From Drop Out to Push Out in Online Learning

This article was written by Andrew Miller – [email protected], who sits on the National Faculty at the Buck Institute for Education.
“Online classes are not for all students.” This comment quickly incites debate in the online education community and it’s all based in real life situations. It’s true, not all students have been successful in the online classroom. Some of them lack the time management skills or the independent motivation to get work done efficiently. Some have technology skills that need improvement. However, these are all excuses consistently used to create a push-out culture for online education.
David R. Dupper has many publications that reframe issues in school in terms of push-out instead of drop-out. Drop-out implies fault of the student, instead of push-out. By adopting the term “push-out” the onus is the many factors that contribute to student success – everything from teachers to curriculum. A recently published article shows many views on why online classes are not for everyone. In fact, one interviewer claims “If a student is independent, disciplined or just busy with school, work, or both, an online course might be the best option for that individual.” Another claims “Read the assignment, do what you have to do and get it done. I recommend it if that’s the way you like to learn” These statements bother me.
These are examples of statements that foster a “drop-out” framework rather than a “push-out” framework.
Innovators are trying new ways of structuring courses, from gaming-based to project based. They are not simply the “read and do that assignment” stereotype. It is true that many courses are structure this way, and so should serve as a warning. In fact, this assumption no doubt came out of real experience of being exposed to the same type of course framework and pedagogical model. We need to make sure not to structure all online courses in the same pedagogical models. Game based courses are starting to be created, as done by Florida Virtual School in their Conspiracy Code American History Course.  Many courses are trying PBL models for their learning, as well as focus on 21st century skills such as collaboration and presentation. Innovative course design needs to continue, and the assumption that all online courses are the same should be mitigated.
We have the opportunity to avoid the replication of a broken system where the culture of “read and do” exist. We must take ownership of the walls that exist for students and seek to find ways to climb. Students should not adjust to the educational system.  Instead the online education system should adjust to its students.

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