Online courses and degree programs have become very popular in higher education, especially for non and post-traditional learners. Could K-12 schools implement online learning with similar effectiveness and popularity?

Are there currently any K-12 schools with strong online classes or programs?

Answers

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Eastern Pennsylvania is one place where school districts are using Bridges Virtual Learning as a platform for online learning. The school district where I teach has piloted several online classes, and I taught an accelerated composition course there for several semesters. These courses have given many students an opportunity to take required courses in alternative settings. One concern, however, has been accountability. While the online high school class sounds, and is, an excellent option, students aren't always aware of how much work and self-discipline it requires. My students had a definite learning curve when it came to self-directed study. At the end of the course, they were happy to have experienced this learning curve prior to tackling an online course at the college level.

If you are interested in finding an online program, consider looking to see if your state offers one. Pennsylvania, I know, has a cyber charter school that is growing in popularity.

Maryann Aita, Writer and Expert Tutor

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Although I don't think there is a definitive answer to this question, I think a blended model of online and classroom learning has the potential to be a great for some high school students. The New Yorker recently printed an article about AltSchool, a group of elementary schools that bring technology into the classroom. While it may not be online courses, it does provide some interesting pros and cons of more student-directed learning and technology initiatives.

Carrie also made a great point that high schoolers, especially, are not great with time-management and self-discipline, but that could be one skill online classes help students to build. In my work as a tutor, building time-management skills takes time as well as maturity. One of the best exercises can be to give students more independent learning options. In that respect, online classes for high school students could be very beneficial. Of course not all students will succeed in that effort. It's also important to consider that some students simply won't do their work no matter what routes you provide.

Another possible benefit of online courses for high schoolers would be that they could work at times when they feel most alert. A lot of high schoolers would rather stay up late and sleep until 10am than get up early for school. This schedule isn't ideal for everyone, but it might be enticing to kids who are falling asleep in the back of the classroom at 8 in the morning.

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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Online learning is becoming more and more popular and effective. There are some elements that will be lost when it comes to hands on learning in science classes. In a traditional classroom, science students have access to expensive and important equipment that a student on her own would not be able to access. The instruction can be strong in the online setting. The experiential learning in labs might suffer due to lack of access. This article discusses how those concerns can be overcome.

Dylan Ferniany, Ed.D. in Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

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The shift to more online learning in K-12 schools is happening right now. We are on the very cusp of having many options for students to move through coursework virtually rather than face to face. Florida is the leader in this national movement, with Florida Virtual Schools. However there are many other companies creating virtual courseware for schools to use. In addition, many states are now requiring school districts to develop policies for virtual learning so that they have in place processes and procedures for student attendance, technology access, student support, and other issues that face a brick-and-mortar school. It is an exciting time for K-12 education because it has the potential to allow students to move at their own pace in a way that is more individualized and self-paced. Not all students learn at the same rate, or at the same time. Virtual school allows both the teacher and the student to work on their own time. K-12 education can learn from the recent years of higher education's shift to online learning to make effective virtual programs in our public schools.

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