MOOCs Expand, Homeschoolers Beware

, Spencer Irvine, 3 Comments

The School Reform News, published by the Heartland Institute, found there are over 1,200 massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offered by over 200 universities and taken by an estimated ten million K-12 students.


Florida is the nation’s leader in offering MOOCs, where students watch video lectures recorded online and participate in online discussion boards, which could reduce the cost of higher education for students and state taxpayers. Michael Horn, cofounder of the Clayton Christianson Institute, said, “People would be foolish to overlook it.” Florida state legislators are considering moving the state to MOOCs at the K-12 level, but note that MOOCs are free for the most part. One legislator, Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah), noted, “MOOCs are not for every student, but this is customized education, without taking up additional time and [resources].” Diaz added, “It’s another tool in the virtual world. It’s not going to replace the teacher.”

The state gave Broward College a grant to develop a MOOC, not as a purely academic class, but a preparation class for students to prepare before taking state college entrance exams. Those exams determine whether applicants can skip introductory-level classes or will need to take remedial classes.

The newsletter also posed an interesting question: Is online school like homeschooling?

In the meantime, online classes are giving homeschooling parents and their children more options, but parents have to be careful because not every online class is created equal (as the newsletter confirmed in a separate article). For example, Indiana Association of Home Educators director Debi Ketron said some online classes are a mere online extension of state public schools. She said homeschooling is “home-based and parent-directed and privately-funded,” whereas online classes run from public schools are not. She added, “When you take government money, there are always strings attached. We choose freedom because we can choose our own curriculum.”

Apparently, public school officials, when they learn parents are pulling their children out of school and want to homeschool them, call and tell these parents to sign up for one of their public school-run online classes. “That’s not homeschooling,” Ketron said. She and other parents worry that online schools are misleading families about what homeschooling is: Parent-driven curriculum that is not attached to public schools and government funding.