In February 2005, I heard Alan November address a group of superintendents and principals about educational technology issues. Alan challenged them to require all their high school students to complete at least one online class before graduation, because those learning experiences would serve them well in the workforce later in life. Alan was right, and it appears that at last one state may formalize educational requirements in this direction, although not apparently at his specific behest.

eSchoolNews is reporting that Michigan is considering an online course requirement for high school students. According to the article:

The online learning mandate is part of larger piece of legislation designed to ratchet up high school graduation requirements across the state. Until now, Michigan students have been required only to take a civics course to graduate. The new proposal would require math, science, and a foreign language in addition to some form of online instruction.

“Jamey Fitzpatrick, president of the nonprofit Michigan Virtual University” is quoted in the article also stating the proposal is:

probably one of the most forward-thinking educational strategies I’ve seen in a long time.

I say this isn’t forward-thinking, it is long overdue. Distance learning is growing by leaps and bounds in higher education and in its utilization in the business community. It is high time K-12 schools not only took notice, but took steps to engage their students in some forms of online learning before they graduate.

Online learning is not categorically a good thing. Like any other educational pedagogy, online learning can be conducted well or poorly. Still, the idea of requiring some online learning in high school is a good move, I think. Hopefully the legislature of Michigan will help support teachers who will be teaching in the online environment to learn from the best practices of others. The Quality Matters project and assessment rubrics are a great (and free) resource to use in this endeavor.

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