Many states have enacted legislation that allows secondary students to take some online classes in lieu of their regularly scheduled classes. Of course, this is often disliked by school districts, who lose per-pupil funding, which goes to the online providers. In addition, this generation of students often has a hard time actually staying with these independent courses and often fail to complete them.
The same problem goes for online charter schools.
It’s one thing to get all excited, leave your brick-and-mortar school, and enroll in an online charter school, most of which are using curricula prepared by commercial companies, and which curricula are generally quite good. It’s another thing to log on every day and complete the day’s assignments. Taken one bite at a time, these assignments are doable, though doing a full high-school schedule, for example, may take the typical five or six hours you’d spend in a regular school, especially if you are not a quick reader. Because of the nature of online learning, you need to be able to read quite well and type pretty quickly. You need to be an able test-taker as well, since the assessments are largely quizzes and tests, though in many courses, you will write short essays as well. In some courses like art and PE, you’ll have offline assignments that you then submit online.
For those students with academically-agressive parents, those with committed homeschool parents, those with stay-at-home parents, this can work, if the students are also intellectually alive and personally committed. Online schooling works well for them, as well as for students who are performers of some kind, since they can travel and still do their work.
These days, sadly, there are not that many of these types of families. Students with stressful family situations, and that includes many of us, do less well, and students also often deliberately choose to work full-time and ignore their online work. These count as dropouts at the end of the day, and since online schools are still under scrutiny to see how they work, the dropouts trouble virtual school administrators, both personally and statistically.
It’s sort of a catch-phrase, that virtual courses are the future of education. In theory, what could be better? Students can take a huge spectrum of courses, far more varied than could be offered in any particular school. Still, in practice, maybe it’s not educational nirvana, not yet.