Dispelling the Top 5 Myths about Online Education
Myth: Kids just stare at a computer screen all day.
Fact: In the K-8 program, only about 30% of lessons are online. Traditional materials are used the remainder of the time; things like textbooks and novels, art supplies, musical instruments, CDs, and science equipment.
In high school, the percentage of online work is higher. This shift to more online coursework gives students more interaction with teachers who are experts in their subject areas. It also sets the stage for college (whether brick and mortar or online), where many classes are moving all or partially online, and even offline classes typically include online work. We live in a connected, online world. In many industries, business is largely conducted online, and more are moving that way. The skills necessary to work and communicate in an online environment are important, and it doesn’t hurt to begin to develop them early.
Myth: Kids in online schools lack social skills because they never interact with anyone.
Fact: Just as it’s not true that kids stare at a computer all day, it’s not true that students don’t spend time with peers. In addition to online social engagement opportunities, including live classes and clubs, students have a number of offline opportunities. Many virtual schools regularly arrange outings, field trips, and in-person classes for students.
Then of course, there are extracurricular activities: play-dates, sports, clubs, classes, and groups. Basically, there’s no shortage of opportunities for peer socialization in an online school, and the vast majority (90%) of online school students participate in some sort of activity outside the home.
Still not convinced? An independent study of virtual academy students found that their social skills were the same or better than their brick and mortar peers, and that on average they had fewer problem behaviors. It was suggested this was due to the fact that students tended to socialize within a broader age-range, including those older and younger than themselves.
Myth: Online diplomas won’t be accepted by colleges and employers, or will have a stigma attached to them.
Fact: There are online schools out there that aren’t legitimate (so-called diploma mills). One good indicator is accreditation. An online school that is accredited means that the courses and diplomas are recognized as valid by other schools and universities. K12 is accredited, and many of our partner schools are further accredited by regional accreditation bodies. So, credits will transfer, and students have the same opportunities for college attendance as those who attended a brick and mortar high school. If you’d like to see proof, check out our website to see a list of the colleges and universities that 2011 K12 graduates are attending. The list is long, and includes well-respected institutions like Columbia, Juilliard, and Stanford.
It’s also not true that graduates of online schools can’t serve in the military. As of last year, online high school graduates have the same opportunities to serve as those who attended brick and mortar schools.
Myth: Kids in online schools don’t perform as well academically as kids in traditional schools.
Fact: Students often come to online education after they have struggled for years in a traditional public school. As such, they may start out already below their grade level and with low standardized test scores. However, while they may start out behind, students in online schools consistently outperform traditional school peers in terms of academic gains over time.
Myth: Online courses are easier than traditional courses.
Fact: Sorry, but this one isn’t true either. An online course may take less time than an in-class course, but it’s not less work, and it’s not a guaranteed easy A. Students may find that succeeding in an online course is easier, thanks to flexible pacing, fewer distractions and interruptions, and less busy work, but the course material is just as challenging. Online students have to be motivated and focused on their own, without a teacher in the room with them. But if a student is willing to work hard, online education can make all the difference.
Please share with us in the comments:
What myths about online education have you heard?
This article was originally published in 2017 and was revised and republished.
Ashley MacQuarrie began writing professionally more than ten years ago and has covered education, technology, current events, pop culture, and other topics. A former homeschooler, she studied English and Film & New Media, graduating with a bachelor's degree from San Diego State University. Ashley has classroom experience working with children who have autism and other special needs. She has also tutored students from kindergarten through college and taught English to teens and adults at a language school in London.