Traditionally thought of as a venue for undergraduate and graduate students to pursue a degree-or for established professionals to enrich their careers-online schools are touted for their convenience, accessibility and cost-savings for busy adults. But online school programs for kids are also quickly becoming a staple in K-12 education.
As part of its action plan for the class of 2020, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) identifies the crucial role that online schools play for children in grades K-12.
In its study, “Learning Virtually: Expanding Opportunities,” SETDA reports that as of November 2008, 44 states had online learning programs. And a 2004-2005 survey found that 37 percent of school districts provided access to online education, with public high schools showing the highest levels of online school enrollment.
Along with online schools that originate within states, online education providers, such as K12, Connections Academy and Canada’s first e-school, Linkonlearning, create curriculum for primary and secondary school children and teens. Online school programs like these typically provide a number of services:
o a broad range of class options, including language arts, reading, math, science and social studies
o teacher support
o daily lesson plans for parents looking to change or supplement their child’s traditional schooling
o fewer dropout rates by offering academic programs that meet diploma-level standards
o programs for special needs populations
o additional curriculum for advanced learners
o credit recovery, which enables students to retake a course that they previously failed
As SETDA acknowledges, virtual learning is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution to educational issues. However, it does expand access to education regardless of a student’s socioeconomic status or geographic location. And it gives students the opportunity to experience individualized, self-paced learning that can engage their unique learning style and encourage them to stay in school.