Online Education Comes to K-12

Online education for those looking to earn a college degree has taken off in a big way. Within the past decade, major technological advancements have made it possible for online schools to effectively educate adults. With that in mind, some school districts are looking to expand the success of online universities to the kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school levels in an effort to encourage education for those in all types of learning situations.

The quality of online education is not the issue at stake. In fact, online education has been proven to be more effective than classroom education, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education last year. The study found that those who participated in a purely online learning format or a hybrid classroom-online format performed better than those who learned strictly in a classroom format. This difference in student performance could be attributed to the fact that most online students tend to spend more time looking over lecture and course materials than classroom students. In addition, instructors who put together online materials tend to spend more time working on condensing and presenting the materials in a clear manner because they will not have the opportunity to answer student inquiries in person.

Yet, to take online education from a college format and adapt it to a K-12 format could prove tricky. One school in Greenfield, Massachusetts is endeavoring to do just that. The school committee has set a goal to enroll 600 students into the “Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield,” which will be teaching students from kindergarten to 8th grade, according to the Boston Globe. Unlike many schools, it is not a hybrid method of teaching where students can take supplemental online courses, but a completely digital school through and through. This means that students will not convene in a classroom at any time during their educational careers except for when state tests are given out to access student performance.

Virtual schooling may be an innovative way to combat the boredom of students who do not learn well in classrooms or to accommodate those who cannot get into a classroom due to social issues, medical conditions, expulsion, or any other reason. Yet, there are skeptics to the completely digital school format. A strong argument is that while online education works for adults, it may not work for younger students because many young students learn not only fundamental academic skills in school, but also social skills. If they participate in completely virtual schooling, these social skills will not be developed.

Yet, despite arguments for and against virtual K-12 schools, several more are poised to open within the next few years. Undoubtedly, the rest of the nation will be monitoring the performance of those schools. If they prove successful, as online college education has, it may indicate a new wave of learning that will sweep the classrooms of the nation.

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