These discussion documents were created as background material for the next century events that take place in the Life Online technothriller book series.
THE ISSUE: The entire school curriculum for a one-hundred percent online education could be made available as a complete alternative to attending traditional school. The goals would be to end childhood stress from bullying and teacher complacency and bias, and to save billions of dollars.
What is an education? It is a process used to provide a human with basic skills such as reading and writing required for operating in a modern civilization, and a common basis of information that can be used as a foundation for future knowledge. Whether the objective is spread out over 2,500 leisurely days, or crammed into half that time, hardly makes any difference to the child’s eventual standing as an adult who has retained the information. If the process could be completed without the organizational, social and logistical headaches of forcing every child through a common school system, it may end up improving focus, accelerating learning, instantly updating to changing labor demands, and saving billions in one sweep of a keyboard.
Access would begin as soon as a child turns four years old, when parents receive notification that an account has been established for the child in the public school education online system. The entire curriculum from pre-K to Grade 12 plus advanced placement courses would be made available, complete with lectures, books, tests, exercises and a suggested study schedule. There would be no set school year, no defined beginning or end time. Parents could schedule the school day exactly against the hours of their own working and commuting time, and continue through the summer or other holidays based on the family’s vacation plans. In most communities, children would report to a study hall where monitors would patrol the cubicles. Each child would be scanned in, and all online time would be recorded. Cameras in common areas would record all activity. Breaks would be programmed based on the student’s pace of work, for example every 90 minutes. Students could test out of material they already know, and accelerate towards completion long before their 18th birthday. They could also complete college-level coursework, removing one or two years of higher education loans from their future.
To ensure compliance, students would be required to report for testing at their current level, every 90 days, and if they fail to achieve a passing grade they would have to report to a traditional teaching environment for at least one year. Even if only half the children in the country have the discipline to succeed in this system, the resources that would be saved would be enormous.
For socializing, existing recreation centers and school buildings could be used to continue with sports, music, arts, drama, leadership and other extra-curricular activities. But these would be organized and managed by parents, professional coaches or expert instructors, and other interested citizens which would have the added effect of ending a reliance on teachers as babysitters, and improving the community’s level of engagement with children.
THE PROBABILITY: While the basic curriculum is already available for home schooling, the next step will be the creation of advanced online tools, and whole communities demanding the transition away from their traditional, failing school.