Online learning is not a specifically American phenomenon. This New York Times article discusses a London based digital math tutor named Salmon Kahn, who uses Youtube to reach 3.5 million students with his math tutorials.

This is a testament some of the biggest benefits of online learning- the potential for great instructors to reach a substantial body of students, and the ability for students to learn at their own pace:

“In a traditional classroom, what’s fixed is the amount of time you spend on a subject. The variable is how well you learn it,” [Mr. Kahn] said during an interview on Skype. “But when you think about all the things you learn outside a classroom – riding a bike, sports, playing an instrument – what you want to achieve is a certain mastery.”

While his own group, the Kahn Academy, is only working in the K-12 realm, Mr. Kahn also highlights the potential of online learning for higher education:

“There are a lot of higher education institutions where the teaching just isn’t very good, where the teachers rattle on as they’ve been doing for years, and where, especially in the sciences, the teachers just don’t keep up,” he said.”

Online learning, then, is a means to modernize these teaching practices, and once again give high quality educators access to the largest number of students.

With lawsuits regarding school finance once again dominating Texas education headlines, we are certainly approaching a legislative session where fresh ideas for improving our public schools will be welcome. Going further down the virtual learning path is a move Texas needs to make.

– James Golsan