Online Class Requirements for High School Students

I’m writing this blog post as I continue researching the topic of online education in high school settings. There is a lot of discussion in the news lately about states mandating online education as a requirement for graduation. Idaho was next up on the list to move toward this requirement (joining Alabama, Florida, and Michigan), but as of Wednesday, the state voted against it. Online classes at the college level are frequent, popular, and, at this point, somewhat expected. But when it comes to online education in high school, there is much to be debated and discussed.

On the one hand, online education is a good starting point to learn how to navigate the Internet from a “college and career readiness” perspective. I believe today’s high school students happily engage with technology and the Internet on a social level, as an extracurricular activity, but they might not have a sense of using the Internet beyond a personal/social realm. I think the requirement of online education helps put students in a place to learn about and navigate the Internet in different ways, especially in regards to business, networking, and preparing for a career. I also believe mandatory online education is an attempt answer the “technology is not going away” argument. By that I mean schools are feeling immense pressure to keep up with continuously advancing technology outside of the classroom—this seems to be one way to keep up.

Online education also has the added benefit of mobility, allowing students to learn wherever they are. The online classroom also provides a place where all students can participate equally (I’m thinking about what we talked about in class a little bit—about how shy students may feel more comfortable expressing their opinions in an online setting).  Additionally, with an online class, a teacher could really take advantage of multi-media instruction, perhaps in a more complete way than in the physical classroom. 

But the other side of the argument: is online learning the best for all students? Should online classes be mandatory? For starters, the requirement assumes that all students have access (highlighting the “digital divide” that we’ve discussed in class). What seems to be the trend in states that are going forward with required online courses is providing students with a laptop or tablet of some kind. I believe it’s necessary that any state requiring online classes as part of the high school graduation requirement should provide its students with the technology needed to access these online classrooms. But this also brings about the question of budget.

Arguments against mandatory online education say that the money for these programs should be going to support the teachers (not the computer manufacturers), providing resources for teachers to become better teachers and to enhance students’ experiences inside the physical classroom.

In the Huffington Post report on this topic, teacher Kendra Wisenbaker speaks to how I think most people are feeling: “I am a little conflicted, I am. It won’t work for every kid, and I think requiring it is a horrible idea.”

I would love to hear some feedback on this issue. (As you can probably guess, I’m going to continue compiling my research on this topic for the paper due Tuesday. I began my research with the broad topic of “technology in the classroom” but have become increasingly fascinated by the idea of “technology as the classroom.”)

So, are you in favor of mandatory online classes? Against it? Maybe in favor of online learning but not in a mandatory setting? 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Online Class Requirements for High School Students

  1. Undoubtedly, technology has permeated the classroom. Prior to reading your post, I had no idea that online classes were even available for high school students, never mind mandatory! It seems to me that high school students, who spend entirely too much time on the internet frequenting social media sites, would be in favor of online classes. These students have grown up with the internet, and would likely adapt quickly to a virtual classroom.
    Concerns about how virtual classrooms will change education are my first thought. Around college campuses, I frequently hear that online classes require less commitment and attention, and are generally easier than their classroom counterpart. This same pattern would reflect high school classes, I would imagine. As a larger concern, the classroom dynamic, involving student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction helps develop interpersonal skills that couldn’t develop online.
    Students are already committing hours a day to the internet. To require them to spend even more time in front of a computer screen, taking away from time spent conversing with individuals face-to-face would effectively shift the focus of the education system from a physical to a virtual. Imagine a high school entirely virtual. Can an entirely online education compare to one received at a physical location, inside actual classrooms? Will virtual high schools be giving out diplomas via e-mail one day?
    It would be catastrophic to students abilities to interact in the world if virtual classes become mandatory at the high school level. For post-secondary education, online classes provide alternatives to fit the varying lifestyles of students, but for high school students there is no reason to make the shift to online classes.
    For the general population, mandatory online classes at the high school level will only create more issues in education. Just because the technology is available, does not mean it is necessarily beneficial to its users.

  2. I thought that this was a great article. I have taken a few online classes at the college level, but did not do much at the high school level. I agreed with Kendra Wisenbaker point this wouldn’t work for all students. This is not even required for all college students because it would not work for everyone at the college level either. I think the difference is maturity level. I think that by the college level students have a better idea of what kind of student they are and what works and doesn’t work for them. Hence, the ability to chose between an 8am or a 6pm class. Online classes seems to come with the idea that they are easier then regular classes but I have found that this is not the case. You have to be much more responsible and organized in order to succeed. For me I took psychology and sociology classes online, enjoying that it was a lot of reading and self-taught, and helped my scheduling wise. But knowing myself, I would never be able to take a math or science class online, knowing that I need to physically be in class and taught the material.

    Jessica

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