In an article entitled “Waiting for ‘Superman’, Spiderman, Batman and the Whole Education Justice League,” Sajan George outlines one of the major problems for one-size-fits-all public education: How exactly do we replicate the results of a few excellent teachers all over the nation?
The real question is how do we create a scalable superhero-making machine? The simple answer is we can’t.
George, who designs hybrid online learning schools, argues that virtual education is one potential solution to the problem of “scaling up” excellent education to fit the needs of each student. Online learning is customizable to the needs, interests, and capabilities of individual students. Virtual education allows teachers to customize learning for each of their students and empowers parents with more educational options for their children. It’s a phenomenon that Harvard scholar Clayton Christensen has deemed “mass customization.” In his book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, Christensen writes:
Standardization clashes with the need for customization in learning. To introduce customization, schools need to move away from the monolithic instruction of batches of students toward a modular, student-centric approach using software as an important delivery vehicle.
And, according to the new Keeping Pace report, online education is an expanding field, although it still faces many roadblocks. Currently, 48 states, as well as Washington, D.C., offer some form of online education. However, no state offers the “full menu” of both supplemental and core online classes for all levels. The Florida Virtual School offers an example of a successful state virtual education program, with 213,926 course enrollments in the last school year—about three times larger than the next largest program.
As Sajan George notes:
There is no business in America [that] could recruit, retain and reward 3.5 million leaders able to manage a different set of 25 individuals every year and deliver the same consistent results, regardless of whether they lived in a large city or a small rural town.
So why do we expect an unwieldy public school system to deliver uniform results without the ability to individualize instruction to match students’ needs? Virtual education should be on the menu of options offering each American student an education that would help achieve his or her full potential.
Inez Feltscher is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm