Online Learning in Public High Schools

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Online Learning in Public High Schools
Find out about the increasing number of online learning opportunities in public schools.
As public schools embrace the evolving availability and convenience of technology, many high schools are implementing online courses to cater to more students.   Recently, researchers from Harvard suggest that “while only about 1 percent of courses in 2007 were online, this figure represents a 22-fold increase from 2000 and should grow to 10 percent within six years and to about 50 percent by 2019.” 
  
Furthermore, as the public policy research center at Stanford University projects, the rising affordability of technology may result in nearly half of all high school courses to be available online by 2019.
 
Why are Schools Offering Online Learning Opportunities?
 
As technology is ever-changing, it is impacting how public schools teach, and how students learn. As The National Education Association (NEA) explains, “Barriers of time and place are tumbling as technology offers new choices and opportunities for students and educators. Over the last 20 years or more, American schools have embraced distance learning tools to enhance students' educational opportunities.” 
 
With the implementation of new technologies, schools have taken advantage of the latest multimedia teaching strategies, Internet-based projects for students, and, most recently, the opportunities for distance learning. Considering that nearly all public schools have internet access, more schools across the country are including online classes in their curriculum.  
 
What is the Appeal of Online Learning?
 
A Broad Curriculum
 
For public schools, the appeal of online courses is usually twofold: it decreases the costs and increases the course offerings. As the NEA describes, “The appeal of online courses is evident: they can increase the range of course offerings available to all students as well as provide educational access to special students (for example, homebound, incarcerated, and atypical students for whom regular classrooms are not effective).” Along with a broader curriculum, schools are more able to provide diverse and alternative instructional methods. 
 
Cost Benefits
 
When public schools provide students with online courses, they are saving often large sums of money because of class sizes. Today, high school classes often cost the district $600 per course, where online courses only cost around $200 per course. Since schools do not have to pay for as many instructors because more students can be enrolled in a single online class, they save money in instructional costs, in addition to building / environmental costs. Some high schools have even pushed for a fully online summer program, so that energy and money is not spent on keeping the school building running, yet classes and educational needs can still be met. 
 
Additional Benefits and Goals
 
While online learning is becoming a realistic and beneficial option for both schools and students, the NEA asserts that “Today's challenge is to ensure that information technology increases the number of educational opportunities while maintaining or enhancing the quality of those opportunities.” In looking to better serve students, schools are also appreciating that online courses provide more customized instruction, increased remediation, continuing education for dropouts, and additional support for home-schooled or homebound students. 
 
Ultimately, as research from Harvard supports, the majority of the American public “favors online education,” as approximately sixty-nine percent of all polled parents stated that they would allow their children to take online courses for credit.   
 
Where are the Online Learning Opportunities?
 
As the National Education Association explains, online learning is mostly occurring at high school levels, as the standards of 9-12 courses may be easier to uphold. High school and higher education courses “have a longer track record and a different set of purposes, administrative practices, and audiences.” Paired with this, high school students are faced with a diverse set of challenges; therefore, online courses must still “address the unique social, educational, and emotional needs of high school students.” 
 
Since the high school environment still actively works to educate children both academically and socially, the NEA asserts that there only a few online courses should be taken by each student; if online courses become the bulk of a student’s education, then social and communicative issues may arise for some teens, as the NEA further explains, online courses may raise “a series of difficult questions (of) the appropriateness of online education for younger students.” 
 
Furthermore, the NEA asserts that since high school teens can handle the varying learning experiences from the classroom to the online learning setting, the organization explains: “Our current understanding of the characteristics and needs of learners in earlier grades, however, would suggest we exercise great caution in the use of the online environment to deliver instruction to students prior to middle school.”
 
Are Online Courses Available at My Child’s High School?
 
As each public school offers different programs and opportunities, you can check your child’s school’s website or county/district offices to find out if online courses are available. 
 
Also, school counselors are a great resource for discussing if online learning is appropriate for your teen, as they can also inform you about the details of potentially available online courses. Paired with this, if your child is seeking to gain college credit, often counselors can assist you in enrolling in community college online courses that may also contribute to your child’s high school transcripts and records. As each public school varies with its standards and regulations, counselors, advisors, and teachers will be your greatest source of assistance and information.
 
Questions? Contacts us on Twitter. @publicschoolreview

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