Friday, November 11, 2011

10 Online Ed Trends Coming to a High School Near You

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.

  1. Online electives and AP courses

    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.
  2. Virtual options for students with special needs

    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.
  3. Requiring online learning to graduate

    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.
  4. Students taking accelerated courses online

    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.
  5. Online summer school

    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.
  1. State-mandated, -funded and -run online learning programs

    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.
  2. Online academies for struggling students

    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.
  3. Student and teacher chats online

    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.
  4. Multimedia homework and projects

    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.
  5. Online tutoring and homework help

    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.


    This is a guest post brought to you via Best Colleges Online 


  1. Computers are only assistants and a good teacher’s will always be needed.

    However social networks such as facebook and YouTube as well as great resources including Wikipedia and Wolfram-Alpha are here to stay so that educators must use them in the teaching process.

    Many academics are posting great educational videos and a curation process is needed to present them in an organized manner.

    Online Self-learning is becoming fast the perfect choice of learning, especially with so many great educational videos available for free. The only problem is to sort the good ones from the rest and present them in an organized manner.

    This effort is being done by which presents the best educational videos available on YouTube in an organized, easy to find way to watch and learn.

    They are classified and tagged in a way that enables people to find these materials more easily and efficiently and not waste time browsing through pages of irrelevant search results.

    The website also enhances the experience using other means such as recommending related videos, Wikipedia content and so on. There's also a Spanish version called

    This is a project that YouTube should embrace itself, with curated content from academics and maybe using a different URL (Youtubersity?) so it won’t be blocked by schools.

  2. @Luis,

    Thank you for sharing your insights and great resources. When it comes to "good teachers" always being needed, I don't necessarily agree. I learned nothing that was useful to my life from most of my teachers however, I have learned a tremendous amount from my PLN, doing the activity I was interested in pursuing, and connecting with others who shared my interest as well as experts in the field. I am not alone. Sit n git trapped in the walls of a classroom does not work well for many learners.

    In the 21st century teachers need to seriously rethink their roles and purpose less they move rapidly toward extinction.

  3. As a teacher at an online school I can safely say most students are better served and intellectually stimulated in a traditional classroom that is suitable for their needs. More material is covered despite distractions and indepth analysis is better fostered through conversations and class discussions.

  4. In your first point, you mention that many schools cannot afford certain classes due to tight budgets but are able to provide them online. However, where exactly is the funding for these online courses coming from? Are there teachers from the schools behind them like there would be in a normal classroom scenario? Are the courses even tied to the schools themselves, and if not, would that leave schools powerless to improve the weak points in the material? Also, what about the concept of "You get what you pay for"? Could the low prices for the classes be indicative of their quality?

  5. @Anonymous, students who learn best sitting in classroom may be better served. Many of us don't learn that way.

    Great questions. Here's what I've gathered after being immersed in this world at the iNacol Virtual Schools Symposium last week.

    Most online classes have teachers though, their roles may be different than that of a traditional classroom teacher. For instance, since lectures are pre-recorded online teachers often say that teaching this way allows them to give students more personalized attention.

    Costs are reduced with online learning in several ways. One way is that the materials cost is reduced since it's all online and only created once then reused and customized. However, all the costs of printing, texts, etc are eliminated. Another way is that facilities costs are dramatically reduced. Finally, from what I've witnessed, online teachers are paid a big less in exchange for what they see as the benefit of not having to commute to a site and a more flexible schedule. For instance, some online educators also care for their children at home. For others the time saved in not having to commute frees up time to pursue income in other ways such as coaching.

    As far as if the courses are tied to schools...
    Some are tied to brick and mortar schools and some are tied to online schools.

  7. I disagree, I think that a lot is left out and in my experience not focused on in order to present the material in a way that students will do the work rather than see how much there is the read and avoid the entire unit. The lack of particiaption and engagement from the majority of students means that discussion of content isn't fostered or deeper thinking skills pushed.

    I appreciate the need for some students to use online schools, but it is also being misused by a large portion of students and businesses.

    The reduced costs you cite in teacher wages are at my school made up for by the fact the school has a significant advertising budget, it works like a business and feels the need to consitantly grow in ways that local schools cannot to earn more money. Teachers at first felt they were getting a better deal (and some still do) by being able to stay at home with chilren, but the increased demnands of class size mean they are often still required to find baby sitters or use the television as a baby sitter that they never had to do before. Because many online schools are run by private businesses and not part of teachers unions teachers have no way to make sure their coarse loads are fairand that the reduction in pay is staying equalized with what was supposed to be flexibility. Each year these flexibilities are erroded.

    I don't see the huge difference between and a classroom with a teacher and a textbook lecture and online school expect its more socially acceptable to be wearing pajamas. It's harder to individualize a web page of content in many cases than to provide in the moment ranges of explanation upon seeing the students do not understand or need extensions.

    The curriculum avaliable is often made in a hurry or by people who may not be content writing experts. Our school purchased math curriculum only for the math teachers to find that many examples and explanations were wrong. English pages with "interactive" games that had the wrong answers.

    Providing information for kinesthetic learners (not that I think in many cases its the moving around the creates the knowldege its a conduit for energy release) doesn't happen online, they are sitting at a computer. They google answers instead of thinking critically about questions. I send out an e-mail that has time sensitive information that I can see via read reciepts is not read until the end of the quarter or semester. It takes a lot of dedication to stay on track to complete the class and most students assume they will watch up later only to fail (repeatedly in every class, every year).

    I see too many of the drawbacks of online education while working at an online school to see it as a long term solution for a majority of students.

  8. In fact, there is only one way to get an Online MBA In India. The Internet has made the sea quite possible that more and more students to earn an MBA online through an Online MBA program.

  9. As an educator, I believe that it is crucial to integrate technology into the classroom. Today's students must be familiar with how to utilize a variety of types of technology in order to be successful in today's world; however, I do take issue (in most cases) with online education at or below the high school level.

    I am currently pursuing a Master's Degree through an online university. I do not have an issue with the convenience of online degrees, and there is a sense of community that is fostered throughout the coursework. However, I do believe that conversations that may have the opportunity to happen face-to-face do not always occur online. I also feel that there is less accountability when taking online courses. Receiving an email stating that you did not turn in homework is not quite the same as a teacher approaching you about not completing an assignment.

    Although I do not think it is a good idea for students at or below the high school level to be solely educated online, I do feel that online coursework does have its place. I like the idea of students having to complete a few online courses in order to graduate from high school. As an educator, I believe that I am responsible for equipping my students with the tools that they need to successful and dependable members of society. Society is so technology driven that teaching students how to communicate with others online and providing them with exposure to as many types of technology as possible will assist them in becoming successful and informed members of the work force.

  10. I think there will always be a role for teachers, at the very least as motivators and providers of structure. Online learning is making it possible for motivated students anywhere to learn. The big problem is when they are not motivated, and are highly distracted by facebook, etc.

  11. Yes it is. These are what we often witness in online courses. It always fluctuates though.

    Online Schools