Online education has been rising in popularity for years. Now more prominent than ever, families are starting to seek out other alternatives to the traditional schooling system for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s to be able to travel as a family or because a student learns better when he or she is alone, online schooling can provide a family with a tremendous amount of freedom in their day to day life.
What Is Online Education?
Online education, or online schooling, is an alternative to traditional education that allows a student to receive education, deliver assignments, study, take tests, and more through the use of the internet. Students who receive education through the internet will typically utilize home computers, laptops, or tablets and phones in order to receive information.
Online education gives students and families an opportunity to live different lifestyles that don’t fit well with the hours of traditional schools. Online schooling is also a great alternative for students who learn and perform better under different circumstances than are provided by traditional schooling systems.
Online education started to rise in popularity in the 1990s, when the personal computer was still in early stages of technological development. In the late 1990s, online education began to pick up momentum as some schools and organizations saw the potential of long-distance education and alternative formats.
Today, online education is now a prominent alternative form of education, giving students and families much greater flexibility in how they get educated.
How Does It Work?
At the very fundamental level, online education is not very different from a traditional learning experience. Generally, you will still “go to classes,” receive instruction, do homework, and take tests, depending on your current online education program.
What differs is how the education and information is being received from or sent to your online school. Some online education schools like San Diego Virtual School (SDVS) will also have a traditional brick-and-mortar establishment to provide the option to visit a destination and receive one-on-one instruction and guidance.
However, generally when going through a course in online education, you will follow a simple process to receive your education, finish course material, and take tests.
- Logging into the school’s learning software. An online school may require you to download specific software for you to log into in order to receive courses that have been specially curated for you. Software features will vary from school to school, but generally speaking a student will gain access to all of the courses that they are involved in, will be able to see all available assignments, and have the option to discuss in a community/classroom forum.
- Listening, reading, or watching course material. Once you have identified your chosen course, you will have to receive the course material in some way. Some course material may need to be listened to, read, or watched, similar to how a student may sit in a classroom to listen to a lecture.
- Completing assignments defined within the course material. Just like a traditional school, most online courses will require you to complete assignments in order to progress through the course. These assignments will generally be done on the computer and resubmitted back to the school or teacher for review. In many cases this is required in order to receive “credit” for the class.
- Taking tests (depending on the course). Similar to completing assignments, a student may be required to take a test in order to progress through the course or to complete the course itself. However, depending on the school and the course, tests may not be required, depending on how assignments and homework are structured within the system.
- Communicating with classmates and teachers. It’s fairly common in today’s age for online education students to be required to communicate with fellow peers and school staff through a messaging board in the online education program provided by the school. How the school will require a student to communicate will vary from school to school. For example, there may be a simple forum with various topics created by students and teachers to add your opinions into, while others may only require questionnaires and prompts to be answered.
Benefits & Advantages
There are many benefits and advantages to choosing online schooling as an alternative to traditional education. Many students and families that opt into online education do so primarily for two reasons: it fits their schedule better or it meets the educational needs of a student that does not fit well within a traditional school system. However, there are multiple benefits to choosing online education:
Learning happens on your schedule. If your family requires you to travel a lot, you have a busy work life, you have a different lifestyle, or you want your child to be involved in different activities that conflict with normal school hours, online education is an ideal learning platform.
- Learning can happen anywhere. Due to the nature of online education, students can learn virtually anywhere. While traditional schools require a student to be in a classroom at a specific time, online education gives students and families the flexibility for learning to happen anywhere it’s convenient. If you’re traveling, a student can still receive instruction and complete assignments. While you will need to have an internet connection to send and receive information, some portions of education can be done without an online connection.
- Students can create their ideal learning environment. As online education can happen at home, libraries, offices, and many other locations, they have the option to customize their learning space. Students can choose a specific room, desk layouts, learning utensils, and more that will help them increase their productivity and performance with education.
- Highly convenient. Online education not only fits your schedule and lets you learn anywhere, but it can be picked up and put down at any time. This allows students to start learning, pause their lesson, and pick-up where they left off when something comes up during their day (such as family activities).
- Perfect for the technologically minded. In today’s era, millennials are more accustomed to technology than ever before. For many younger students, they are far more used to personal computers, tablets and phones than any other generation. This means that millennials and other technology minded individuals will perform very well with online education, because it will blend almost seamlessly with platforms and software they are already familiarized with.
Downsides & Disadvantages
Just like anything else in the world, there are some disadvantages to online education. Always take time to research each provider of online education to make sure they are a legitimate provider, and take time to analyze whether or not the online education format resonates well for your student and family.
Potential for lack of accreditation. Due to the nature of online schooling, it’s not uncommon for a business to try and capitalize on so many students seeking online education in the market. Therefore, some online education providers may not be a legitimate provider, despite claims. Always research each provider and check reviews. San Diego Virtual School is a nationally and regionally accredited online school.
Drastically reduced social interaction. Online education allows students to not be required to visit a physical school, which results in seeing classmates far less, and runs the risk of school systems and families forgetting to encourage students to get involved in extracurricular activities as a way to promote social development.
Requires higher levels of self-discipline. When there are no teachers around, it’s easier for students to procrastinate or get distracted while trying to learn. As a student that lacks self-discipline, this can cause them to become less effective at learning. For parents this may result in needing to spend more time monitoring students as they study until they have developed good habits on their own. (This is why San Diego Virtual School teachers contact students daily to regularly encourage, motivate, and help students).
Weighing the Options: Pros vs. Cons
Not all advantages and not all disadvantages will be relevant for all students and their families. This is why it’s important to take the time to study whether or not online education is right for your student and your family. What may seem like a “pro” may not be, while a “con” for online education may not matter for your situation. Weighing what the options are is going to differ from individual to individual and family to family.
Online Education vs. Traditional Education
Similar to weighing the pros and cons of online education, the major differences between online education and traditional education can require families to take extra time to evaluate their needs and lifestyle.
Typically, if your family has a unique lifestyle, has to travel a lot, or your student learns better in a non-traditional school environment, then going the online education route may be better suited for your family.
On the other hand, if your schedule fits well with a traditional school, and your student is not very self-disciplined, or you want to put an emphasis on developing social skills, then choosing a traditional education may be a better choice.
Remember that you can always consult with multiple schools to get an idea and hear their feedback based on the information about your family, lifestyle, and your child that you provide them with. You can also talk with other students’ families in each type of school to get more direct feedback about the experience.
Online School Lingo – Common Terms to Know
Below is a brief list of terminology relating to online school that will be helpful to know when pursuing your online education options.
- Accreditation: a process that determines whether or not a school has met certain standards.
- Applied Learning: hands-on and active learning processes.
- App: short for “application,” program or software.
- Blog: a “journal” that is stored online to be viewed by classmates, professors, and in some cases the public.
- Browser: a program used to navigate the internet.
- Capstone: large assignment a student takes on to finish a particular course or educational program.
- Credit Hour: a way to measure the educational credit a student has earned, typically based on the number of hours per week a student will take part in throughout a term.
- FAFSA: short for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” which is an application for financial aid.
- Financial Aid: any type of financial assistance that goes towards tuition or other educational expenses. There are many types of financial aid options available.
- Fully Online Learning: an educational program that is done entirely through the computer or tablet.
- Practicum: a type of course-study that can be taken, which requires working in a specific job or industry.
- Skype: a video and voice program to communicate with professors and peers.
Online School Statistics
- 5.4 million students (1 in 4) took at least one kind of distance education course during fall 2012.
- 30% of college students have enrolled in at least one online course.
- 67% of college instructors understand that online media are necessary teaching tools.
- The most popular bachelor’s degrees:
- Traditional: Business, Accounting, Nursing, Psychology, Elementary Education
- Online: Psychology, Business, Elementary Education, Nursing, Health Administration
- 70% of students believe online education is as good as or better than traditional classrooms.
- Average cost of degrees:
- Traditional: $85,000
- Online: $30,000
Explore Your Options Today
Remember that the choice is always up to you about where you want to send your child for school. Both traditional and online schools are great for education, but an alternative to the traditional methods of education may be more ideal for your situation or your child. Remember to evaluate the pros and cons of each type of school before jumping into any option.
Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions! We are happy to help you figure out whether not online school is right for you.