computer technologies have revolutionized the way people communicate and do
business. And now they’re poised to transform public education as well. A
recent study by Michael Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac
Center, thoroughly reviews the research on “virtual learning” and describes how
it can benefit schools, students and taxpayers.
The study finds that an
increasing number of students, parents and schools are recognizing the benefits
of virtual learning. According to estimates, there were more than 20,000
virtual course enrollments in Michigan last year.
Van Beek reports on
research that shows students can learn just as well in online courses. While
virtual learning may not be perfect for every student, many can benefit from
its greater flexibility and options. Furthermore, virtual schools and online
courses often cost significantly less to operate than traditional
brick-and-mortar schools, the study shows.
Current policies in
Michigan limit the online educational opportunities available to students. Van
Beek recommends doing away with an outdated pupil accounting rule that only
allows schools to get funds for the number of students physically present, and
advises the state to lift its arbitrary barriers on the expansion of virtual
Because of its promise,
virtual learning is a hot topic in Michigan and around the country, and the
Mackinac Center is significantly contributing to the discussion. Van Beek’s
most recent study was featured in the Holland Sentinel and The Detroit News.
Several education bloggers reported on the study as well. Last September, the
Center hosted two national experts in Lansing to educate legislators about the
benefits of virtual learning. Van Beek has presented on the topic at the Michigan
Virtual University Annual Symposium, the Michigan chapter of the American
Institute for Architects and the Michigan Association of Adult and Community
Michigan was once
considered a national leader in virtual learning. With this study, Van Beek
shows how the state can once again allow schools and parents to take full
advantage of these powerful educational tools.