What Are The Pros Of Online Public School?

JGI/ Jamie Grill via Getty Images

Are you a parent who wishes for more choice in the pubic school system?  Virtual, Online and Blended learning are growing at a rapid rate as a k-12 public school option.  While state colleges and universities have been offering distance and online learning for decades as a way to increase course offerings to a wider range of possible students, k-12 school districts are really in the early stages of developing online education programs.

Some states, like Florida and Alaska, have offered online k-12 education for several years.  Florida even requires high school students to take a required number of courses in an online format.  Although these pioneers have been working hard to develop quality online public school programs, there is very little conclusive educational research showing that online students perform better or worse than their brick and mortar counterparts.  

There are still several benefits to online public schooling, especially for families whose circumstances make daily attendance at a brick and mortar location challenging.  

Flexible Scheduling Convenience

If attending school according to a set daily schedule is not ideal for your family, online schooling could offer a solution.  While there are still regular deadlines for work completion, most online schools allow families to decide when they will complete their work.

 Lessons can often be completed wherever there is adequate internet access.  

Each online public school has different requirements about when lessons need to be completed, and some classes require that students participate in online virtual chats at a set time.  Still, online high school students are often able to work during the day and complete coursework around their school schedule.

 Families with elementary school children can take a year to travel around the country while their children stay enrolled in their home district and stay on track with the public school curriculum.

Your Kids Will Learn Greater Independence and Responsibility

With Online schooling, your child has to take the initiative to get their work completed.  They have to sit at the computer, turn it on, go through their lesson, and complete their work at their pace.  The only other person around to keep them on track is you, the parent.  It is easy to tune out when working in physical solitude.  Children who are already self-motivated can flex their independence muscles.  Online students must learn how to pace their assignments over a period of time in order to get their work done.  Working on a  computer means learning how to resist the temptation to get on social media or gaming websites and complete school work instead.

Schedules and Programs Can Be Customized To The Child

Many online schools boast about their ability to tailor offerings to each child.

 While all public schools, online or otherwise, are required to teach particular content, online schools often have an advantage at providing individual pacing and course offerings.  In a regular classroom teachers may have to slow down and repeat material that some students didn't understand the first time.  This can be frustrating to students who are fast learners and would rather just move on instead of waiting for others to catch up.

Online schools can also offer elective choices that may not be feasible for a neighborhood brick and mortar school to offer.  For high school, foreign languages and some advanced math courses may only be available  through an online class.  Only a handful of students at a high school may be ready to take an advanced math class, such as AP Calculus or desire to take a particular foreign language, such as Japanese.  It is expensive and difficult to find qualified teachers for this subject, limiting smaller schools who may not be able to afford to hire one teacher for such a small number of students.  This gives an opportunity for students who live in rural settings or are more advanced than their peers to take challenging courses that would not otherwise be available to them.

They May Have An Advantage On The New Standardized Tests

Almost every state across the nation has either adopted the new Common Core State Standards(CCSS), or they have adopted a set of Standards that is very close to the CCSS.  This has lead to new annual standardized tests to match the new standards - and these tests are often given on a computer.  

As with any test, being familiar with the way the test is given is very helpful to the test taker and will help ensure that the test results show what the students has learned about the material rather than whether the student did not learn how to take a computer test.  Most brick and mortar schools do give some practice time to make sure school students know how to take the computer test.  

While I haven't seen any research on whether online students perform better on the computer based standardized tests, I think it would make sense for online schooling to provide a possible advantage. People often recall information better when they are in the setting where they learned the information in the first place.  If a student learned the material in an online environment, I think they would recall the material better while in a similar online environment.  Online schooling also requires the student to be very comfortable using computer technology.  Brick and mortar schools vary tremendously in how much computer access and training is provided to their students.  While a student who is successful in online schooling is most certainly experienced in computer use, different brick and mortar schools have students who are different levels of computer use.

Better Prepared For Online College Classes

Colleges and Universities have been teaching classes online for a much greater time than k-12 public schools.  There are many degree options that are completely online, while many colleges and universities offer online courses in addition to brick and mortar classes.  The skills needed to succeed in these online classes are the same ones that are needed by k-12 students- self-motivation, independence, and strong work ethic.  Having experience with online courses in k-12 should give an edge to those who continue on to college and find that they must take online classes in order to complete their degree programs.

Still, not everything about online school is positive.  Make sure you know about the possible drawbacks before enrolling your child in an online school.

Continue Reading