Monday, September 28, 2009

Evaluating Online Ed Programs

One hot topic during the annual meeting of the National Association for Colleges Admissions Counseling in Baltimore on Friday centered on the challenges admissions officers at traditional colleges now face in assessing the quality of online learning programs in high schools. Brian Lekander, one of the speakers and representing the U.S. Department of Education, noted that 32 states now have "virtual" school programs and 70 percent of schools districts nationwide provide both online and distance learning.

This means that an increasing number of elementary and high school students now have experience with online learning. Jan Keating, head of an online high school for gifted students at Stanford University, for example, noted 50,000 students from 35 countries have enrolled in its computer-based distance-learning courses.

How will admissions officers at colleges evaluate these experiences? By posing questions about the individual programs, much as they have done in the past for transfer students. For example, "Is the program accredited?" "What are the backgrounds of the instructors?" "How do instructors measure outcomes?"

The challenge is not an easy one. But as Brian Lekander said, these online learning programs are "going to drastically change over time what classroom education looks like."

For more info about the session at NACAC see, , or to read about some of the programs in the distance-education initiative at the U.D. Dept. of Ed's Office of Innovation and Improvement see, .