Virtual Learning Saves Educators Thousands
by Logan Smith
The emergence of online learning has shifted the way we look at education. Children can now learn in the classroom, at home, or a mix of the two. While the initial technology purchases has created some controversy; advanced learning management systems and iPads or laptops for school work, we are quickly seeing that the technology is paying for itself quite quickly.
One instructor, Juliebeth Farvour, of East High School in Wisconsin, spoke out about her pilot AP calculus class that uses blended learning techniques. The school falls in the Wauwatosa School District, who paid for the consignment of iPads for Farvour’s class. Many taxpayers weren’t thrilled with the purchase of 1,000 iPads at the cost of $250 apiece, but the iPads have already proven their worth in allowing the class to become completely paperless. More importantly, these iPads eliminate the need for expensive and bulky textbooks, some of which cost $165 and are updated every couple years. They have been replaced by inexpensive applications and e-books that can be downloaded onto the iPad. Farvour thinks the iPads will have paid for themselves entirely by the end of the year.
Learning management systems have also proven their worth in saving schools money. One study conducted by the University of Florida found that in 2008, a survey of 20 virtual schools in 14 states yearly cost of online learning per full-time student was about $4,300. Compare that to the more than $9,100 per full-time traditional student in 2006 and it’s easy to see how virtual learning is saving major dollars. While the most recent traditional education data was from 2006, the cost savings are estimated to be in the course development and teaching, as well as administrative and technical expenses. If the number has changed any from 2006, it most likely increased, as the cost of inflation will have affected teaching salaries, as well as staffing and managing the properties.
Catherine Cavanaugh, an associate professor at the University of Florida’s College of Education, strongly supports the use of virtual education, especially in conjunction with traditional methods. She believes that virtual learning allows for access to non-stop education, without adding million dollar buildings and expanding operating costs. According to Cavanaugh, “over the next decade, we expect an explosion in the use of virtual schooling as a seamless synthesis between the traditional classroom and online learning.” She expects online learning to become the norm, stating “schools that don’t embrace online learning soon will be viewed as limiting the learning opportunities of their students.”