I’ve been surprised that there isn’t more news about Utah’s new online education program . . . in Utah. Nationwide, education experts are watching closely to see how students, teachers and school districts respond to the new opportunity to earn up to two credits online each year — with state funding.
Paul Peterson, an education professor at Harvard and director of its Program on Education Policy and Governance, recently wrote about the Utah program in Education Next. He focuses on the benefits, and also potential risks, of state school districts competing for online education dollars:
“If digital learning is to advance beyond the pilot stage, it needs to work within the current system of public education, not against it. Public school districts have a legitimacy unrivaled by any other institution in American education. Whether digital learning is blended into the classroom or offered online, or both, districts have to be part of the action.
The solution is to put districts into competition with one another within an overall framework that maintains course quality. If that is done, then it will only take two or three entrepreneurial districts to convince the remainder that they need to adjust if they are to keep their students from slipping away, one by one, course by course.”
But he also notes that” there could be a race to the bottom, as each district looks for the cheapest provider. If tests are easy, some students might be tempted to take a course no matter how poorly it is constructed. Clearly, some kind of industry or state vetting of courses is needed if online learning is not to become the latest fad to go wrong.”
Peterson promises to report back on how the Utah program is working. I’ll post what he has to say on this blog. For now, here’s the link.