Feature Article—Online Education: The Wave of the Future? by Bruce Etter
Educational Helps – by Laurie Detweiler
Online Education: The Wave of the Future?
We often hear that because something is the “wave of the future” we should jump on board and go with it. This new thing must be good if it is the wave of the future. Certainly this phrase is being used regarding online education, but it behooves us to examine the nature of this “wave,” for there is no shortage of proponents and critics when it comes to using the internet for educational purposes.
The face of education is changing rapidly due in large part to the internet. A student can now obtain a portion of or an entire college degree over the internet. It is estimated that more than one million K–12 students are taking courses online, nearly a 50% increase from only two years ago. This number is expected to increase significantly in the upcoming years. The time will soon come when the student who completes his education without taking any courses online will be a rare exception. Let us consider some of the philosophical and practical issues involved.
No one would argue with the benefits of having live, face-to-face interaction in the educational process. But is all face-to-face instruction better than all non-face-to-face instruction? Which is to be preferred, mediocre or average instruction face-to-face or expert instruction online? This is not to suggest that all online instruction is expert or that all traditional education is mediocre, but it is an important question. The question does force one to deal with the issue of whether or not we believe that one method is superior to the other . . . in all cases. I would much prefer to be taught online by an expert on any given topic as opposed to being taught face-to-face by someone who is an average or poor teacher.
The argument has been made, however, that education must take place within the context of community, and this community can only exist only in the form of a brick and mortar school. Community is certainly a vital aspect of Christian fellowship, but the question arises as to whether the school is truly the center of community life. For the Christian, is the school truly the primary hub of community? The school can be a community, but is it the community? The church, of course, is the center of community life for the believer. Fellowship revolves around interaction with brothers and sisters of the church family. Otherwise, where does that leave the home school crowd, or the elderly, singles, and couples without children? If the brick and mortar school is the hub of community and fellowship these folks are obviously left out.
Furthermore, this argument assumes there is no community aspect to online education. Certainly, the community of an online school is not the same as that of a traditional school. This does not mean that there is no community. I have seen friendships develop and grow in this environment. I have observed interaction among students, parents, and teachers that has been mutually edifying. But don’t misunderstand. The “virtual world” should not replace the real world. My point here is that it is wrong to assume that there is no community aspect among students who are a part of an online school.
I have observed two distinct beneficiaries of online education. First, families who are committed to educating their children at home have the option of getting some help in the areas in which they see themselves as less qualified. I have spoken with countless families who are committed to classical Christian education but live in areas where it is impossible to find a good Latin teacher, or find any Latin teacher, to help in this vital aspect of their child’s education. They can certainly learn Latin and teach it to their children, and many do a fine job of it. This becomes increasingly difficult, however, with multiple children and many responsibilities to juggle. These families now have the option of keeping their children at home and offering them instruction by an expert in the field. The same is true of other subjects (Omnibus, biology, calculus, etc.) depending upon the area in which the parent may have weaknesses. No one is an expert in everything!
Other families see the benefits of spending more one-on-one time with their children in the earlier years (teaching them to read, etc.) and taking advantage of the online courses for fourth grade and up or seventh grade and up. The online option allows those who are philosophically committed to having more direct oversight over their children’s education to maintain that relationship and at the same time receive quality assistance.
The second beneficiary of online education is the small Christian school. I have been involved with several small Christian schools over the years, and I know that limited budgets can mean that a teacher wears many hats. I have been everything from a girl’s volleyball coach to a missions coordinator, and I have taught a broad range of subjects, including math, Bible, Spanish, and rhetoric. The list goes on and on. The truth is, I was not truly qualified to serve in some of these roles. Small schools do what they have to do. A small Christian school may not have the budget for a calculus or Omnibus teacher. These schools now have the option of maintaining their normal schedule and joining in an online class with a qualified instructor at a fixed time in the day. That seems like a great solution to me.
So, is online education the “wave of the future?” It is likely that this is indeed the case. Like most “new” things in the past, it will likely meet with skepticism. Just as traditional education can be excellent or quite poor, online education can be the same. However, understood in the right philosophical context and applied in appropriate settings, online education will continue to be what many families have told me it is: a tremendous blessing.
Bruce Etter is the head administrator and teaches online with Veritas Press Scholars Academy. He lives in Lancaster, Pa., with his wife Julie and their five children. He also has written for the Omnibus curriculum.
I Can Build
When our boys were younger we would spend some of our time in the summer with my parents in Highlands, North Carolina, or at their home in Islamorada, Florida. Before we would go I would always try to find a book full of interesting crafts and building ideas that used items they could find on their outdoor explorations. In North Carolina they would spend hours in the creek looking for treasures, and they would always bring home pocketfuls of goodies for Mom to sort through before doing the wash. I gave each boy a plastic bin with his name on it to collect his new found treasures. One of my boys in particular, Brandon, who is now 22, found some items that I wish I could forget. One day I went to empty out his pockets, and not only did I find some shiny pebbles, but a nice shiny black snake. And of course, during our time at the beach, they always found shells and driftwood that washed up on the beach after a high tide.
I don’t know what you know about Highlands, North Carolina, but it is a temperate rain forest. Many days it rains and is very cool. On those days it was great to bring out their treasure bins and the craft books I had purchased and let them take those items and build to their hearts' content. A few days ago I had a review copy come across my desk that reminded me of one of the craft books that I had used with my boys. The book is 1 2 3 I Can Build! by Irene Luxbacher. Using basic craft materials, such as glue and paint, they can combine that with treasures from nature and build incredible things. It is amazing what you can do with just a flat shiny rock and some paint. I still have a paperweight that one of my boys made when he was about six. Believe me, now that they are grown, that paperweight is even more precious than it was when he made it.
So have your children use their imagination or use a book like the one offered below to create hours of fun!
If you look at our free offers below, you will see that you can have the book free for the asking when placing an order in July of $100 or more.
Fourth of July Parade
The Fourth of July is known for fireworks and parades. In 2005, we provided readers of epistula with instructions for some rather unique "firecrackers." This year we will focus on the parades.
To see a parade, most folks have to drive a distance. Very few people can set up chairs in their own front yard to see it all pass by. But this year make the parade come to you. The photos in these directions show a successful homeschool parade that has been going on for several years just a few miles from the Veritas Press offices. Click here for the directions and get inspired.
Free Book: 1 2 3 I Can Build!
As Laurie mentioned above, this book is a must-have for a rainy day during summer. You may have one free with an order of $100 or more in July. Just ask for the book while placing your order. If you place your order on our web site, simply enter item code 901108 on the Express Order page and click Add to Order. This book will provide hours of enjoyment for your children this summer.
Q. From what worldview is the Omnibus written?
A. A very good question. Anything that someone creates necessarily starts with certain presuppositions. Our presuppositions are those of biblical Christians who embrace the Protestant Reformation, and most of the authors and all the editors believe that the Westminster Confession of Faith is the best doctrinal expression of what Scripture teaches.
Q. My child has begun reading but is not proficient. Should I get The Phonics Museum, Grade One Kit or the complete Kindergarten and First Grade Combo Kit?
A. It really depends on the age of the child. If this is an older child, and the child is reading short vowel words, then they can begin the First Grade portion. If this is a five- or six-year-old, we recommend taking them through the entire program in order to ensure that you do not miss anything and because they need to learn to form their letters. The safest approach is to go through the whole program (K & 1) speeding through the portions they’ve mastered. That way you will be assured there will not be gaping holes in their learning.
Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to email@example.com.
Veritas Press Scholars Academy Co-Op in Lancaster, Pa
Several families have expressed a desire to have a local (to Lancaster, Pa., and surrounding areas) fellowship of homeschoolers who are using Veritas Press materials. This group would meet on a regular basis to do projects and other fun things. If you are interested in learning more about this, please join us for a covered-dish dinner at the home of Marlin and Laurie Detweiler on August 1 at 6:00 p.m. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 17th.
Electronic Catalog is Online
Tips for Phoning Us
Summer has proven to be a busy time, with many of you calling to ask questions and place orders. To ensure that you receive the best customer service, we recommend you call early in the day and as early in the week as possible. Remember, we are here to serve you during these busy summer months from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM EDT. And if you call early in the day—say before 10:00 AM EDT—you’ll be less likely to wait.
Summer Reading Contest
It's not too late to have your children get started in the Summer Reading Contest which was announced in the May epistula. The contest runs until September 15. Please see the May epistula for further details.
Veritas Press Scholars Academy Diploma Program
Are you looking for your child to go to college? Do you desire accountability and assistance in knowing that each year your students are accomplishing what they need to? We now offer yearly certification services culminating in a high school diploma. There are four different diploma levels, each addressing the varying levels of a student’s abilities and circumstances. Year-by-year certification services ensure you are on track for your objectives, meeting an outside standard, and, in many cases, satisfying state requirements. We’ve even made provision for qualifying courses completed elsewhere or using other curricula. For more information, click here.
Still Some Room in the Veritas Press Teacher Training and In-A-Week Classes
There's still time to take advantage of the online training options this summer. In an effort to save you the time, trouble, and money needed for travel and lodging in these trying economic times, we have decided to offer our Teacher Training and In-A-Week classes online only this year. This year’s Teacher Training Conference is scheduled online for July 29-31, 2009. There is one remaining online Omnibus I-In-A-Week class. Here’s the schedule for the remainder of the summer:
ONLINE EVENT DATE TEACHER
Teacher Training July 29–31 Gary DeMar and Douglas Wilson,
Plenary speakers and various
Omnibus I-In-A-Week July 20-24 Bruce Etter
What better way to prepare yourself to teach Omnibus or just learn the material for your own improvement? Teacher Training will give you that extra knowledge and inspiration to carry you through the entire school year. View the details here. We hope you’ll join us. You’ll be glad you did.
Detweilers Taking on More Speaking Engagements
It’s hard to believe, but Marlin and Laurie Detweiler will be empty nesters come August. Consequently, they are willing and able to take on more speaking and consulting engagements. If we can be of service to you or your organization, feel free to call Marlin at 800-922-5082 or email him at email@example.com.
Future Job Opening with Veritas Press Scholars Academy
Online Teachers—With the rapid growth of our online courses we continue to seek more teachers for the 2009–2010 school year and beyond. Experienced teachers can work from home, the beach, or anywhere high-speed internet is available. Send résumé to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit us on the web at VeritasPress.com or call us at 1-800-922-5082.
Browse the Veritas Press virtual catalog online!