To some, online classes are a valuable tool and resource. To others, they are too complex and convoluted. Personnel from the Idaho State Board of Education heard from both points of view at a public hearing in Twin Falls on a new state proposal that requires such classes, writes Ben Botkin at magicvalley.com.
The proposal calls for requiring two online courses of high school students who start their freshman year in 2012. Students have an option of one of two types of courses: one entirely online, and one that combines online learning with other classroom instruction.
Trent Siler, a teacher at Filer High School, said that, a couple of years ago, his school attempted an online scheme by putting some of their well-performing student on a pre-calculus course. However it failed to yield great results.
Students were unable to understand the material and had difficulties contacting the teacher, who took weeks to respond, Siler said, adding that most of the students failed.
Wiley Dobbs, superintendent of Twin Falls School District, said that with successful pass rates of 93 percent and 94 percent for the last two semesters, student interest in online courses has been high.
Last year, 555 students in the district took online courses.
But, noting that there are still extra costs from classroom facilitators and technology, he cautioned that online education shouldn't be viewed as a tool for saving money.
Byron Stutzman, superintendent of Buhl School District, said it's important to teach students the way they learn best, whether it's online or otherwise, writes Botkin.
"I'm a digital Neanderthal," Stutzman jokingly said. "My daughter is a digital native."
A board subcommittee will meet again and could revise the rule before making its recommendation. The full board could also change the rule, but must pass one by Sept. 1, writes Botkin.
That rule will then go to the Legislature in 2012. If lawmakers reject it, the state board will have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a different proposal.