7 Compelling Benefits of Online Learning
Prior to the mid-90s, students didn’t have a lot of options for schooling. There were a few distance learning programs and some parents could teach their children at home, but most students had to attend a brick-and-mortar school to get their education.
That all changed with the advent of personal computers, the Internet, and Wi-Fi. Now students have choices, with a variety of online learning options. Although online learning is now well established for all levels of education, many are not familiar with online schools and the advantages they offer students.
So take a look at just some of the ways students are benefiting from online learning:
Students Learn at Their Own Pace
Parents of infants and toddlers are advised to let children develop at their own speed. Experts say that kids should begin to sit, crawl, walk, and talk at a pace they are comfortable with because every child is different. The same principle applies to older children, yet students in traditional schools are often expected to learn lessons and complete their classwork at the same rate as their peers, regardless of whether they could go through the materials quicker or might need more time. Since virtual schools include a mixture of self-paced work with scheduled lessons, activities, and deadlines, online students can enjoy a more individualized education that fits their unique needs while still complying with the mandates of the individual school and state.
Introverted Students Can Join in Discussions
A traditional school environment can be tough on introverts. As Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking explained in her Ted Talk, “[Schools] are designed mostly for extroverts and for extroverts’ need for lots of stimulation.” But some kids are natural introverts, and “. . . introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.” So while introverts can still do well in traditional schools, they often find the quieter settings of a virtual school to be more conducive to learning. And since much of the classroom and teacher interaction takes place online, quieter students are on equal footing with their extroverted classmates and can more easily join in the discussion.
Students Have Individualized Schedules
Many parents and students choose online learning because of the freedom it affords them in their schedules. While public online schools still follow a traditional school year and students are expected to complete assignments by the due dates, students can adjust their daily routines to suit their individual needs. The convenience and adaptability of online learning is great for student athletes and performers with demanding schedules, like LGPA Women’s Golfer Sara Detlefsen. Sara chose to attend Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) as a high school student—graduating in 2012 with 51 college credits—so she could pursue her passion for golf. “Competitive golf has been a part of my life for a very long time,” she said in a recent interview with K12’s ThinkTank. “That wouldn’t have been possible if I had to be in a classroom from Monday to Friday because you have to travel to the tournament sites.” Online learners don’t have to sacrifice their education to pursue outside interests because they can choose when and where they will learn. “Most people will learn about national history through reading a book,” Sara explains, “I was able to read about national history while driving to Washington, D.C., for a golf tournament and then go see the national monuments.”
Students Have More Learning Options
In the past, school choice was something only the wealthy could afford. Online learning has helped make school choice available to more families regardless of their economic status because online public schools are tuition-free. If safety or the quality of the education at a local brick-and-mortar school is a concern, families can make the choice to switch to a virtual school without having to move to a new school district. In 2015, Labor Economist Dan Goldhaber published the study, “Uneven Playing Field? Assessing the Teacher Quality Gap between Advantaged and Disadvantaged Students,” which reported that schools in lower-income neighborhoods often have less experienced teachers. “. . . Teachers who are less qualified, or less effective, tend to be teaching more disadvantaged students,” Goldhaber concluded. School choice via virtual schools can be especially important for these students and any student who is looking for an option outside of their local school.
Students Have Fewer Distractions and Obstacles to Learning
As class-size continues to increase at traditional schools, so do the distractions for students. Teachers must take time to address behavioral issues and students may be more influenced by peer pressure than by academics. Bullying can also affect a student’s ability to learn in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Online learning allows students to concentrate on their studies during classes and then socialize with their friends outside of the learning environment. Online teachers can also focus all their attention on teaching and supporting their students rather than addressing disruptive behavior.
Students Enjoy a Comfortable Learning Environment
Student comfort has only recently surfaced as an area of concern in education. For years it has been the acceptable practice for students to sit on rigid chairs in a sterile school building during the day. Now, however, educators and architects like Prakash Nair and Randall Fielding are addressing the need for a more suitable learning environment. “A considerable body of research about environmental design shows the positive effect comfort can have on learning, human productivity, and creativity,” according to an article by Nair and Fielding published in edutopia.org. “The most basic comfort-related amenity is soft seating, and there’s no longer any justification for the hard chairs on which students have to sit several hours each day.” They also note that class bells and alarms can be jarring and unproductive, observing that “…noise can wreak havoc on clear thinking.” Virtual schools allow students to create a calmer, comfortable, and more productive environment in which to learn.
Parents Are More Involved in their Children’s Education
Studies show that students do better in school when their parents are involved in their education. According to a report authored by Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla, “Major findings indicate that the family makes critical contributions to student achievement from the earliest childhood years through high school, and efforts to improve children’s outcomes are much more effective when the family is actively involved.” In most online learning environments, such as in K12 online schools, parents become their children’s Learning Coaches, working with their students to ensure assignments and coursework are completed on time. As a result, parents provide direct support and encouragement for their children, becoming partners in their education.
Whether they attend full-time virtual K-12 schools, colleges or universities, online learners are discovering a number of distinctive benefits that come with an online education. If you think your child might benefit from attending an online school, visit K12, a leader in K–12 online education since 2000, and learn about your many options for the next school year.
Has your student benefited from attending an online school? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Elizabeth Street is a writer for Learning Liftoff. For the past 20 years, she has written newsletter and website content for nonprofit and corporate organizations on such topics as the plight of children of prisoners worldwide, the lack of prenatal care for mothers in developing countries, and child mentoring programs. She has a particular interest in the importance of providing all children with a quality education regardless of their family’s financial status or background. A native of Virginia, Elizabeth is a graduate of James Madison University and loves animals, with particular fondness for her two cats, Oscar and Emmy.