Archive for December 4, 2017

Prediction: The majority of US high school students will take CS classes online #CSEdWeek

The Washington Post got it wrong when it announced that Virginia is the first state to mandate CS education for all students.  South Carolina has had that mandate for 30 years.  But they couldn’t prepare enough teachers to teach computer science, so they took classes they were already teaching (like “keyboarding”) and counted those as CS classes.

Virginia could fall into the same trap, but I don’t think so.  Instead, I predict that most Virginia high school students will take CS on-line (and that likely goes for the rest of the US, too).  I was struck by how the Richmond-Times Dispatch described the vote to mandate CS (below quoted from here):

The standards, approved unanimously, but reluctantly, by the state Board of Education on Thursday, are a framework for computer science education in the state. Other states have advisory standards, but Virginia became the first to have mandatory standards.

Board member Anne Holton voiced her concern with the grade level appropriateness of the standards before the vote.

“The standards, they seem ambitious to me,” she said. “These are not meant as aspirational standards, they are meant as a mandate that our teachers need to be able to teach.”

“We’re clearly leading the nation and that puts an extra burden on us to get it right.”

Mark Saunders, the director of the Education Department’s Office of Technology and Virtual Learning, led a presentation of the department’s process in adopting the standards.

The presentation satisfied the board enough to vote on the standards rather than delay action until January.

I’m reading between the lines here, but I’m guessing the process went something like this: Board members balked at a statewide mandate because they knew they didn’t have the teachers to support it. There certainly are CS teachers in Virginia, many of them prepared by CodeVA. But not enough to support a statewide mandate. Then they were assured that the Virtual Learning system could handle the load, so they voted for it (“reluctantly” as the article says).

I don’t know that anybody’s tracking this, but my guess is that it’s already the case that most high school students studying CS in the United States are doing it online.  Since we are not producing enough new CS teachers, the push to grow CS education in high schools is probably going to push more CS students online. This is how schools in Arkansas and other states are meeting the requirements for schools to offer CS — simply make the virtual high school CS course available, and you’ve met the requirement. No teacher hiring or professional learning required.  I know from log file analyses that we are seeing huge numbers of students coming into our ebooks through virtual high school classes.

What are the ramifications of this trend?  We know that not everyone succeeds in online classes, that they tend to have much higher withdrawal and failure rates. We know that most people learn best with active learning (see one of my posts on this), and we do not yet know how to replicate active learning methodologies in online classes.  In particular, lecture-based learning (which is what much of online learning attempts to replicate) works best for the most privileged studentsOur society depends on teachers who motivate students to persevere and learn. Does serving high school CS through online classes increase accessibility, or decrease diversity of those who successfully complete high school CS classes?  Will students still be interested in pursuing CS in the future if their only experience is through a mandated online course?  Does the end result of mostly-online high school CS classes serve the goals of high-quality CS education for all students?

 

December 4, 2017 at 7:00 am 2 comments


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