Friday, June 25, 2010

Distance Online Learning - It's Much More than Putting a Middleschool or High School Student in Front of a Computer

by Janis Brett Elspas

Kids studying academically via the Internet seem to be getting a lot of bad rap from both students and parents lately.  In fact, misconceptions all around about what distance learning is and what its benefits are continue to persist even as computer-based learning is increasing in popularity.

As a homeschooling mom of four gifted students (triplets going into 8th and big brother going to 10th grade), this lack of understanding frustrates me because my own kids have benefited greatly from computer-based classes both offered through their public school independent study program and through Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.  Not only are they doing well in this multi-media high tech school arrangement, they are also proving to be happy and well-adjusted as well as equally adept at socializing compared to their peers studying in traditional school environments.

The impressive findings from a recent survey should be enlightening to those who may still be biased against learning in front of a computer screen.  In this study, it was found that compared to traditional learning environments, online learning is proving to be an effective way in teaching today's "iGeneration" who live in a world of customized and instant feedback.

More specifically the results of the study found
  • 72% of online students spend three or more hours on homework per week vs. 56% of students in traditional schooling.
  • 54% of online students get more challenges when they are doing well in school vs. 49% of students in traditional schooling.
  • 58% of online students get more help when they fall behind vs. 40% of students in traditional schooling.
  • 78% vs. 67% of online students have more interest in attending a four year college after graduation than students in traditional schooling.
With statistics like those, school administrators, teachers, students, and parents would all be wise to reconsider and become more open minded about everything online learning has to offer -- whether we are talking about a charter school, virtual learning academy, or traditional classroom looking to augment its curriculum cost-effectively.  Among other providers offering such services is KC Distance Learning (KCDL) .  This organization is one example of an online interactive academic program which offers online learning options to fit all types of students and learning situations, whether looking to expand educational opportunities by offering a wide range of AP courses to advanced learners, helping at-risk students catch up with credit recovery and/or accommodating students' unique scheduling needs without adding the expense or infrastructure of additional staff or classrooms.

Computers and technology aren't going to go away, they're in our kids' lives for good.  Why shouldn't we help the world's future leaders leverage the Internet now so that they will be better prepared for tomorrow?

Are you pro or con the virtual learning concept?  MommyBlogExpert encourages you to leave your comment and explain why you feel the way you do. 

FTC Disclosure:  MommyBlogExpert has received a gift card from MomSelect in exchange for the opinions expressed in this post.  No monetary exchange took place.  See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.


  1. My company, Thinkwell, creates online curriculum for homeschoolers, schools, independent students and even colleges. I have to say the response I've seen to our products has made it clear to me that online learning provides a great amount of benefits for students.
    For me, one of the biggest benefits is being able to have an incredible instructor you wouldn't otherwise have.
    Several of our professors have national recognition and when I see the comments on our YouTube channel, you can really see the difference a great teacher makes. I am constantly seeing people comment "Why can't my teacher be this good?" and that alone tells me the power of online learning rests in these great teachers who want to expand their student base and reach out to anyone who wants to learn. Obviously, I am a bit biased, but from my experience online learning is a great thing that is only going to get better.

  2. I'm a 14-year veteran homeschool mom of three children, all born individually! I'm a definite proponent of online distance learning options, especially for tweens and teens.

    Allowing kids to work on the computer is efficient, and alleviates burnout for both student and parent. If a parent lacks expertise in a content area, it's easy to locate an online provider to teach the course. No driving around town for classes!

    I've learned through the homeschooling years that new, innovative ideas ALWAYS receive some criticism. There are those of us who embrace the "different", and those who reject it out of hand. As homeschoolers, most everything we do is different, so we need to get used to the naysayers.

    I often say that I was born to be a salmon, swimming upstream. Salmon of the world, unite!

  3. I think online classes are great for some people, including middle and high schoolers, and not so effective for others. So it's nice if there can be alternatives if you have a child whose learning style and needs are not met well by the online environment.

    My husband is an online teacher at University of Phoenix. He teaches computer and technology classes to teachers, and has seen a wide variation of success in his own online students. There are those who will try to "get by" with as little work as possible, and then complain about their grade, and there are some who do excellent work. If you have a child who isn't very self-disciplined, and you aren't willing/able to be the one who makes sure he gets his work done, he might do poorly in an online class. It really takes a lot of time to do online classes-- often it can take more time than just doing "seat time" in a classroom, because there is usually a requirement for participation in online discussions, along with the conventional classwork for the subject.

    Besides the issue of staying current with required work, there is also the learning method itself... reading and writing works better for some people than for others. I personally find this to match the way I learn best-- I am strongly visual, somewhat auditory, and like to have time to think (which makes internet discussions easier than speaking spontaneously in a classroom).

    But I have a daughter who is strongly auditory; participating in spoken discussions is important to her thinking process; and she is very quick, so the lag time involved in being in an internet discussion (unless it were live) might be a detriment. She also loves being with people, and even though she can meet and talk with people on the computer, it just isn't quite the same as being there in person.

    All of this to say that if you are making plans for your homeschool, what works well for one child in your family might not be a good fit for another child. So having ALL of the classes be internet classes for ALL of your children isn't likely to be optimal.

    I am also one of those diehard printed book people, so this may bias my ideas... I still haven't learned to read books easily on the computer... I much prefer to print out a long document and read it curled up on the couch, while waiting in doctor's offices, etc. But I do love e-books for making printed work pages for homeschooling; I think they're a great time saver-- much easier than using a copy machine.