Online learning opportunities in Colorado

By Mike Clem, Principal of Denver Online High School
Posted

From the Colorado Department of Education website (http://www.cde.state.co.us/onlinelearning/), “A full-time Online Education Program in Colorado is defined as..."a non-religious, non-sectarian full-time online education program or school . . . that delivers a sequential program of synchronous or asynchronous instruction from a teacher to a student primarily through the use of technology via the internet in a virtual or remote setting."

Online schooling differs from traditional (brick and mortar) schools since classes do not take place in a building, but instead at home, on the road, or wherever an Internet connection can be found. Students take courses online with support from their teacher via phone, online Web meetings, and sometimes even face to face.

Colorado provides numerous online learning opportunities from a variety of online schools and course providers. These schools are classified as Multi-District Online Schools – who are authorized to accept students from across the State of Colorado, Single-District Schools and Single-District Programs serve students from the authorizing school district, a BOCES, or the Colorado Charter School Institute.

The three online education options available for families to choose from include:

• Supplemental Programs – these are providers who deliver supplemental online courses that comply with state standards to school districts, schools, and students for a fee. Supplemental classes provide course content taught by highly qualified and licensed teachers in order to support full-time school programs with courses they may not have available or qualified teachers to teach. Course providers include District operated schools, Charter schools, private companies and state licensed supplemental programs such as Colorado Online Learning and Jefferson County 21st Century Academy.

• District Programs – numerous school districts along the Front Range, such as the Denver Public Schools, rural and mountain community districts and BOCES, have created their own online schools to provide supplemental, credit recovery, AP and blended learning opportunities for their students. Many of these schools are also classified as Multi-District Online Schools, which means they can accept students from across Colorado into their schools. Curriculum is created by teachers or provided by private curriculum providers. Students may also attend classes in other schools or in a learning lab located at one of the district schools. District schools are accredited and held accountable by their school district to meet the same requirements of other district schools. High school seniors must also meet the same district graduation requirements for graduation and teachers are required to be highly qualified and licensed by Colorado and tend to have lower student to teacher ratios.

• Charter Schools – some districts authorize online schools that are often managed by for profit companies such as, Colorado Online Virtual Academy (COVA), Colorado Connections Academy, Provost Online Academy, Hope Online Learning Academy (HOPE), Insight School, and Guided Online Academic Learning Academy (GOAL). These schools frequently provide students with a computer and subsidized Internet service as part of their enrollment. In addition, these schools frequently have access to curriculum from their parent company, such as K12, or like District Programs, contract with other course providers. Similar to district and supplemental schools and programs teachers are required to be highly qualified and licensed by Colorado and tend to have higher student to teacher ratios.

Regardless of which type of school or program that you select, student success requires self-determination and self-discipline. Those students who are strong independent learners will most likely be successful learners in the online learning environment. At the same time, students who need more one-on-one support, read below grade level, and struggle with time management may find online learning extremely challenging and more difficult than a traditional school setting. As an educational consumer, with so many choices available, it’s important that you do your research to find the best option to meet your family’s schooling needs.

For information about choosing the right online program for your needs read

Promising Practices in Online Learning: A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program