This is Edgenuity, a word and a program I’d never heard of before I started at this school, and one I hope I’ll never hear of again. I never thought the curriculum was anything special. They essentially took a textbook (in the case of English, at least) and dumped it on-line. They had actors (I think) read lectures, had some practice questions, and had (mostly) multiple choice assessments.

What happened? Well, we got better at adjusting the amount of on-line work we expected from students, linking on-line learning with classroom learning, and developing our own assessments. Students did work at their own pace, so some finished classes before the end of the year, and others completed them after they returned from the summer. Some students made great progress.

Here’s what else happened – Our laptop situation became a mess. The inventory was difficult to manage, especially when we let the computers go home. This included maintaining enough chargers. And students cheated – using each other and on-line resources. And, most importantly, there is every indication, by whatever measure you want to discuss, that they didn’t really learn much. And they certainly hated the program.

Part of the issue is the program itself. Though I’m no on-line curriculum expert, I think it was an early entry into the field. The company leapt at a niche and consistently sent us non-educators to check on how the program was working. Part of the issue was and is the expense. We have to make a transition this year to another on-line program, and it’s going to be a challenge to negotiate.  Part of the issue was the abrupt transition, not only in terms of having students work on-line when they entered high school, but also the expectation that went along with it – independent or personalized learning.

During the last few years, I’ve tried exploring other on-line programs, like Coursera. I’ve even signed up for a few courses. Signed up and not finished. Maybe I’m too to learn this way. I will say that, given some technical assistance, I think I could design a useful on-line course. I’d like to try. We visited one school in New York that really seemed to have things figured out. I wish I could remember the name. They were really able to personalize instruction for their students and keep track of it. Interestingly, they had had their own tracking program designed and they deliberately sought out people not in the education field.

And I haven’t even gotten to this question –

Can online courses replace campus education?

and its financial implications.