Will the move toward virtual and “hybrid” schools in American education repeat the mistakes of the charter-school movement, or will it learn from them? Article of Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute.
Digital learning dilemmas for education policies
Digital learning poses an immense dilemma when it comes to ensuring quality. One of the great advantages of online learning is that it makes “unbundling” school provision possible—that is, it allows children to be served by providers from almost anywhere, in new and more customized ways. But taking advantage of all the opportunities online learning offers means that there is no longer one conventional “school” to hold accountable. Instead, students in a given building or district may be taking courses (or just sections of courses) from a variety of providers, each with varying approaches to technology, instruction, mastery, and so forth.….To further complicate this picture (and add to its political volatility), many providers are likely to be profit-seeking ventures. Finding ways to define, monitor, and police quality in this brave new world is one of the central challenges in realizing the potential of digital learning.
Digital learning makes possible the “unbundling” of school provisions—that is, it allows children to be served by providers from almost anywhere, in new and more customized ways. At the same time, because it destandardizes and de-centralizes educational delivery, digital education is far harder to bring under the yoke of the quality-control systems and metrics that have been devised for traditional school structures.
In this paper, Hess explores the pros and cons of input regulation, outcome-based accountability, and market signals as solutions to the quality challenge. In the end, he re-commends using all three ap-proaches in careful combination so as to leverage their strengths and offset their weaknesses. In practice, that means demanding transparent financial information from providers, holding them to account for student achievement gains whenever possible, and developing “crowd-sourcing” reporting systems to help educators, parents, and students identify the most effective purveyors of online learning.
Hess’ paper is attached in English, .pdf file, 11pages