This posting was written by Sterling Academy faculty member Dr. James Croasmun.
You may have been engaged in some debate as to whether an online education is as good as an education acquired in a classroom. Fortunately, there have been a significant number of research studies done to give us objective knowledge regarding this debate.
Many studies have been conducted which examine the effectiveness of online learning versus traditional face-to-face (F2F) courses. One such meta-analysis of these studies was conducted by Karen Swan. The conclusion as stated by Swan (2003) was, “…it is clear that when compared using gross measures of learning effectiveness, students learn as much if not more from online courses as they do in traditional higher education courses.”
A sample of her findings include:
- A blind review process comparing students’ performances enrolled in an online graduate course with that of the same version of the course taught F2F showed no significant differences.
- A study comparing mid-term scores between online and F2F students at Stevens Institute of Technology found little or no differences in student outcomes.
- Two studies showed equivalent or increased performance of nurses in the field who graduated from online learning programs.
- Three studies looked at faculty perceptions of student learning as a measure of learning effectiveness in online courses. The vast majority of instructors felt that student learning outcomes were comparable or better than those in F2F courses.
Thomas L. Russell (1999) compared student outcomes in online and F2F by examining 355 studies the result of which show no significant differences in student outcomes. Additional information on his work can be found at http://www.nosignificantdifference.org/
While the delivery mode for learning materials isn’t important as we think (Clark, 1983) in achieving learning outcomes, there are other factors which affect the success of a course. These include:
- How students interact with course interfaces/menus. Bad or confusing course structures can cause a decrease in learning.
- Increased clarity in the course design, goals, and expectations lead to better learning.
- Frequent assessments and timely feedback from instructors supports learning.
- The quality and quantity of interactions between students and instructors is tied to student learning.
John Hattie (2008) compiled over 800 studies on learning and found that providing formative evaluation, teaching clarity, feedback, teacher-student relationships, spaced vs. mass practice, teaching strategies, mastery learning, and worked examples all significantly affected student achievement.
To summarize, the instructional design of a course, the relationships between instructors and students, and the type and frequency of feedback to the students are paramount to student learning.
Clark, R.E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459
Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge
Russell, T.L. (1999). The no significant difference phenomenon. Montgomery, AL: IDEC.
Swan, K. (2003). Learning effectiveness: what the research tells us. In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds) Elements of Quality Online Education, Practice and Direction. Needham, MA: Sloan Center for Online Education, 13-45.
In 7th grade through 11th grade in my growing up years, due to school crowding, we had split sessions and my class went to school from 12:30 to 5:30. Once the new high school was completed, they put us on a "normal" school schedule: we started school at 7:35 AM and finished at 2:45 PM.
I was amazed by the change in the student body. In our old school, everyone was lively and class participation was active. Once we had to start going to school at 7:35, everyone was a zombie. Class participation became minimal. Many people, including me, struggled with dozing off in class. That last year of school was like a dark blur to me.
A few years ago, I saw a TV program on the Discovery Channel about circadian rhythms in teens. They noted that in teens, melatonin -- the brain hormone that makes you sleepy -- doesn't become active until about 11:00 PM, and stays active until 8:00 AM. Teens need about 9 hours of sleep, but they cannot easily go to sleep until about 11:00. If they have to be at school by 7:00 AM, they have to get up too soon for their body's circadian rhythm.
The program continued with examples of schools that decided to start the school day later; those schools found that academic performance increased, and misbehavior, such as fighting, decreased.
Recently I have run across additional articles documenting this important phenomenon. One is Later Start Times For High School Students from the College Of Education + Human Development at the University of Minnesota. It reports on a large study done in the Minnaepolis area; when they started high school at a later time, there was "a significant reduction in school dropout rates, less depression, and students reported earning higher grades."
When high schools start their day too early, they affect students' academic performance
as well as prompt sleep-deprivation health issues.
Dr. David White, MD, reports in Back To School: Your First Assignment Is Getting More Sleep, that "the preponderance of [research] data suggests that reduced total sleep time, erratic sleep schedules, poor sleep quality (difficulty falling asleep or waking up at night), and sleepiness during the day are all associated with poorer academic performance." High schools that start too early necessarily cause reduced sleep time for their students, and by extension, make it more difficult to achieve.
Chronobiologist Bora Zivkovic reports at length on this topic in When Should Schools Start In The Morning? at the Scientific American, noting that lack of sleep causes obesity, diabetes, discourages exercise, and affects mood. Furthermore, being that a teen's body cannot be in an awake state at 7:00 AM, driving to school that early in the morning is akin to driving drunk.
Some people are naturally early birds, while others are night owls. Zivkovic calls these "chronotypes"; each person's genes affect their natural circadian rhythms that make them early, median or late chronotypes. He clearly acknowledges that not every teen is equally affected by early start times; however, for all chronotypes, even early bird chronotypes, during their teen years, lasting into their 20s, their circadian rhythm shifts later.
Zivkovic's article is loaded with interesting information on this topic; I encourage you to read it. There is plenty of scientific evidence showing the importance of providing a schedule for teens that permits them to go to sleep at 11:00 PM and get their full 9 hours of sleep that is needed. Amazingly, despite the science, schools all over the country still insist on having students show up at school at 7:00 or 7:30 AM.
If you as a student are finding that you're always sleepy and thus unable to perform as well as you would like, or you are the parent of a teen who is not doing well academically, behavorially, or is depressed, you may want to look into sleep issues. There may be specific sleep issues, such as some noted in the article Sleep Problems In Teens, but it may be something as simple as the fact that the student cannot get enough sleep due to the school's schedule that does not fit teen circadian rhythms.
A possible solution is for the student to study at an online high school like ours. I know for me, as the principal, I find the online situation very suitable. As a night owl chronotype, being able to work hours that are more fitting to my chronotype enable me to work during the time of day when I perform best. Since our school is asynchronous, allowing students to study on their own schedule, students and teachers can also work at the times when they perform best.
However you choose to solve the issue of lack of sleep for the teen in your family, please be aware of the consequences of prolonged lack of sleep. Actually, those consequences affect adults too; it's just that the circadian rhythm of most adults more closely aligns to the typical career workday than the typical teen's school schedule aligns with their sleep patterns.
J Lee Harshbarger
Principal, Sterling Academy
If you would like to learn about studying online at our school, please call 866-502-1050, option 1, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am pleased to announce that Sterling Academy students have a wonderful opportunity available to them this spring. The University Center for Learning Innovation (UCLI) is offering a Chinese language & culture immersion program in Shanghai, China. This 21-day trip will be offered to the general public for $2400, but Sterling Academy students will be able to go on this trip for half price -- yes, $1200, which is the cost of the airfare alone!
Each weekday on this trip, students will study Chinese from 8:00 AM to 12:00 noon. This strong immersion in the Chinese language will give students a solid footing in this important language for the 21st century. Each weekday afternoon, students will participate in Chinese cultural activities. On the weekends, students will go sightseeing in Shanghai and surrounding areas, with a trip to Beijing on the last weekend, which will include visiting the Great Wall.
I have been in both Shanghai and Beijing, and I must say visiting these cities is quite an experience. This is something you do not want to miss, especially at this fantastic price, where you get airfare, lodging, language & culture instruction, and sightseeing all for the cost of only the airfare.
There are two departure dates available. The first is May 28; the second is June 11. If you would like to learn more about this trip, go to the UCLI website for details. You may also contact me if you'd like to talk to me about it.
A note about UCLI: Sterling Academy, UCLI, and American University High School in Shanghai are three companies all under a single umbrella. Because these companies are "relatives," so to speak, you can be assured of the same great care from all of them. Sterling Academy has not just chosen some company to offer a travel & learning experience for our students; UCLI is one of our own.
For anyone reading this blog who is not a Sterling Academy student, you are welcome to join the trip; this trip is open to all high school students. However, only currently enrolled Sterling Academy students can take advantage of this trip at the half-price rate.
All right, the time is now -- GO TO CHINA! Contact UCLI or Sterling Academy to get started!
J Lee Harshbarger, Principal
Here are some more pictures to give you a taste of what you can see!
A scene from Shanghai
Scenes from Shanghai at night
Sterling Academy Principal J Lee Harshbarger on the Great Wall near Beijing
Sterling Academy is pleased to announce a partnership with a new high school opening in Shanghai, China. American University High School will open in September this year, enrolling students in grades 10 through 12 (high schools in China are 3 years, not 4). AUHS will feature an American-style curriculum in English for American students and other foreign students in China to be able to study while living abroad. In addition, students who are citizens of China may choose to study at the school. Sterling Academy is working with AUHS in developing its program and in creating opportunities for cultural and academic exchange between the two schools. Look for announcements very soon on such an opportunity this spring.
Here's a picture of American University High School in Shanghai.
There is a lot of criticism in the news and in other places of debate in society about the American education system. This generally includes discussion of how much lower Americans score on tests -- particularly in math and science -- than students in other industrialized countries.
One such article came out in December 2010, entitled "Why Shanghai schooled the US: Americans think they're too smart to work hard." In this study, 15-year-old students in 60 countries were tested in science, math, and reading. American students ranked 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math. The top scoring students in all three areas came from Shanghai, China.
First, let me give you a little cultural background here. In East Asia, your performance on a test is a very serious matter. In the USA, we have the SAT or ACT, which do have a strong influence on admittance into college. However, there are other factors that are considered for admission. This is not true in most cases in East Asia, though. There, the ONLY thing that counts is your test score. And generally, how high you score depends on where you can get into college. Then, where you graduate from college determines what kind of job you can get. Here in the USA, most employers don't care that much what school you went to, but it makes a huge difference there. So, there is intense pressure on high school students to get as high a test score as possible, because the nature of your whole future life rests on your ability to test well.
With that kind of extreme importance to a test score, certainly it is fuel for motivation to succeed, and it has a lot to do with so many high test scores coming from East Asian countries. But now let's look at the rest of the story.
I was teaching English at a university in Beijing at the time the above-mentioned article came out, and I presented the article to my students to see what their reaction would be. I was expecting them to exude pride in the fact that China scored on top in all three. What I found instead was that they were not impressed. They responded in a bit of a dismissive tone, "Test scores don't mean anything." I asked them to explain. They said, "Students can get great scores on tests, but it doesn't mean that they will do well in the workplace." They proceeded to tell me stories of students who got top scores on tests, but once they got a job, they couldn't get along with people, or couldn't figure out how to do tasks on their own, or in some other way could not effectively function in the workplace.
American educators often try to emphasize that test scores don't adequately assess all the abilities of students, but politicians and people in society often dismiss these claims, viewing them as defensive claims to try to justify the low test scores, thus not really valid. Yet here were students in a country who got top test scores saying the same thing -- that test scores don't accurately predict a student's ability to succeed in the "real world."
So, even though students in Shanghai who have gone through the Chinese education system can rank #1 in the world in reading, science, and math testing, a number of parents in Shanghai are eager to have their students study in schools that feature American curriculum and educational style. They crave the value American education puts on critical thinking skills and on creativity, among other skills.
Yes, it would be good if American students could get their reading, math, and science scores up into the top 10 again, at least. But if people outside of America are seeking to emulate or experience our educational style, why are we trying so hard to emulate the brutal pressure of their test-taking world?
J Lee Harshbarger
Principal of Sterling Academy
Learner Middle & High School is currently accredited by NALAS. We are now working to become accredited by AdvancED. (The North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement [NCA CASI] and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement [SACS CASI] are accreditation divisions of AdvancED.) This is a lengthy and thorough process. This post describes some of the action steps we take to prepare for the accreditation visit. The whole focus of the accreditation process is for a school staff to take a thorough, in-depth look at their school and make sure that all parts are operating well, and to constantly look for ways to improve.
Learner’s Self Study for Accreditation
Learner Middle & High School is advancing through the Self-Study process which will lead to accreditation through AdvancED. We began the self-study in October and will continue to be in that process for the next 4 months. The accreditation process focuses on our completion of a self-examination, and completion of a lengthy report on that self-exam. Our self-study report will focus around the seven standards/components listed below.
AdvancED’s process has seven standards/components:
1. Vision and Purpose – The school reviews its vision and purpose systematically and revises them when appropriate.
2. Governance and Leadership – The school operates under the jurisdiction of a governing board that establishes policies and procedures that provide for the effective operation of the school.
3. Teaching and Learning – The school develops and implements curriculum based on clearly-defined expectations for student learning. The school offers a curriculum that challenges each student to excel, reflects a commitment to equity, and demonstrates an appreciation of diversity.
4. Documenting and Using Results – The school enacts a comprehensive assessment system that monitors and documents performance and uses these results to improve student performance and school effectiveness.
5. Resources and Support Systems – The school has the resources and services necessary to support its vision and purpose and to ensure achievement for all students.
6. Stakeholder Communication and Relationships – The school fosters effective communications and relationships with and among its stakeholders.
7. Commitment to Continuous Improvement – The school establishes, implements, and monitors a continuous process of improvement that focuses on student performance.
1. Learner Middle & High School has set up its visit by the accreditation team for the first week of April (subject to change due to it being Good Friday/Easter week).
2. We have established the Learner School Committee to help provide broad stakeholder input to the process, and act as a lead team. This group has representatives of staff, students, and parents, and is chaired by the principal, J Lee Harshbarger. Dr. James Leffler will also be assisting Learner as they complete the self-study. (AdvancED Standards I, II, VI, VII)
3. We have examined Learner’s current Vision and Mission statements, and have updated those with input from parents, students, and staff, particularly from those on the Learner School Committee. (AdvancED Standard I)
4. We have begun data collection: We have sent out surveys inquiring about student achievement, staff opinions, student opinions, and parent opinions. (AdvancED Standards III, IV, and VII)
5. We are conducting an alignment analysis of Learner curriculum with Florida’s Sunshine State Standards for student learning.
6. We are examining student achievement to help evaluate our program.
7. We have collected current resumes for all staff. (AdvancEd Standard V)
We plan to provide updates here periodically to keep everyone aware of Learner’s Self-Study progress and up-coming tasks. If you would like to help with any of the tasks listed, please contact Mr. Harshbarger. There will be opportunity to help with both short and long-term tasks. We are particularly in need of student representatives for the Learner School Committee.
Thank You In Advance
The Self-Study is a comprehensive process to say the least. While the Learner School Committee will be working with Mr. Harshbarger and Dr. Leffler to complete the tasks, they will need to call on all staff for feedback and information, as well as needing to get survey responses from students and parents for analytical data during the process.
Submitted by Robert Strodtbeck, Social Studies Teacher At Learner Middle & High School
The great thing about studying history at this time is that, due to the easy access that the Internet allows to documents and references, we can gain access to the complete historical record of the world with a few keystrokes. We only need to develop our focus and purpose so that our keystrokes have meaning.
Since the access to original documents is so much more convenient than in the past, people who have taken the time to review these documents and apply them to the times in which they were written are coming up with reasonable perspectives for the motivations behind decisions that were made that have had a significant effect on the modern world. These perspectives often challenge what has been, heretofore, accepted portrayals of well-known events from the past.
What happened in the past cannot be changed,
but our knowledge and understanding of it can be.
These new challenges to the popular perceptions of history are called revisionist history. According to Anthony Gregory, a research analyst at the Independent Institute, “Historical revisionism often gets a bad rap. The term is typically used derisively to attack historical accounts that are unconventional, usually with the implication that they are false. But that is a grave misunderstanding of revisionism and the study of history in general.” Gregory went on to detail how revisionism is a responsibility for those who take the study of history as an important step to understanding who we are and where we are going in his review of revisionism in Liberty and Revisionism, from a November 4, 2010, posting in the Freedom Daily.
Revisionism was advocated by no less than St. Augustine in his book, On Christian Doctrine. Augustine's work was devoted to teaching his students that their understanding, application, and teaching of Scripture could only be done responsibly through studying the culture, settings, and languages in which Biblical events took place. He further taught that in the process of their investigations, that if they discovered thoughts that challenged popular perspectives of Biblical records, they had a duty to correct those popular perceptions. According to Gregory, this is revisionism.
To be sure, taking a revisionist view of the events from the past is no small effort. Just as St. Augustine demanded hard study and research before any views be taken, the same is true now. The Internet is filled with countless sources that challenge popular perceptions of historical events, but not all of those sources are credible. Before a source is considered it is wise to investigate the information on which the perspective based. If the source shows the signs of reliability, such as referenced and documented support, then it is worthy of entering into a debate regarding the influences upon history.
In the setting of our classroom, which is the entire world, we have the chance of taking the perspectives of not only well-documented sources from the Internet, but from classmates from around the country and even around the world. The fact of the matter is that in our class, revisionism does not have to be an anomaly, it can be the rule to feed our interest in a subject which can do much to shape our understanding of the future.
You can take history courses online at Learner Middle & High School. For more information, call 866-502-1050 or email email@example.com.
Submitted by Nicole Gerace, Mathematics teacher at Learner Middle & High School
In my career as a Middle and High School Mathematics teacher, on many occasions I have been asked, “Why do I need Math?”
The truth is, we use math everyday. When we tell time, follow a recipe, estimate how much money we can spend at the grocery store or how much money we will save by using coupons, etc., math is involved. Sure, these might just require the basic math skills we learn in elementary school, but these are just a few examples of why we need math. Math teaches us how to think logically and aids in our problem solving skills. Using math at any level increases a person’s intelligence and develops thinking.
In addition, math is known as a universal language because the prinicpals of math are the same everywhere around the world. Regardless of whether you use Arabic numbers (5+5=10) or Roman Numerals (V + V = X), the concept of 10 is the same. The same is true with geometric figures. Triangles, squares, rectangles, circles, etc, are the same all over the world and their perimeter and area are calculated the same way no matter where you are.
As far as algebra and other higher level maths are concerned, these provide the abstract reasoning skills that help students become better abstract reasoners in general. Good abstract reasoning skills improve a student's ability to write a coherent essay, for example, since essays require the writer to shift back and forth between abstract concepts and specific supporting facts. Many life skills, including choosing a career, making major purchases, running a business, and managing a family also require reasoning skills that are improved by math study. In addition, success in algebra correlates highly with success in higher education.
Above all, math is meant to be fun. All too often students are imtimidated by math courses. Introducing strange numbers and odd symbols which have never been seen before can be scary. If you look at math as a game, puzzle, or code to be figured out or cracked, you may be more willing to challenge yourself. Once you understand the new concepts, you will see how rewarding and fun math can be!
Take math courses online at Learner Middle & High School! To learn about the math and other courses we offer, call us at 866-502-1050, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Ricki Lee Silverman, Creative Writing teacher at Learner High School
One of the best ways to become a writer is to thoroughly immerse yourself in the style of a writer you admire. Serious writing students have been known to copy out in longhand their favorite poems as well as selections from their favorite books and stories. Like walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, these copying experiences figuratively help you walk in someone else’s mind. You start to understand the ebb and flow of that writer’s style, right down to the use of commas and colons.
A related exercise is something I call “Faux Poe.” Edgar Allan Poe was known for his immense vocabulary, and as you try to imitate his style, you will start to see how his word choices help create characters that are a unique blend of the upper class, the willful and the mentally unstable. What’s that you say? You deny that Poe’s lexicographical opulence elevates his headstrong heroes to incomparable heights of unmitigated horror? Surely a person of your perspicacity understands that the revenge-crazed Montresor must wield his words as deftly as he wields his trowel. Surely you see that, should a shabby word encroach upon Prince Prospero’s magnificent crenellated castle, why that word would be just as unwelcome there as . . . the Red Death.
I urge you to deepen your acquaintance with the much vaunted verbiage of Edgar Allan Poe and to try your hand at it, too. You can make the acquaintance of Montresor by reading “The Cask of Amontillado” and Prince Prospero by reading "The Masque of the Red Death."
Have fun! (Or should I say, savor the piquancy of this most satisfying avocation.)
A scene from The Cask Of Amontillado. Willing Hearts Production Copyright 2006
Learner High School offers a Creative Writing course online. To learn more about the courses Learner offers, call us at 866-502-1050 or email email@example.com.
Submitted by Robert Strodtbeck, Learner High School Social Studies Teacher
Gary North is an economist and prolific writer who has been pointing out that the low cost of sending information through the Internet is changing how people get their information and causing momentous shifts in the influence of the news media. Newspapers are becoming obsolete and are being replaced by such Internet staples as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. On the morning of the last lift off of the space shuttle Endeavor, I watched an Orlando news program during which the news anchor actually quit reading the news script provided by the station writers and began reading the Twitter feeds of the astronauts on their cell phones.
This same digital technology that allows us to get information around a corporate news filter also allows us to get the documents that formed history for our own study. We can conveniently augment our understanding of a textbook reference of the Articles of the Confederation with finding an easily readable copy with commentaries within seconds on our laptop or even smart phone. We no longer are limited to those who disagreed with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution being simply labeled, “Anti-Federalists”; we can find their reasons and principles word for word as they wrote them just by typing “Anti-Federalists commentaries” into a search engine.
This easy access of information leads me to believe that the best part of a history class is having the curiosity to investigate the information given in the text. This curiosity is based upon questions of the world around you and how we got to where we are. Those basic questions are at the heart of research and, raised individually, become the basis of learning. This is the great adventure you have a chance to experience when taking in this new form of study called online schooling.