One of the amazing advances in education comes courtesy of online learning. Thanks to the Internet and the emergence of new technologies, there are opportunities to revolutionize public education in ways that depart from the abysmal practices of the status quo. Yet some teachers and school leaders attempt to apply some of the same activities that have helped foster the nation’s dropout crisis instead of embracing possibilities.

In this Voices of the Dropout Nation, Andrew Miller of the Buck Institute for Education offers his own perspective on what online learning can be — and why it shouldn’t resemble traditional public education. Read, consider and offer your own thoughts.

“Online classes are not for all students.” This comment quickly incites debate in the online education community and it’s all based in real life situations. It’s true, not all students have been successful in the online classroom. Some of them lack the time management skills or the independent motivation to get work done efficiently. Some have technology skills that need improvement. However, these are all excuses. Yes, excuses consistently used to create a push-out culture for online education.

David R. Dupper has many publications that reframe issues in school in terms of push-out instead of drop-out. Drop-out implies fault of the student, instead of push-out. By adopting the term “push-out” the onus is the many factors that contribute to student success – everything from teachers to curriculum. A recently published article shows many views on why online classes are not for everyone. In fact one interviewer claims “If a student is independent, disciplined or just busy with school, work, or both, an online course might be the best option for that individual.” Another claims “Read the assignment, do what you have to do and get it done. I recommend it if that’s the way you like to learn” These statements bother me.

These are examples of statements that foster a “drop-out” framework rather than a “push-out” framework. I ask these interviewees, “Why are you creating so many requirements and restrictions for students to be successful online?”  The first interviewee is creating a list of traits that a student must have. Instead we should train out students to have these skills. The second interviewee makes a large assumption – that all courses are structured in one a specific way.

Innovators are trying new ways of structuring courses, from gaming-based to project based. They are not simply the “read and do that assignment” stereotype. It is true that many courses are structure this way, and so should serve as a warning. In fact, this assumption no doubt came out of real experience of being exposed to the same type of course framework and pedagogical model. We need to make sure not to structure all online courses in the same pedagogical models. Game based courses are starting to be created, as done by Florida Virtual Schools in their Conspiracy Code American History Course.  Many courses are trying PBL models for their learning, as well as focus on 21st century skills such as collaboration and presentation. Innovative course design needs to continue, and the assumption that all online courses are the same should be mitigated.

We have the opportunity to avoid the replication of a broken system where the culture of “read and do” exist. We must take ownership of the walls that exist for students and seek to find ways to climb. Students should not adjust to the educational system.  Instead the online education system should adjust to its students.