Blended and online learning, particularly in college, have become more and more prevalent in education — in fact, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education, online universities have become the largest universities in the U.S. While Arizona State University (the most populated traditional university in America) awarded 2,075 degrees in 2011, the online University of Phoenix awarded nearly 6,000.
Blended and online learning seem to be the trends facing universities today – but blended and online learning for elementary school students?
Programs such as Los Angeles-based KIPP Empower Academy and San Jose-based Rocketship Education are working to provide online education for low-income elementary school students. These K-4 and K-5 programs, respectively, incorporate online tools in the classrooms, with students working on computers at their own pace or in small groups for part of the day. Teachers can keep track of student progress by glancing at a dashboard, so if a particular student is struggling with a concept, they can stop to help that particular student. Allowing students to work at different paces permits children who have mastered concepts quickly to move ahead.
If programs such as KIPP and Rocketship Education are successful, more schools may incorporate blended learning. So far, KIPP seems to be getting results: 36 percent of KIPP Empower Academy kindergartners were reading at a proficient or advanced level before implementing the blended learning program. By the end of the year, 96 percent were reading at a proficient or advanced level.
Blended learning has proven to be successful at many levels, but there will certainly be critics who will maintain that elementary school students are simply too young to be spending so much time on a computer. The idea of a bunch of kindergartners sitting in front of a computer screen for a sizable chunk of the school day probably isn’t appealing to all elementary school teachers.
Yet blended learning programs allow students to work with each other or at their own pace, allowing teachers to spend more time helping students one-on-one instead of having to explain concepts to the entire class at the same time. With the traditional lecture style, students who easily grasp concepts will inevitably become bored in class and zone out, while the students who don’t understand will get frustrated and zone out. Blended learning helps alleviate some of these challenges for teachers.
What do you think of online and blended learning for elementary school students? Sound off in the comments below!