Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ED's require online college certification in every state!

According to an article on eCampus News, online colleges will need to get certification from every state in which they have a student. The regulation goes into effect July 1.

The online colleges are expressing concern. They are quoted as saying it means meeting a variety of different state certification standards, dealing with a range of fees and bureaucratic hurdles, and ultimately meaning they may not be able to offer programs in every state. It could also mean a student who moves to an uncovered state may not be able to complete their educational program.

The article quotes Eduaro Ochoa, Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education as saying...
“We don’t intend to penalize institutions if they haven’t received” authorization from every state by July 1...
We want to foster innovation and not suppress it..."
I'm confused as to how this policy will foster innovation. I'm confused as to what the US Department of Education means by innovation. I've been un-impressed with what I've seen previously of ED's use of the term innovation, and Ochoa's use doesn't seem to fit with the new direction.

I'm also concerned, if ED is taking this approach with online colleges, will this policy become something that states begin to adopt for K-12 online learning?

Friday, March 25, 2011

CUE's Certification program

In case you've missed the announcement, CUE, along with ISTE, iNACOL and 15 other organizations are creating something they're calling the Leading Edge Certification for online teachers. Michael Barbour in Virtual School Meanderings has the announcement that was posted in the iNACOL forum, my quick comment, and a longer more nuanced and thoughtful comment of his own.

I find it interesting that these folks are so willing to use the term certification to describe their program. I don't know if it's arrogance or marketing. In the late 1990s I was working with a colleague at University of Virginia to develop an online education program to prepare online teachers. It was clearly not a certification program because, at the time, there were no online teaching certifications for any states.

The program was offered through the Continuing Ed program because the School of Ed wasn't interested, so it wasn't offered as a Master's program or with connections to an existing degree program. That is a concern which Michael raised about these types of prgrams in general, and one I do agree with. (We do frequently agree) But, UVA was very careful about what the program was to be called because it wasn't a program connected to a degree, nor was it a program that lead to a (state issued licensure) certification.

For anyone who's interested in becoming an online teacher, follow Michael's warnings about selecting a program, and I have an additional concern. The leading virtual education programs created their own teacher preparation programs because there weren't online teacher education programs available; because they wanted a program that prepared teachers for their particular program, their particular pedagogy, and that was built to support their particular policies.

Other than the VHS program with Plymouth State, and a program in Florida connected with the Florida Virtual School, any online teacher training programs are generic. Michael should know more about the focus of some of these programs than I do, but I know, from helping to think about the UVA program, that there's not enough time to develop a good understanding of all the different pedagogies that can be found in the range of online education programs, so the choice is either to be narrow, or only provide a taste. That's not worthy of certification in my opinion.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Are Internet classes a viable alternative to the traditional classroom?

How do students feel about online learning? Here's an interesting opinion piece where students write about teachers in online education. Granted, they are all high school students, so their views on online education are limited and do not include the experience of students enrolled in accredited degree programs online. Also, unfortunately only one of the three writers indicates any experience with online education. Two of the three take the position that there is little, if any teacher presence, and while I'm perfectly willing to accept that is the case for the one student who clearly states she's in an online course, they of course use a very broad brush and declare that is the case for all online courses.

We need to not allow statements like that to go unchallenged. Unchallenged we provide tacit approval that such statements are accurate. We need to help folks understand that there are a range of approaches to online education, and trying to paint them all with a single brush is impossible.

Friday, March 18, 2011


This article on the National Writing Project site presents an interesting issue. They want to add an A and an R into the current emphasis on STEM education.

I've been an advocate for adding an A and turning STEM, not to STEAM, but into TEAMS, because that carries an additional connotation that I think is important in education for the 21st Century, but I'm afraid that adding the R in there -- for reading and 'riting tends to dilute the STEM push and put us back to emphasizing so much we loose focus.

Yes, we need students/citizens to be able to read and write to be effective in the 21st Century, but I don't think adding the R is helpful. There's already a good deal of emphasis on the need for literacy, and if there was anything to be added, I'd make it an L for that, but then we'd have STEALM or probably METALS.

As it is, what's really happening with STEM is much more SteM. There's little being done with engineering, and technology overall in K-12. Yes, technology is used, but the lack of understanding about technology, the computational thinking is missing. So, first I'd like to see SteM education be closer to STEM education, then TEAMS.

I think this discussion is important.

Friday, March 04, 2011

A National Benchmark for Online Course Design (?!) QM

You perhaps, got the same email this week I did from Quality Matters Program looking for folks who want to participate in their program to become part of their trainer and peer reviewer program. "QM is looking to build our national database of certified G6-12 peer reviewers immediately." It sounds like once certified you'll be reviewing courses and paid to do so. "Both trainers and reviewers receive stipends for their work."

Of course you pay to take their required training first. And at least one of the courses they require is a self-paced course. Some have a f2f option.

What I found most interesting were the basic qualifications to participate; "To be eligible for certification as a G6-12 trainer, K-12 personnel must have taught or developed an online or blended course during the previous 18 months or participate in teacher education programs."

They apparently believe every school of education faculty knows about basic quality issues for online education. I don't agree. Last year at SITE (this year's conference is next week) I asked a group of about 100 ed school faculty how many were teaching at least one course online (more than half) and then asked how many of their programs included preparation to teach online as part of their programs (less than a handful!). I'll be asking the same question next week.

I don't have any faith in their selection criteria for higher education. And with that as the first flag, I have concerns that go wider and deeper. They cite, as background for the creation of their rubric, national standards from SREB, iNACOL, ISTE, and Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (BTW they list iNACOL but use the old organizational name which is another flag.)

If you've followed me at all, you know I have a concern that the standards may only truly be understood by some insiders. I'm concerned the Quality Matters workshops (can a self-paced course be legitimately called a workshop?) won't be enough to produce the type of understanding necessary to do an adequate job. (BTW not all are self-paced and there are F2F options too.)

Here's an example of the QM rubrics: General Standard 8: Accessibility The face-to-face and online course components are accessible to all students.

I know one virtual school program who now admits they didn't understand the implications of a similar statement in the iNACOL standards; approved lots of courses as meeting the standard; then had to go back and make the producers fix the courses when they better understood the standard. (Of course that also meant the producers hadn't understood the standard either.)

If someone participates in the QM program I'd like to hear about it. I can't tell if this is just a scheme to get folks to buy their workshops or if they really plan a big marketing campaign to review online programs.

If you'd like to have your courses or programs reviewed, please get in touch with me. I, and other colleagues I trust can do it, and we understand the intricacies of online course design and delivery.