Saturday, May 28, 2011

Crowdsourcing Education

This is a guest blog post by Lindsey Wright.

Crowdsourcing Education

Technology and the popularity of online classes are radically transforming the educational process on both national and international scales. Society sees an increased failure of traditional schools in meeting goals to fully educate student populations to produce future generations of innovative, intellectual community leaders and workers. It is time to look at online learning and other alternative choices in education as possible solutions to complex obstacles and challenges of traditional learning routes.

Home Schooling Expands

As elementary and secondary schools continue to lag behind academically, home schooling movements continue to expand. The National Household Education Survey Program found a 36 percent increase in home-schooled populations for reasons other than health from 2003 to 2007 and a 74 percent increase from 1999 to 2007. Parents cite a lack of moral education and safety fears as primary reasons to abandon the traditional school model. However, if parents enrolled their children in an online school these problems could be eliminated. For instance, overworked, tired parents would not have the additional responsibility of planning lessons and students would be held accountable for their learning. Students would also have fewer distractions to concentrate on their studies, thus eliminating discipline problems.

Who's Watching the Kids?

Additionally, in 2002, only 7 percent of U.S. families survived on one spouse’s income, according to the Population Reference Bureau. As such, parents are spending a more substantial amount of time at work, leaving little time for parental school involvement. Overwhelmed teachers routinely contact parents primarily for discipline problems and not for building academic progress. As the primary years lay the foundation for future academic success, the educational and business community must look for new ways to transform education methods to ensure students will have the keys to higher learning opportunities and a lifetime of success. With the wealth of information found on the Internet, online classes could utilize educational Web sites and software that engage students in ways beyond the traditional classroom.

High School Dropouts Increasing

According to Valiance for Excellent Education , 1.2 million students annually fail to graduate from school. Yet due to the rapid growth of knowledge, businesses and industry are demanding innovative workers equipped with advanced skills in communication, mathematics and technology. Students who fail to gain these skills are less likely to earn decent salaries, forcing the government to spend more on poverty fighting programs such as Medicaid. Online classes would aid in dropout prevention by providing students with individualized instruction, allowing them to focus on gaining the practical, innovative working skills they need.

Teacher Attainment Issues

A study by the National Education Association found that 50 percent of new teachers quit teaching within a five year period, due to low salaries, heavy pressures of administrators and poor working conditions. Though teaching can be a fulfilling career, new teachers often lack the support of veteran co-workers and supervisors, leaving the new teacher lost in a maze of bureaucracy and hopelessness. This task can become overwhelming for teachers lacking support from parents, administration and the community at large. By streamlining the curriculum through online classes, teachers would be freed to devote more time to the art of teaching and have more time to spend learning from peers and gaining the support they need, eliminating the decline in teacher attrition rates.

The New Economy

The global economy is radically different from what it was even fifty years ago, when America was a leading global power of industry and commerce. Today, international consumer and industry markets are the norm, as seen with technological leaders of Google and Microsoft, whose headquarters are not located in the United States, but in Ireland. American industries, forced by heavy government regulations, are relocating facilities to countries with friendlier business climates, such as India. A young person without a solid education will have severe difficulties in this new highly competitive job market. However the use of Web chats, videos and other learning projects will transition students into this global economy, and provide engaging activities to keep students interested. For example, instead of learning foreign languages through the traditional methods of worksheets and repetitive instruction, students could learn through interactive distance learning, eventually conversing with foreign students.

Popularity of Online classes

Colleges are already embracing online classes, with the use of popular programs such as Blackboard. Flexibility, availability of classes anywhere in the country and streamlined instruction are benefits of this new technology. Instead of being lazily spoon-fed direction instruction by teachers and faculty members, students can take control of their education through individualized instruction with unlimited access to the Internet from the convenience of their own home. This also allows students to save time money, and gas while pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Online Classes - The Solution?

The future of education depends on the radical transformation of attitudes and traditional methods associated with it. These are if not changed, it is likely that the education in the U.S. will be doomed to miserable failure. With online and distance learning taking a strong hold in the education community, expansion of these services could decrease dropout rates, eliminate disciplinary problems and reduce new teacher attrition and instability. Likewise, schools would no longer have funding problems, as much could be saved by the elimination of transportation and utility costs. Parents would also be more aware of their child's academic progress and would have the added peace of mind of knowing that their child was in a safe environment. School uniforms and other required classroom supplies would also be eliminated from the family budget.

In order for the United States to again become recognized as a global leader, we must look to online classes and distance learning as viable options to solving the issues that plague our education system. The traditional learning model is no longer functional in achieving educational goals for this country. Technology is making this revolution possible, if we believe in its potential. We cannot continue to use traditions and methods of the past if we are to educate the students of tomorrow.