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The revolution of online learning

Lana Kargetta

The concept of revolution often conjures images of upheaval and bloodshed. However, a quieter revolution is underway: the rise of online learning. In this article, we delve into the factors driving this shift, its benefits, and how it's reshaping education for families worldwide.

Many individuals worldwide associate the word “revolution” with somber, if noble, connotations, such as the upheaval of tyrannies and bloodshed for a greater cause. However, bloodless changes of extreme importance exist. These revolutions are subtle yet powerful, trending around the globe and challenging long-accepted status quo. 

The emergence of the Internet influenced nearly every aspect of life as humanity knew it, including education. Families from all backgrounds are choosing online learning over brick-and-mortar schools. Therein lies the question: What is online learning, and is it a sufficient substitute for traditional schooling? In the following article, we will delve into online learning and explore the factors that popularized this educational approach.

It is critical not to confuse online learning with homeschooling. According to West Los Angeles College, online learning is “education that takes place over the Internet.” In contrast, Merriam-Webster defines homeschooling as “to teach one’s children at home.” While homeschooling communities have existed since the dawn of time, virtual studying is a relatively new concept used in colleges, schools, and families across the country. 

Numerous reasons make homeschooling attractive historically and today, including religious persecution, a lack of access to quality education, and better support for an ill or disabled child. For instance, Seton Home Study reports that Christian families opted to homeschool their children for centuries to avoid persecution or a curriculum that belied their faith. Calvert Educationhighlights that many parents homeschool in pursuit of a better education: “The NHES survey noted that a ‘dissatisfaction with academic instruction’ is the second highest reason why parents decide to homeschool their children; homeschooling gives parents more control over what their kids are learning.”

 Homeschooling can occur through online or traditional mediums. Online learning eliminates the need for purchasing and storing workbooks and textbooks and the burden for parents to grade assignments. Furthermore, an online school supports homeschooling families by helping them organize the order of earning the proper credits to help students move toward graduation. A scholarly online environment empowers students to take control of their education, developing self-discipline and accountability. These skills last a lifetime and help students succeed in post-secondary education and the workforce.​

Thanks to its unique benefits, online learning saw a rise in students from all walks of life. Connections Academy reports the amount of U.S. students partaking in digital learning skyrocketed by 80% from 2008 to 2014. A U.S. News article announced that over 6.3 million American students from more than 4,700 colleges enrolled in at least one online course in autumn of 2016. Besides college students and traditional homeschoolers, online schools attract full-time, part-time, and credit-recovery students. Sterling Academy enrolls students who wish to cover all of their coursework online, study specific subjects, or recover lost credits to graduate.

Homeschooling parents inherently have the authority to oversee and adjust their child’s education. Hence, if parents of online students want to implement offline, hands-on work, then they can supplement online courses with traditional school materials. Many homeschooling companies and book retailers meet this need by offering a wide range of educational tools for homeschoolers. If a family wants to homeschool or support a child’s path to graduation, then they must consider online learning.​

Newcomers to online learning often inquire, “How does online learning work?”

I asked my mother the same question when she transitioned me to an online curriculum in sixth grade. By then, I experienced book-based homeschooling for two years and was a student in the local public school. But how can a school operate online? Little did I know I embarked on an educational journey that spanned middle and high schools. Online learning proved itself more convenient and flexible than any textbook-based program. 

Sterling Academy’s online platform allowed me to navigate my schoolwork without my parents’ continuous assistance. Since homeschooling traditionally requires constant work from at least one parent, online schools widened the availability of home-study to include busy families. Instead of relying on my parents, I received instruction from videotaped lectures. Assignments and quizzes accompany every lecture, reinforcing and testing a student’s understanding. At the end of every unit, there is a “chapter test” or “unit test:” usually a 25-question test that covers the entire unit. Finally, the cumulative exam checks and assesses the overall knowledge gained from the course.

My favorite part of Edgenuity’s lessons is the well-explained material. The teachings are concise yet thorough, making challenging concepts easier to grasp. (Readers can access a demo of Edgenuity’s algebra lesson here). The times I inevitably struggled, re-watching a lesson always strengthened my comprehension. Sterling Academy provides a teacher for every course at no additional cost, offering students help and guidance.

Online learning is beneficial for a wide variety of families, including military or traveling families, families with sick or disabled children, and families who wish to incorporate their beliefs into education.  

Nevertheless, the concern of whether online learning is a sufficient substitute for the experiences in a brick-and-mortar school still stands. To gain validity from authorities and ensure students’ success, many online schools, including Sterling Academy, obtain accreditation from well-respected organizations.

Accreditation acts like a stamp of approval that proves a school meets specific standards. Furthermore, accreditation ensures that a brick-and-mortar school or college will accept the student’s work from an online school. Hence, accredited online schools issue high school diplomas that are as valid as those from public schools. Sadly, not all public schools in the United States are accredited. In regards to compulsory accreditation, the U.S. Department of Education states, “There are no specific federal laws or regulations governing the recognition of associations that accredit primary and secondary schools, and the U.S. Department of Education has no oversight role with respect to school accreditation.” According to an Education Next article, “Accreditation . . . is only legally required in public schools for 20 of the 42 states whose departments of education responded to [the author’s] repeated inquiries.”

​If a private or public school is not accredited through a governmental or independent body, then its graduates will likely face additional obstacles in college enrollment. For example, in 2011, several public schools in Kansas City lost governmental accreditation, leaving only graduates of AdvancED-accredited high schools unaffected. Thankfully, Sterling Academy’s accreditation, which is renewed annually to guarantee top performance and value, ensures that its graduates will enjoy a smoother process.

​For further questions, parents should view an online school’s course catalog and inquire about honors and AP classes. Many public and private schools offer honors and AP classes to students who are willing to meet higher requirements. (Here is a link to request Sterling Academy’s course catalog).

Online learning is an approach to education widely used among homeschooling communities. Students who attend an online school have full access to the curriculum, including lessons and tests. While homeschooling lets parents control their children’s academics closely, online learning provides unparalleled flexibility, making home-study possible for even the busiest of parents.

​Sterling Academy is an accredited online school that uses a quality curriculum from Edgenuity, provides teacher support to all students, and issues accredited diplomas to graduates. After studying with Edgenuity’s system for six years under two providers, I say confidently that online education is a valuable investment in any student’s future.

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