Graduation day for my 18-year-old son seemed an improbable dream last year. But online learning made it so.
Debate about the effectiveness of online learning is often heated among K-12 educators, administrators and parents. Some think it offers much-needed cost savings. Some believe there’s no substitute for classroom instruction. Others see it as a gateway to greater collaboration, personalized learning and creativity.
Regardless, it’s a growing reality. According to a five-year retrospective on online learning by nonprofit Project Tomorrow, the number of high schools students taking an online class directed by a teacher as part of their schoolwork grew 63 percent from 2007 to 2011.
And online options are becoming increasingly varied. Mobile devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and netbooks, are forever changing how and where students learn. For students with disabilities, online learning and other assistive technology offer unprecedented opportunities to reach their full potential.
I myself have become a true believer in the blended learning approach, which combines online and traditional techniques. When health issues forced my son to withdraw from high school in his junior year, he enrolled in a virtual learning program offered by the local district. Three days a week, a teacher came to our home and provided instruction. Then my son logged in to an online program to view lessons, do assignments and take tests.
The combination of self-paced online learning and personalized, teacher-led learning made it possible for my son to complete his remaining high school credits with As and Bs. He scored well on all sections of the TAKS, Texas’ standardized test, and will graduate — on target with his former classmates — in June.