Course choice and virtual instruction in physics and the sciences: The promise and the traps

Today, redefinedonline.org blogged about the future of “course choice”, which is the opportunity for students (and their parents) to take individual courses outside of the traditional school environment. As the post points out, Florida students have had this opportunity for years with Florida Virtual School. In fact, now the state’s public school students are required to take an online course to graduate from high school.

It is possible that the expansion of online learning and course choice can improve student learning in math and science – but it will not be as simple as beaming in recorded lectures to rural schools as some policy-makers hope it will, and it will not solve the shortage of math and science teachers. The post shown here, which comes from the Spring 2014 issue of the Newsletter of the APS Forum on Education, discusses both the promise and the traps of online learning in physics. The same can certainly be said for other sciences as well.

Bridge to Tomorrow

The American Physical Society’s Forum on Education, which I presently chair, publishes a newsletter three times per year that includes research and position articles in addition to announcements.  The Spring 2014 issue, which was recently released, features articles on online learning in physics.  As chair, I have the opportunity to write a “Chair’s Letter” that leads off the issue.  For this issue, I chose to give my take on online learning in K-12 physics – and here it is:

If you want to know what educational policy-makers and thought leaders think is hot in physics education, start with this lead from the December 5 issue of the New York Times:

To ease the way for students grappling with certain key concepts, professors at Davidson College in North Carolina will design online lessons for high school students in Advanced Placement courses in calculus, physics and macroeconomics and make…

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