Why Asynchronous Learning Tech Companies like Edgenuity Miss the Mark
Closing the learning gap in education is going to take more than technology, products, and promises. After years of experience not only in the education technology sector but also in the education sector as a teacher/educator monitor and assessor, it’s been my experience that asynchronous education models are still doing a poor job at “filling in” for real live teachers.
Since the late 80s and early 90s education technology companies have been trying to develop online learning programs that not only help close learning gaps seen across districts all over the country, but they have also been trying to find ways to mitigate the growing teacher shortage.
Yes, believe it or not even back then there was a significant trend of shortages, particularly in low-income urban and rural districts. With the surge of standardized testing and impossible socio-economic issues on the rise, many college graduates do not see teaching as a viable career option or as a career option with longevity.
Fast forward almost 40 years and we are all at the mercy of the system. Education technology companies that have been around for decades are still falling short and not living up to the potential that online education promised. While companies like Edgenuity have been around since approximately 1988, they still use an outdated asynchronous model in credit recovery classrooms across the country.
Despite research that indicates programs like these “one size fits all” digital platforms are terribly outdated and less engaging for students, districts all over the country have these “click click click” rooms where a monitor (rarely a certified) is running these pre-recorded online programs like Edgenuity to room full of 50 or more students. This is not hyperbole, and this was at a smaller school with a computer lab half the size of many of the bigger districts.
In one school I visited a few summers ago there was only one summer school/credit recovery program with only one teacher - whose background was in English Language Arts. She was helping run an Edgenuity lab that had grade levels that ranged from Freshmen to Seniors and courses like Spanish, Physics, Speech, Algebra, etc. where she admitted students were just clicking their way through the screens to get to the unit tests so they could hurriedly receive credit for the course.
Many times she and the students were trying to find answers on Google to help the student pass these unit quizzes and tests to no avail. She said it was one of the most frustrating experiences she’d had and that she never wanted to monitor the lab again as she saw it as a waste of not only students’ time but also her own. “No one was actually learning anything.”
And yet we wonder why we have fallen so utterly far behind in education and why the system is failing. The education system has been set up to “check boxes,” and if certain demographics fall behind and can’t catch up, it’s usually on the student and the teacher to rectify the issue.
What’s worse is billions of dollars are being spent on programming like Edgenuity which has shown for decades that it does improve students’ learning. Maybe they are receiving credit for courses taken in an Edgenuity lab, but what are students actually gleaning from these courses?
Relying on a digital platform that simply shows pre-recorded video lessons, and unit quizzes only works for a small percentage of self-motivated students. And now in this post-pandemic era of education where we are seeing even more challenges and struggles to catch students up and make sure they are truly learning and retaining content – it’s crucial that we are providing students with a holistic approach to learning.
There are better solutions for students, teachers, and districts – live-streamed synchronous classrooms have the same student performance outcomes as their brick-and-mortar counterparts meaning: if we can get students to engage with a live virtual teacher with technology their chances for success are just as good if not better than being one on one in the classroom.
Asynchronous classes offer a static approach to teaching - which directly contradicts the trends in education toward individualized and scaffolded instruction. Our students come with varied backgrounds, skill levels, and even access to technology.
Knowing this, we should be doing all we can to meet them where they are at. And this is easier to do when they are face to face with a live instructor who can suss out what the students and their families need in order to support their best learning environment and best practices.
The best teaching and learning practices take place when students and teachers are able to form personal connections while learning content. It’s just a fact – students learn better when they feel personally connected to the content, their learning community, and the individual teaching the content.
We have to make sure that we are demanding better solutions from the education sector instead of quick fixes for credit recovery and asynchronous content delivery in our school systems. Our students deserve a quality education - our students deserve equity.