Is online learning “the other side of the rainbow” for cash-strapped rural schools?

We’ve been tackling at MPR News’ Insight Now the topic of dwindling resources for schools, and the conversation has drifted toward whether online education can help relieve the financial pressure.

This week, the Rural Blog, a national repository of stories important to rural areas in the nation, pointed to the Idaho Statesman and a story on whether online education can level the playing field for rural schools

The story points to the push by Idaho’s school chief to require six credits of online learning for freshman who begin high school in 2012. A superintendent in rural Idaho, Benjamin Merrill of the Notus School District, told the newspaper that online classes give his rural students the same opportunities as those in larger cities. But critics say you can’t replace in-person with online.

At Insight Now, a discussion on whether to cut school busing to divert resources for education veered off into whether online learning could be a more efficient and cheaper way to teach students.

No way, said @Jessica_Sundheim, who reminded us that former Gov. Tim Pawlenty had repeatedly talked about online learning as a necessary tool for providing education when funding for schools is tight. But she had experience of learning online. And she wrote that it was lousy:

“Before I went back to school, I was a cashier. I was used to interacting with people, seeing them in person, having conversations, etc. My semester online was the most isolating time of my life.”

She also said that broadband access isn’t nearly good enough for the Internet to be a viable alternative.

“The Internet is not the other side of the rainbow for rural communities,” she added.

Another Insight Now commentator said he finished his degree online but wouldn’t recommend the method to anyone else.

Juxtapose these comments with the story at MPR’s Ground Level blog that shows how online interaction helps kids in rural schools get speech therapy.

We want to know what you think about online learning. What experiences have you had with online interactions, especially if they are education-related? For cash-strapped schools with shrinking resources – especially in rural areas – can online learning be the answer? Why or why not?

Tell us by clicking here – or just comment below

  • Tobias Bartesen

    If you need human interaction online learning will be awful. If you have a slow connection online learning, most likiely, will be awful. To say that one way or the other is true for everyone is ridiculous. (sp??)