NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Teacher Training Moves Online

April 12, 2013

The K-12 education system in America has failed to make significant advances in student performance and the lackluster quality of teachers is frequently blamed on education schools. In higher education, costs have risen far beyond inflation and schools are struggling to maintain their traditional teacher education programs, the effects of which are negligible. Online learning, which is already being used with many students across the country, might be the perfect tool to train better teachers, says Meredith Liu, a visiting fellow at the Innosight Institute.

  • Online learning does not improve the existing quality of educational services but instead offers an entirely new avenue for teacher education.
  • The new form of learning is disruptive to traditional brick-and-mortar schools, which are costly and have a stranglehold on the teacher-preparation market.
  • Teachers trained online are not necessarily better trained than brick-and-mortar teachers but technology, software and hardware are rapidly improving and making higher education more accessible.

More than 30 percent of postsecondary (after high school) students report taking at least one online class and more than 73 percent of schools offered distance-education courses in 2010, according American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

  • The University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education is now offering an online master's in teaching programs through an online learning company called 2U.
  • The program utilizes an advanced cloud-computing platform that delivers the courses required for a Masters of Arts in Teaching.
  • The program has expanded from 200 candidates in 2008 to 2,200 candidates in 2010, all of whom pay the same $40,000 price tag for the 13-month degree.

Other universities, like the Western Governors University, are offering their own online teacher training programs that cover the foundations of teaching for a variety of students who may not fit well into a traditional school.

  • The online programs will continue to increase in popularity, particularly programs offered by fully online universities that have low overhead costs and non-traditional business models.
  • Many established universities with traditional teacher training programs might find it difficult to compete or accommodate distance-learning platforms.

Source: Meredith Liu, "Disrupting Teacher Education," Education Next, Summer 2013.


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