K-12 Tech Trends :: January 10, 2007


What's Full-Time for K-12 Online Teaching?--a Dilemma

After reading Keeping pace with K-12 online learning: A review of state level policy and practice (Watson & Ryan, 2006), I became concerned that policy makers need to take a closer look at the K-12 online teaching scenario itself. Based on Lawrence Tomei's (2006) post-secondary finding that "14 percent more hours were required to teach the same number of students online at a distance than in the traditional classroom" (p. 539), there is reason to suspect that per virtual course or virtual classroom, the time commitment for K-12 online teaching is also greater than teaching face to face. Yet states have not fully determined what constitutes full time for that environment, most likely because sufficient research is lacking for comparison. At the present time, most states are employing online teachers on a part-time basis, with Florida Virtual School (FLVS) being the exception. I'd like to elaborate on some of the realities, based on my experiences with traditional and online teaching.

Class size and course load matter and ultimately will affect the quality of instruction provided. At the post-secondary level, Tomei (2006) concluded that the "The ideal traditional class size was 17 students while the ideal online class size was 12 students" (p. 540). An average teacher assignment in a traditional secondary setting might be five to six classes with about 25 to 30 students in each class, depending on school district. The ratio is even higher in some K-12 online environments, although some states are setting limits on teacher-student ratios. For example, Minnesota's maximum is 40 students in any one online learning course or program, unless waived by the commissioner. In Alabama, class size is to be the same as for courses not taught online (Watson & Ryan, 2006). At FLVS, full-time instructors generally teach five courses; adjuncts teach one course; and each course has about 35 to 40 students. FLVS also indicated that an adjunct instructor generally spends about 15 to 20 hours per week teaching one course (FLVS personal communication, December 18, 2006). Using FLVS only as an example, it would then appear that three courses would take about 45 to 60 hours to meet the needs of all students appropriately. Reasonably, three courses would then constitute full-time with student load about 105 to 120 students.

The online environment features greater use of individualized instruction. Instruction in traditional settings is at best in small groups, rarely individualized, on a regular basis. In an asynchronous online environment with either virtual classrooms or virtual courses, providing highly individualized quality instruction for 175 to 200 students in five courses, as current numbers appear to indicate, would be an overwhelming task.

Why might this be?...

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News Briefs

Macworld: Jobs Intros iPhone at Keynote Address

Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage yesterday in San Francisco to deliver his annual keynote address at the Macworld Conference and Expo. As usual, Jobs used the keynote as a forum for reflecting on Apple's progress over the previous year and to introduce new and updated technologies....

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Schools in Six States Adopt MathScore

Schools in six states have begun implementing MathScore as a tool to help improve math proficiency, according to Accurate Learning Systems Corp. (ALSC), the company behind MathScore. ALSC says that school districts, charter schools and distance learning programs in Texas, California, Florida, Minnesota, Washington and Michigan have adopted the online program....

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BCM To Provide Free Music Education

Berklee College of Music (BCM) announced last week that it's entered into partnerships with community groups across the country to provide music education free of charge to young, "underserved" students. The new initiative is a drastic expansion of BCM's City Music, a program serving Boston-area students. Pilot programs are set to launch in March in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Apple and trade group NAMM will be technology partners in the pilot program....

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Idaho District Improves Reading Achievement with Intervention Program

According to Oakland, Calif.-based Scientific Learning Corp. (SLC), the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 in Idaho has improved reading achievement drastically with the use of Fast ForWord in an intervention program. According to a study of students in that district, the number of students who achieved a reading performance level of "proficient" more than doubled after using Fast ForWord products....

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By the Numbers

Wireless Access in Public Schools

The National Center for Education Statistics' recently released study on Internet access showed dramatic growth in wireless Internet access in public schools in 2005. All told, 45 percent of public schools in 2005 used some form of wireless Internet access, a growth of more than 40 percent over the previous survey year, 2003, in which only 32 percent of public schools had wireless access....

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Show Me the Money

2007 Sylvia Charp Awards Open

T.H.E. Journal and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) are pleased to announce the 4th annual award program in honor of Dr. Sylvia Charp and her groundbreaking contributions and extended service to the education technology community....

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Products & Services

ClassLink Rolls Out Command Center

ClassLink Inc. has rolled out a new online service called ClassLink Command Center. The new service is a Web-based portal designed for K-12 institutions that constantly monitors a school's IT infrastructure....

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CES: Toshiba Unveils Desktop HD DVD Writer

Toshiba Storage Device Division has announced the first half-height HD DVD writer, an HD DVD system targeted toward desktop applications. The new model will be shown off this week at the CES convention in Las Vegas being held Jan. 9 through 11....

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Coming Up

  • JAN 10, 2007
    Macworld K-12 Symposium
    San Francisco, CA
  • JAN 24-26, 2007
    FETC 2007
    Florida Educational Technology Conference
    Orlando, FL

  • FEB 5-9, 2007
    TCEA 2007
    Texas Computer Education Association
    Austin, Texas

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