In a world that is becoming increasingly dependent on technology and the Internet, it should not come as a surprise when parts of our lives that we take for granted become more computer based. When I was in elementary and middle school, I used computers only for very basic things, such as games and word processing, and I hardly used our dial-up Internet access. Today, there are high school and college programs taken entirely online, a concept I never could have imagined.
According to a recent Education News article, in the year 2000 only about forty-five thousand K–12 students took online courses. But in 2010 participation rose to close to four million, showing just how rapidly this teaching technique is growing. Even in standard classrooms, teachers and administrators are moving toward an online approach to learning. The Los Altos School District in California has begun using a technique called blended-learning that incorporates online lessons into standard classroom teaching: fifth through seventh grade math classes in Los Altos combine online courses with traditional classroom learning. The blended-learning style still involves teachers in the learning process, but these online programs are able to target differences in students’ learning styles to help the individual needs of students and to reward their improvements.
Online classes and schools are certainly causing a major change in public education as we know it and will continue to do so. I am part of a generation that has grown up with in-school classroom learning, and while it is hard to imagine from a traditional college perspective, the shift toward more Internet usage in learning is already taking place. It will be difficult to ever turn completely away from classroom learning, but it will be interesting to see the developments in these methods as they continue to gain popularity.