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Virtual Schools and Colleges Newsletter - February 2012 Issue

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Welcome to the February 2012 edition of the Virtual Schools and Colleges Newsletter

This edition of our 2012 newsletter contains a variety of articles and reports related to the use of ICT in secondary and post-secondary education for 14-21 year olds in Europe and elsewhere. The Virtual Schools and Colleges Newsletter is an outcome of the European project VISCED which is carrying out a systematic review of virtual schools and colleges at international and national levels including a study into operational examples of fully virtual schools and colleges.

You are very welcome to send us news about developments related to virtual schools and colleges in your region or country, share this newsletter with your colleagues and join us on the Virtual Schools and Colleges wiki.

News

Front page eSchool News February 2012

This month's eSchool News leads with a feature article about the worries educators have concerning the fast pace of growth of virtual schools in the US. Highlighting the fact that regulation is finding it difficult to keep up with the virtual school boom, this article tackles the age-old debate as to whether online learning is as good as face-to-face teaching.The article focuses in part on Colorado where a row has broken out provoked by the significant growth of online schools in this state. Read more online.

MITx - a sign of things to come?

There are lots of online reports today on MIT's announcement that they are beginning enrollment for their first automated online course which students around the world can take without any prior tests or assessment. Students will have a variety of channels to choose from as this course on Circuits and Electronics will use video lectures, weekly deadlines to complete homework, access to labs and discussion forums and regular exams. If successful, students will receive a MIT certifcate. Everything will happen online - including the awarding of grades.

Next Generation Learning Conference 2012 in Sweden

Dalarna University in collaboration with KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden is hosting the Next Generation Learning Conference this week. This is a Nordic conference on the implications for learning and education of the digital revolution. The conference is aimed at development and research projects on NGL in both educational and professional settings. One of the presentations given by Ebba Ossiannilsson from Lund University deals with benchmarking, you can find her presentation here. This presentation  was co-authored with Paul Bacsich from Sero, Margareta Hellström from KTH, and Andreas Hedrén from Gotland University and included references to the VISCED project.

10 arguments as to why digital learning benefits low-income students

Tom Vander Ark writing some time ago in the Huffington Post puts forward 10 arguments as to why digital learning will benefit low-income students in the US. These include the increasing availability of free learning content though initiatives like the Khan Academy, improvements in adaptive assessments and diagnostics which are beginning to pinpoint learning levels and gaps that must be addressed and the fact that in the US at least there is an increased  variety of school options - some that blend online and onsite, and some that are purely virtual. Read the full article here.

Online Learning may become a requirement in US State of Georgia

Kristina Torres  writing in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week reported on a move in the US State of Georgia to make online learning a requirement for graduation in schools, despite objections from some lawmakers who said it chipped away at local control. She describes the new bill which starting next year would require school systems to allow all students access to online instruction from kindergarten to 12th grade. She goes on to describe how ninth-grade students starting in 2014 would have to take at least one online course before graduation, according to this new bill which would also require schools to give all end-of-course assessments online starting in 2015. Read the full article here.

Reports

Paper on costs of online learnng from Working Paper Series

This paper from the Working Paper Series published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in the US takes a long hard look at the cost of online learning. Although based on costs associated with the US, some of its findings and recommendations are very interesting. The authors, Tamara Butler Battaglino, Matt Haldeman, and Eleanor Laurans find that "average overall per pupil costs of both models are significantly lower than the $10,000 national average for traditional brick-and-mortar schools—and that virtual schools are cheaper on average than blended schools. Yet there is wide variation in spending among both virtual and blended-learning schools". Read more.

Finnish report on learning environments

The goal for this research was to map Finnish general education teachers´ skills and development needs in using information and communication technology within education. The main focus was on distance education. A survey was sent in November 2011 by email to all primary and secondary school principals. They were asked to forward the survey to their school’s teachers. All together 2493 teachers from all over Finland replied.

EU report on eductaion published

Several Member States, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium, may face serious teacher shortages in the future, according to a new report published by the European Commission. The report, entitled 'Key Data on Education in Europe 2012', was presented to EU Education Ministers at their meeting in Brussels on 10 Feb. It shows that the number of graduates specialising in education is falling at a time when many current teachers are approaching retirement age. But it also highlights encouraging signs: funding for education is stable in most Member States and it underlines that higher education remains the best insurance policy against unemployment, with graduates more likely to find a job faster than non-graduates.

Projects

IPTS home page

There is a general awareness that learning pathways and objectives have to change for European societies to adequately address global challenges. Given the increasing role of technologies in shaping social and economic change, there is a need to identify and analyse the key technologies that will support educational change in the near future. In this framework, the MENON Network, on behalf of the European Commission - Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), has recently launched the study Mapping and Analysing Prospective Technologies for Learning (MATEL). One of the major aims of this study is to identify and classify the key technologies that will support educational change in five to ten years from the present. You can contribute to the research by participating in the MATEL survey, which is open until February 26.

City of Turku runs project on distance learning

The Coordination project for distance learning aims to collect and spread good practices on distance learning, to collaborate with different distance learning projects, developers and creators, to form new kinds of networks and create new operation models to support different distance learning needs. The project also carries out research into how different learning materials suit distance learning and to distribute data nationally and, to the extent appropriate, internationally.

Project news

Cover of VISCED Interim Report

The VISCED team submitted the Interim report to the EACEA marking the half way point of the project at the end of January. This report provides a good overview of the main work undertaken in the first part of the project and traces partners' activities from the initial research work into the status of the virtual school phenomenon around the world to the emergence of trends and recommendations based on the experience of specific virtual schools. Significant steps have been taken regarding taxonomy and in understanding the circumstances that give rise to virtual schools in different countries. Read the full report.

report on success factors

The VISCED project has recently published reports on both teacher training and potential success factors related to virtual schooling. These are both interim reports that will de adapted and expanded in the course of the first part of 2012. The report on teacher training  provides a presentation and discussion of distance education (DE) history and background. The report on potential success factors is based on the set of Re.ViCa Critical Success Factors adapted for use by the Distance Learning Benchmarking Club and then reworded for schools in terms of a virtual school within a conventional school.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This website reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.