Friday, January 13, 2012

Sustainable Education

Online Classrooms: The Future of Sustainable Education for All

Author: Ryan Rollins
Online classrooms may be the future of sustainable education for all. Faced with high drop-out rates, annual state testing, crumbling buildings, and competition, many schools are making the decision to offer online classrooms.
What is a sustainable education?

Sustainability has been defined by the United Nations as something that can "meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs" (WECD, 1987). Essentially, a sustainable education is one that thoroughly educates students today without hindering the learning of future students. Online classrooms are sustainable because they are affordable and adaptable.
What is an online classroom?

Online classrooms take many forms. At one end of the spectrum is the fully online course. In this type of course, all teacher-student and student-student contact takes places within cyberspace. Instant message chats and postings are made in lieu of face-to-face discussions. All of the traditional learning experiences of a physical classroom exist; the only difference is that the teacher and students do not share the same physical space. Many schools choose to utilize this option for at-risk students. Sadly, a working student or young parent may be forced by money issues and time constraints to drop out of school. Online classes offer the opportunity for these students to remain enrolled.
Why would traditional classroom teachers opt for online classrooms?

All teachers know that, despite their best efforts, not every student has a chance to contribute to a verbal discussion. A student may be shy, absent, or simply not get the opportunity. How can participation be monitored and encouraged, given these obstacles? Online classrooms offer forums wherein students can interact freely. Teachers can easily monitor and track student participation without putting individual students on the spot.

Another additional notable benefit of an online classroom is the accessibility of course content. Both students and parents can, from home, access handouts, notes, and more.
How can a school utilize the online classroom experience for its students?

The wide range in types of online classrooms can be confusing to many teachers and administrators. Obviously, no one wants to sign up for something only to learn that the online system does not meet the school's needs. It is strongly recommended that any school looking into an online education venture work with a consulting company. Consulting companies are knowledgeable regarding the online market, software, and course content. Likewise, a consulting company will understand the needs of individual schools and types of students.
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