Beginnning in the fall, our local school district plans to offer a wide array of middle school and high school courses via the Internet — here’s the local paper’s report. Apparently Boulder is behind the curve on this trend: the article says that, in the past two years, more than 300 students have left the district schools and enrolled in online options offered in nearby districts. Courses and online teachers will be offered through a contract with Aventa, a vendor headquartered in Arizona. According to their website, Aventa has offered e-courses to over a thousand school districts nationwide.
“Eventually, Boulder Valley wants to have its own teachers instructing the online courses, according to assistant superintendent Pilch. “But right now, we are not ready to do that,” she said. The district has projected enrollment in the new online school to be the equivalent of 75 full-time students next year, Pilch said. That could be a combination of part-time and full-time students. “Those numbers are probably low,” she said. Pilch said online learning is “not for every student,” and district officials work with students up front to make sure they can succeed in an online course. “We want them to know that online learning engages students for just as many hours and at the same level of rigor as brick and mortar school,” she said.
During the current economic downturn schools here and throughout the country have confronted lower operating revenues. Salaries have been frozen; teachers and support staff have been let go. It seems almost certain that a single online teacher spends less time per student than does a classroom teacher, meaning lower per-pupil cost. The move to online education seems likely to continue, resulting in significant permanent losses of jobs and the individuation of what has traditionally been a communal educational experience.
Soon the Boulder Board of Education will be asked to approve the “Boulder Universal” proposal. I wonder what the teachers’ union has to say about it?