A recent New York Times article about the quality of online learning highlighted the debate about the possibilities of online learning vs. the importance of face time with a teacher. Proponents of online learning say that online courses allow schools to offer courses, including makeup, elective and advanced placement classes, when schools are not able to offer such classes. Opponents say that online learning is motivated by the desire to spend less on teachers and buildings. They also point out that there is no sound research showing that online courses at the K-12 level are comparable to learning face-to-face with a teacher.
AVI CHAI believes that online learning needs to be watched closely and that we should consider the pros and cons of different approaches (see Leah Meir’s blog on blended learning) and be open to experimentation.
Jewish day schools must adapt to changing technological opportunities in education in order to attract students, minimize costs and provide a first-rate education. There are different models for how online learning could be offered in day schools:
1- Day school students could enroll in virtual charter schools and have parts of their general studies education funded by the government, while their Judaic studies would be offered more traditionally.
2- Day schools could offer online courses when it is difficult to find a teacher, or for niche courses for a few students. This might help retain students who might otherwise go to public schools.
AVI CHAI has begun to invest in a number of exciting opportunities in the area of online learning, including the creation of a website, developed by The Jewish Education Project and JESNA which will serve as a portal for Jewish day schools to access information and research about the world of online education. AVI CHAI is also funding the development of two courses designed by Tel Aviv University for middle school students in North American day schools which should be up and running for Fall 2011 and a planning grant to allow a new model of a community day school in New Jersey which will incorporate online learning and cost $5,000 a year in tuition.
Please check the blog to read about the various new opportunities in this arena and let us know what you think about them.