What's Real and What's Not? The Truth About Online Education

By Lisa Garcia, Provost Academy Colorado
Posted

Today’s online education providers are being challenged to deliver a learning experience equal to if not better than what students find in traditional schools. Happily, more and more online learning programs are up to the challenge, thanks to technology, research on teaching and learning, and the commitment of educators to help students succeed. However, there are still misconceptions or “myths” about online programs, left over from the early days of online learning.

What are the realities?

Myth: Students are socially isolated, spending hours alone at their desks.

Will online students fail to develop the people skills needed to become well-adjusted adults? No. Today’s highly engaging online courses and class assignments are based on students interacting with each other and the instructor on an ongoing basis. In fact, there may be more opportunity for students and instructors to connect with each other than in a traditional classroom setting, where many students are hesitant to speak up “in public.”

Myth: Online courses are low quality.

Before we had the multimedia learning technologies we have today, and before we had experienced online instructors, online courses had to make do with the tools and knowledge that were available. However, in the past ten years educators have made huge strides in their ability to both understand how online students learn and how to create rich, dynamic, multimedia courses to support that learning.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Education published a report showing that online learners performed slightly better on key tests than students in traditional face-to-face classrooms. Part of the reason for that is that many public online high schools require their students to pass the same state-mandated exams as other high school students in order to graduate.

Myth: No one holds students accountable for their progress.

There may be days when some online students wish this was the case, but no such luck! Today’s online schools have many ways to help students stay on track with their studies and assignments, and instructors see that as an important part of their job. From daily quizzes, to periodic assessments, to meetings between advisors, parents and students, it is expected that everyone involved in that student’s education helps contribute to his or her success.

Myth: Online education is a fad.

In fact, nationwide the number of high school students taking classes online continues to expand. A U. S Department of Education study shows that two-thirds of school districts with students enrolled in online or blended courses anticipate their online enrollments will grow. With online education and distance learning growing at the college and university levels as well, it makes sense that online learning will play an ever-increasing (and valuable) role for K-12 schools, and especially at the high-school level. The goal will be to continue to build on the successes schools and students currently have with online learning and bring even more opportunity and choice to families seeking the best education for their children.

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