Online Learning & Social Skill Development

A recent article in The Wall-Street Journal discusses the advantages/disadvantages of online learning as it relates to appropriately developing students’ social skills.  There is no doubt today’s youth are socially active using technology via Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. but when it comes to growing social skills while learning online, is that a different story? 

Elizabeth Birr Moje, a professor of education at the University of Michigan who has studied online learning, says that one disadvantage of learning online is that students may not learn to work with people as well.  While on the flip side, Rand Spiro, a professor in education psychology at Michigan State University, states that online learning will better prepare students for the digital world, building deeper understanding of subject matter. 

Since limited research exists on online learning, people are looking to the home school population for conclusive data findings.  The main conclusion is that home school students tend to perform equally well on academic achievement tests.  However, no findings were mentioned about their social skills – perhaps because these are much harder to measure?  While the article does not provide a whole lot of substantial information, it does spark thinking, hopefully spurring online learning providers to be cognizant of the entire experience… again, a reminder that we must keep the whole child in mind.