The Virtual Classroom
James Fox, The Mojave Hermit
Mountaineer-Progress, Columnist

Considering the exploding student population, the limited supply of qualified teachers and the astronomical cost of public education, it is only a matter of time before the problem becomes so immense that it will be impossible to implement any practical solution.

Currently, crowded conditions, stressful situations, and emphasis on testing is taking its toll on teaching staff, district budgets and the behavior of the student population.

The very cost of sending children to college is reflected in the family lifestyle, with both parents working full-time and children becoming "latchkey kids" with–in some cases–only the street gangs as their surrogate parents.

Various solutions are in the process of development in most states.
This is good while testing for a good, workable model, but bad if allowed to become permanent methodology for each state.

Once the most successful version is agreed upon, then all states should adopt the model. This assures uniformity of curriculum, consistency in methodology and fiscal guidelines.

It is a foregone conclusion that the majority of future classrooms will be virtual classrooms
Learning will be distance learning;

these classrooms, however, will become more and more sophisticated as the so-called "state of the art" improves.

They are quite advanced at the present moment, but left in the hands of various interest groups, they are not even similar from one state to the next. For example:
The Michigan Virtual University offers over 700 courses of study...

What is the Michigan Virtual University?

The Michigan Virtual University is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)3 Michigan corporation established in 1998 to meet the workforce development education and training needs of Michigan businesses and industries and their current and prospective employees through the innovative use of electronic learning technologies.

The MVU is governed by a board of directors comprised of representatives of the Michigan employer and education communities and state government.

By comparison the California Virtual University is being offered by the California Community Colleges.

Mission of the California Community Colleges:

"Primary missions of the Colleges are to offer academic and vocational education at the lower division level for both younger and older students, including those persons returning to school. Another primary mission is to advance California's economic growth and global competitiveness through education, training, and services that contribute to continuous work force improvement."

The Virtual University Section:

"The Regional Center's charge is to assist faculty, administration, and institutions within the region in the development of on-line courses and on-line programs. We have developed a comprehensive center that combines the use of faculty mentors to provide coaching, mentoring, and training, and the implementation of web-based resources via this web site. Our goal is to overcome the challenges posed by the vast geographical area that this region covers, and the large number of community colleges within the region, while at the same time delivering equitable services to each of the region's 38 community colleges."

When you analyze both systems they appear similar in purpose, but Michigan has isolated the Virtual University by awarding the contract to a nonprofit entity while ensuring supervision of the project by including industry, educators, and state representation on the board of directors, and to offer training that meets workforce development education and training needs of Michigan businesses and industries.

Michigan uses well established partners who's business is distance learning.

Meanwhile, California has burdened the California Community Colleges with the responsibility of including and supporting the total distance learning project while accommodating distance learning for 38 community colleges, and offering courses designed to produce graduates equipped with degrees rather that modern-day workforce skills and training.