More and more students are taking Internet-based courses. Many offer a wide variety of online options for students who have special needs, want to work ahead or are struggling to catch up. Even if you’re not aware of it, it’s likely that online education programs are coming to a high school near you. In fact, many in your area might already offer access to a variety of online educational resources.
Here, is a collection of some of the most common ways schools are pushing learning into the digital realm, with many employing more than one – or even all. As online education evolves, it’s likely that communities will see more and more students taking advantage of these programs, necessitating even more innovations and strategies.
Budgets are tight for many high schools around the nation, and a large number simply can’t afford a wide selection of electives and AP courses. Online education programs are changing that, however, and giving students access to just about any kind of course they’d like to take…even in struggling districts! High schoolers can now take AP courses in subjects like English literature and European history — as well as astronomy, anthropology, creative writing and engineering — thanks to these new online programs. With so many districts cutting back, options might grow increasingly popular, as they help schools meet student needs without adding too many additional costs.
Whether they’re stuck in a hospital bed or traveling the world as performers, some students simply can’t make it into standard classrooms every day. Many schools out there are adapting to these needs, allowing them to take online courses through state-run programs or private companies instead. Students will complete the same courses and number of hours as their classmates, but on their own time rather than set hours. Those who need help due to illness or physical disability are often offered the option free of charge.
As strange as it may sound, many school districts are making online education compulsory to graduate. To date, Alabama, Florida and Michigan all require taking one or more online classes. Additional states, like Idaho and Indiana, may soon follow suit. Administrators believe that getting students to take online courses will better prepare them to work with the technologies they’ll face in college and the workforce. While some students have struggled in the required courses, the programs have been largely successful.
For some gifted students, the courses offered by their high school may simply not be challenging enough. Online education is changing that, and offers students who want to push themselves above and beyond the basic graduation requirements. Through accelerated high school programs, participants can take online college courses, gaining credit and experience that will serve them well once they graduate. The University of Pittsburgh is one such institution boasting such an offering, allowing students to take up to two courses a term. They are required to pay tuition for the courses they take — a worthy investment for those looking to get ahead or stand out from their peers. The online environment makes it much easier to balance high school classes with additional college counterparts.
An increasing number of American high schools embrace online education for students who want or need to take summer classes. While the online programs largely help juniors and seniors who need additional credits to graduate on time, there are also a growing number of opportunities for those who want to get ahead and take AP or honors courses over the summer. Educators and students alike praise these programs, stating that they allow more independent work and enough flexibility so participants can still hold down part-time jobs, travel or engage in other activities.
The online education market for high schools has long been dominated by private companies, but more and more states are stepping up and creating their own programs. To date, Vermont, Montana, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Nebraska all possess their own, state-run online education initiatives — and more may very well follow suit. With over 450,000 students enrolled in virtual high schools nationwide, a full 40% more than 2010 numbers, online education at the high school level is a rapidly-growing field.
Alternative schools have often been the last recourse for students who can’t keep up with coursework, or who have gotten into a large amount of trouble. A growing number of these options, however, are being offered online rather than in traditional classrooms. Through these online schools, like the New England Online Academy, students can take remedial courses in math and science or learn job skills like interviewing and personal finance. With limited student interaction and support from teachers and staff, it could just help the struggling stay out of trouble and get the high school diploma they need to find a job.
Students who take online high school courses largely work independently, but they’re also getting support from their teachers online. It’s common for them to meet up online during virtual office hours and chat about questions and concerns they may have about coursework or performance. Many online education platforms make it easy for teachers and students to connect, whether through these weekly chats, discussion boards or private messaging systems. As more districts develop their own online programs, participants can expect more and more of their interactions to take place in a digital setting.
When class takes place in a multimedia environment, it’s hard for homework to not follow suit. Teachers like Tami Caldwell at the Insight School of Washington are often more than willing to modify assignments, letting students create videos, presentations and even websites instead of traditional essays. Like many other teachers, she sees these modifications as great preparation for the working world, allowing creativity while mastering some technologies central to the modern workplace. Of course, students don’t have to be in an online course to turn in a multimedia project, as more and more traditional classrooms fold video, blogs and web design into the curriculum.
Students who need help with homework have more and more options available through online programs every semester. A variety of websites offer access to professional tutors and experts, whom they can access over video chats and emails and receive assistance with any homework questions or problems they might have. While most services come with fees, getting help online is a quicker and more convenient way to get help with difficult subjects.
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