iNACOL Susan Patrick
Susan Patrick

This letter was originally printed as a response to “The NCAA’s Technological McCarthyism,” printed in the Chronicle of Higher Education May 26, 2010. Susan Patrick is the President & CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. She serves as a member of the NCAA High School Review Committee.

As President & CEO of the leading non-profit membership organization representing the online learning providers in K-12 education, I wanted to respond to the article published May 26, 2010 titled “NCAA’s Technological McCarthyism” by Diane Auer Jones.

With K-12 online learning growing at 30% annually, new educational opportunities are being made to students with an unprecedented flexibility. One in four college students takes an online course, according to the Sloan Consortium, thus making the acceptance level for college-readiness another prime reason to offer online courses in high school.

Online learning programs in K-12 education are held to the same standards of accountability as traditional courses: accreditation, standardized tests and end of course exams. Many online learning programs for high school online courses are holding themselves to a higher standard of quality than many traditional classrooms.

Online learning environments are more transparent than their traditional classroom counterparts. Online learning is data-rich – collecting every interaction in an online learning environment. And the results show. The U.S. Department of Education research study of online learning released on June 26, 2009 states, “Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

With regard to the NCAA decision, the Jones’ article doesn’t cover what aspects of the courses or programs were problematic. In reviewing the national quality standards, there are a number of important aspects of quality, such as faculty to student interaction, communication and collaboration to enhance learning using data-driven instruction. However, not all online courses are created equal, and the NCAA should, and must, have the ability to review these courses to make sure that their method of delivery meets the standards that have been put in place by its member institutions. In analyzing its policies and drafting this new legislation, the NCAA actually used iNACOL’s National Standards of Quality for Online Courses as a guidepost for its decision-making. So to argue as Jones did, that the NCAA is somehow ignorant or indifferent to the multitude of laudable online learning programs available for high school students, is misguided.

It wasn’t mentioned that the NCAA approves hundreds of high school online courses annually from a variety of our members’ K-12 online learning programs. This isn’t a debate about the brick-and-mortar delivery medium versus online medium for courses. Online learning has the transparency of learning management systems that record every student to teacher interaction and a record of the quality of the work a student performs. Looking closer, perhaps the question should be asked, “How many online high school courses does the NCAA accept?”

In addition, I am inviting the NCAA to participate in a web-based presentation with online learning institutions to discuss how their programs are evaluated for quality and college-readiness. This should be an interesting discussion. In our work with the NCAA, the NCAA has been pro-active in reaching out to the secondary school community to make sure that the standards adopted by its member institutions are available to secondary school administrators at both brick and mortar schools as well as online learning programs. NCAA representatives attended, engaged in meetings with programs and made presentations at our last three Virtual School Symposium (VSS) annual conferences and also presented in a special webinar on NCAA High School Eligibility and online courses.

Online learning works and is providing solutions to challenges facing K-12 schools now. From keeping students in school and on-track through online credit recovery to accelerating a students’ college readiness by earning college credits in the local high school through online dual enrollment, schools are finding new, innovative ways to help students re-engage in academics and learn critical technology literacy skills at the same time. Remember, 40% of high school students who do graduate and enter college require remediation in math and writing.

Perhaps this isn’t McCarthyism as much as a Sherlock Holmes approach to reviewing 15,000 high school courses, both online and face-to-face, with a fine tooth comb and magnifying glass. I applaud the NCAA for striving to ensure that its student-athletes are arriving on campus with the tools that they need to succeed academically. To chastise the association for providing more stringent requirements in areas where it has seen consistent abuses is foolish. I hope the result of their recent policy changes is all programs being held to a higher level of quality to ensure our students are college-ready and better prepared.

Sincerely,

Susan D. Patrick

Susan Patrick is the President & CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. She serves as a member of the NCAA High School Review Committee.

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