Caught in the Web: Educational Risks and Rewards of Online Learning

spiderweb sunlit against a green backdropSnapshot: Online learning can offer many educational benefits for both students and teachers, but how much online learning is too much? Should this principal apply for a funding program that would put half the curriculum online, or has the pandemic taught us to be more wary of the risks and pitfalls of education on the web? This case invites readers to explore the ethical complexities of implementing new digital educational technologies while contending with the pressures of social media and other hazards of life online.


Case Description: Selma Morgenstern has a problem. As principal of a fictional high school in Germany, she would like her school to put its students in the best possible position to succeed in the post-COVID world. She believes that more hybrid approaches to teaching and learning can provide this kind of support, and a funding program from the Bavarian state has just been released which could help her school develop a tailor-made virtual learning program. She, like many other principals and teachers, saw first-hand how poorly equipped her school was to grapple with the mandatory online learning that occurred during the pandemic, and she wants to do something about that. But her school has also been having difficulties with the online learning opportunities they already have. From students' being bullied on social media to pornography use in the school computer lab, Selma is worried about the potential pitfalls of hybridizing the school's educational offering any further, and the funding program involved would require 50% of the curriculum to go online. What should she do? 

This case focuses on the dilemmas surrounding the decision to move more of students' learning time into online spaces and platforms. What is at stake when these kinds of decisions are made? What new kinds of pressures, problems, or risks does it introduce for teachers, students and administrators? What special benefits does online learning provide? What might get lost in the transition away from traditional teaching and learning situations? How much online learning is too much? 

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