hugely benefitted from the earning from learning process. On the onset, it can be said that the process works largely for employees. However, there are many companies, which use the technique for improving their output. It is like a source of motivation for the employees, unlike monetary motivation, that seeks to bring the best from them without giving extra pressure on the job.

Earning is the prime concern for both employees and the organization, but doing the same job constantly for years reduces the pleasure of doing it. When the effectiveness of the mind improves, there is an increased desire to do things better and faster, which in turn can be of immense benefit to the business itself. Instead of hiring new staff and training them for new jobs, improving the abilities of present staff is a much better concept because the management can control them better. Learning and earning are essential components of every business that wishes to grow and develop on a constant basis.

About emPower

emPower  is a leading provider of comprehensive Healthcare Compliance Solutions through Learning Management System (LMS). Its mission is to provide innovative security solutions to enable compliance with applicable laws and regulations and maximize business performance. empower provides range of courses to manage compliance required by regulatory bodies such as OSHA, HIPAA, Joint commission and Red Flag Rule etc. Apart from this emPower also offers custom demos and tutorials for your website, business process management and software implementation.

Its Learning Management system (LMS) allows students to retrieve all the courses 24/7/365 by accessing the portal. emPower e-learning training program is an interactive mode of learning that guides students to progress at their own pace.

For additional information, please visit http://www.empowerbpo.com.

Virtual Ed. Advocates Respond to Wave of Criticism


It’s been a rough year for the public image of K-12 virtual education.

Studies in Colorado and Minnesota have suggested that full-time online students in those states were struggling to match the achievement levels of their peers in brick-and-mortar schools. Articles in The New York Times have questioned not only the academic results for students in virtual schools, but also the propriety of business practices surrounding the use of public dollars for such programs.

Meanwhile, two left-leaning magazines, The Nation and Mother Jones, contended this month that education policy reforms pushed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the name of digital opportunities for students have the ulterior motive of funneling money to big technology companies. And the move into education by the right-leaning media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, with his News Corp. conglomerate’s purchase of the educational technology company Wireless Generation, has drawn protests from some teacher advocates at public appearances by Mr. Murdoch.

Against this backdrop, educators who gathered at the Virtual School Symposium held early this month in Indianapolis appeared eager to strike a balance between working to address what they see as valid criticisms of their field and rebutting others they see as misconceptions. They also seemed largely to agree the burden is on them to tell their own story and prove their effectiveness.

“A lot of the publicity has been negative,” conceded Andy Scantland, the vice president of sales and marketing for Advanced Academics Inc., an Oklahoma City-based provider of public and private online learning programs. The company is a sponsor of the annual “Keeping Pace” virtual learning report, which was released by the Evergreen Education Group, a Durango, Colo.-based research and consulting firm, just before the symposium.

“It’s really critical that we don’t allow others to tell the story for us,” Mr. Scantland added. “Accountability and measurability is good for all of us.”

He and others associated with this year’s “Keeping Pace” survey of the virtual learning landscape insisted that its most important element may be its 10-page section on “emerging quality and accountability issues,” as the report terms it.

Addressing Criticisms

Susan Patrick, the president and chief executive officer of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, the Vienna, Va.-based group that hosted the forum, said she sees a combination of factors contributing to recent criticisms of full-time virtual schools, with some issues having more merit than others.

For example, Ms. Patrick said the studies that raise questions about the achievement of fully online students may suffer in part because of the methods of measuring such achievement. Virtual school programs designed to help facilitate learning at a nonconventional pace and on a nonconventional schedule may struggle when molded to the confines of seat-time requirements virtual school advocates would like to see abandoned. But she accepted that getting some districts to view virtual education as a method that still needs quality instructors is a problem.

Ms. Patrick also acknowledges that some advocates of virtual schooling have politicized it, even at the symposium.

State Rep. Brian Bosma, the Indiana House speaker and a Republican from Marion County, in his remarks at the Nov. 9-11 gathering, painted support for virtual schools as a conservative issue aligned with debates over school choice. Ms. Patrick said the education reforms sought by former Gov. Bush and his Tallahassee, Fla.-based Foundation for Excellence in Education could be viewed as politically motivated, including ideas advanced through the Digital Learning Now initiative led by Mr. Bush, a Republican, and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, a Democrat.

“People are people, and start to paint it one way or another, and that’s unfortunate,” said Ms. Patrick, who added that such Democrats as U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state and U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey have been vocal supporters of online learning.

“We had 1,900 people [at the Virtual School Symposium], and 47 percent of them were first-timers there from districts wanting to launch programs,” she said in a telephone interview after the event. “That’s not political at all.”

Ms. Patrick says she’s unsure whether it’s possible to depoliticize virtual schooling, but says her bigger concern is the impression that it’s an effective method to cut manpower from a district’s teaching force. And she concedes some districts aren’t doing much to combat that impression.

“Teachers and people are the heart of online learning programs, and we need to, as a community, let the teacher voice be heard,” Ms. Patrick said.

“There are some valid criticisms, too, especially with districts facing budget crunches,” she said. “We want them to make a decision about good-quality programs. Sometimes they’re doing that, and sometimes they’re not.”

Examining Blended Learning

Some practices caught in the dispute may actually align more with blended learning, which retains in-person instructors but reshapes the teacher’s job description with technology integration.

For example, a report from the University of Colorado at Boulder that suggests K-12 virtual education is growing at a rate that is unsafe, considering the lack of knowledge about its effectiveness, also makes clear that the breadth of research on the benefits of blended learning is far greater.

Some businesses and philanthropies—such as the Microsoft Corp. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, built upon the fortune of the company’s co-founder—that are taking heat from critics of online education are actually looking to channel dollars to blended-learning projects. The third wave of competitive grants—worth up to $12 million in total—in the Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges program will be awarded to applicants that design new blended-learning models, in part because of a belief that they are more reliable than purely online models for students who are at risk academically. (The Gates Foundation also provides grant support to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of Education Week.)

Microsoft, meanwhile, announced this fall a new service to offer discounted hardware and software to teachers, as well as its participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s “Connect to Compete” broadband infrastructure project that would theoretically provide more blended-learning opportunities to students of diverse backgrounds.

“The hypothesis is that population needs the brick-and-mortar setting and all-around wraparound support that comes with that setting to succeed,” said Elina Alayeva, a program officer for the Next Generation Learning Challenges with Educause, the Boulder, Colo.-based postsecondary-technology advocacy group that is managing the competition.

Meanwhile, even as critics of online learning have called for proof that fully virtual schools can be effective enough to justify public investment, they have shown awareness that quality in such programs can vary greatly.

For instance, at a Virtual School Symposium presentation from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, audience members disputed the notion that a student who failed a course should have to demonstrate a set amount of time needed to retake the course online instead of just demonstrating competency in the subject. But NCAA officials reasoned that their experience with athletes who may attach themselves to digital “diploma mills” is far different from the experience of other cyber educators.

“Some athletes are short of qualifying and need quick fixes,” Nick Sproull, the NCAA’s assistant director of high school review, said to his audience. “Our majority might be your minority, which is a difficult reality.”

‘Hollow Experience’?

That’s not to say all who know the breadth of online options available are convinced that any such offering can be equivalent to a live classroom.

Gene V. Glass, a senior researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s National Education Policy Center and a co-author of its recent report calling for more state regulation for online learning, said he staunchly opposes the use of public funding for any virtual programs.

“This is a hollow experience for kids, and for many of the kids it’s hardly an experience at all,” Mr. Glass said in an interview. “I haven’t seen a good experience in this whole area. I haven’t seen anything but greedy companies paying off politicians.”

But the report’s other co-author, Kevin G. Welner, a professor of education at the university and the director of the education policy center, said the evidence on the effectiveness of fully online virtual schools shows only that more evidence is needed.

“It’s not that there aren’t good things to be had or good things going on,” Mr. Welner said. “It’s publicly funded education, but without the usual safeguards that we attach to public education.”

This article was originally posted at http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/11/23/13virtual.h31.html?tkn=XQRFUWyRyB1Bl6F%2FcK8UvsJlEuCCP3UySE32&cmp=clp-edweek

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