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Greg McVerry

Minutes in Seats is a Bad Measure of Attendance for K12 Online Learning

3 min read

 You may not be following the ECOT, Electronic Classroom Of Tomorrow, debacle but the largest charter school in Ohio, a K12 online organization, was ordered to payback $60 million dollars for students who paid that did not attend.

The State of Ohio contends that ECOT did not document student learning in a meaningful way to demonstrate students showed up. They may be right. The Online charter sector is the embarrassment of the Charter world. Performance, using standardized scores, is abysmal. 

ECOT is being ordered to pay $60 million dollars for students who enrolled but never showed up. They should reimburse the state for any fraud, but minutes in seats is a bad measure of attendance for a K12 online school.

I know people want the perfect metaphor for the brick and mortar. Forty-five minute periods for six hours a day....But the point of online learning is new metaphors.

The point of online learing is "not" be in attendance. Flexibility of learning and not fixed placement in front of a screen should be the goal.

Robust Online Learning Takes Rigorous Offline Work

In many online classes people gather to share and talk about what they learn while the bulk of the work gets done in the four corners of the text they were assigned. 

When you equate online learning to minutes logged in you banish students to live behind an adaptive testing platforms where they get spoon fed short passages followed by brief multple choice exams. Their teachers have few touch points.

Struggling Readers Using Digital Tools

Equating attendance with minutes logged in also forces kids into e-reading platforms. We know student comprehension takes a hit when students scroll rather than turn pages. Why dictate how students must read?

Having all the features of ebooks may not serve the students who enroll in K12 online charter schools.

What to Do?

  • Have Three Daily Check Ins-K12 Online students should have 2-3 check ins with their "homeroom" teacher to talk about what they worked on.
  • Use Scrumboards-Someone needs to train the remote workforce of the future. This could be the story of K12 online rather than the abysmal failure and fraud filling the papers. Use agile practices such as scrum boards that list, to-do, doing, and done. Powerful analytics and industry practice.
  • Teach Time Management- Steal another industry practice from the tech world and have students use the Pomodoro Method. Here you work in twenty minute spurts. Assuming k12 students spontaneously develop the self-regulatory practices for online learn is crazy talk.
  • Group Projects-Increase the amount of collaborative projects and supply students with platforms that encourage them to work together. Tracking when students meet provides strong metrics.
  • Group Chats and Discussions- Time doesn't equate learning. Knew AI tools emerge that allow for semantic analysis of student discussions and posted threads. We can use these tools to track knowledge gains.

I believe in K12 online learning. For many parents and home school advocates it could provide an  avenue for choice. I also believe k12 online schools can play an essential role in helping to diversify Silicon Valley.

However some motives and measures keep getting in the way. It is time we do right by the students enrolled in these schools.