Imagine walking into a classroom and seeing no one in the front of the classroom. Instead you’re lead to a computer terminal at a desk and told this will be your teacher for the course. The only adults around are a facilitator to make sure that you stay on task and to fix any tech problems that may arise. For some Florida students, computer led-instruction is a reality. Within the Miami-Dade County Public School district alone, 7000 students are receiving this form of education including six middle and K-8 schools, according to the New York Times.
Due to the state enforced Class Size Reduction Amendment, schools are choosing to run computer-taught classes called “e-learning labs” which don’t need to abide by the stringent class size limitations that traditional classrooms face. The online classes are provided by Florida Virtual School, who previously created programs for home schooled students in the state. For example, Miami Beach High School’s Advanced Placement macroeconomics e-classroom has 35 to 40 students each class. Under the legislation, high school classrooms are capped at 25 students for core classes like English and math. Fourth through eighth-grade classrooms are maxed out at 22 students, and pre-kindergarten through third grade reach their limit at 18 students.
“None of them want to be there and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice,” Miami Beach High sophomore Alix Braun said to the newspaper. Unlike most of her classmates, she chose to be put in the e-learning microeconomics lab.
There are some positive aspects to online learning especially the “blended learning concept” traditional instruction combined with computer instruction, according to Pennsylvania State University Professor of Education Michael G. Moore. In a recent study by the IST Programme of the European Commission INNOELEARNING Project, they found that e-learning models can be tailored better to individual students needs and help develop interpersonal skills such as teamwork and individual skills such as time management. It can also help group people who need the same instruction but might be separated by geographical boundaries like the upcoming 6th International Conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training in Tanzania will do. However, Moore acknowledges that a lot of the benefits of e-learning instruction rely on the maturity of the learner. In Florida, where some students don’t have a choice in whether or not they want e-learning instruction, this can put students not ready for this type of learning in this kind of classroom.
Manager of the e-learning lab program Julie Durrand said that the company is working with the school district to help tailor the program to fit Florida’s students. But when most of us look back fondly on our favorite teachers, we remember a kind-hearted, patient instructor that made learning fun. While computers can make instruction entertaining, nothing beats an inspirational mentor that makes us quest for knowledge.
More on TIME.com: