While few people would dispute the merits of education, citing its important in producing well-rounded individuals who can contribute wholly and efficiently in society, the debate over online schooling hasn't simmered down a bit. Critics are divided into one of two camps over this issue: there are those who believe it can be adapted to the student to promote the most beneficial learning, and there are those who believe it's a poor man's substitute for traditional in-class learning. In a recent article in the Denver Post, one woman shared her experience of how she was able to make online learning work far better for her children, and what she did to get there.
Online Learning: Not Just for College Students
When we think of online learning, it's typically associated with college students who need the freedom and flexibility of pursuing a degree that can be balanced with their home and work lives. They desire to become better educated but have to consider other factors that can possibly interfere with in-class learning, and find online learning offers a medium that can allow them to pursue everything that's important to them. It's not usually K-12 learners we imagine being in front of their computers pursuing education, as the dominant image of that demographic is of them in a classroom with their peers.
Lori Cooney, the president of the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families, contributed an article to the Denver Post highlighting the success she's had with her own children. She transferred her three children out of the brick-and-mortar model and into online learning, and has been quite happy with the results. In her own words, Cooney wrote:
"My oldest son graduated with Colorado Virtual Academy's third graduating class; my younger son just graduated with Colorado Preparatory Academy's inaugural graduating class of 2014; and my daughter will continue with Colorado Preparatory Academy, a college-prep online public school."
The Benefits of Starting Young with Online Learning
While Cooney's children are unlike typical online learners in that they don't have to balance the demands of family and work the way the typical demographic does, they still do have their own lives to consider. She's been able to supplement their education with real life learning, much of which wouldn't have been possible had they needed to abide by regular classroom hours.
For both of her boys, Cooney kept them involved with Civic Air Patrol and the group's weekly meetings, writing that some nights stretched on as late as 10pm. She was also able to show her children the value of volunteering back to the community without needing to schedule it for evenings or weekends. Because she didn't have to worry about getting them up early the next day for in-class school, Cooney felt free to shape her children's lives in a way she thought would be richer for the future. The idea of a customized education plan was one that appealed to her greatly, as she doesn't believe that education and valuable life experiences have to be necessarily exclusive of each other.
In her article, Cooney also addressed two issues that frequently come up in the online learning debate: quality of education, and the choice of the learner. In terms of the first one, she's adamant that her children are "receiving a high quality education with cutting edge technology [and] highly qualified teachers to guide them along the way", which is what every parent looks for when it comes to their child's education. And in terms of the second point, Cooney has a chat with her kids before the start of each school year to see if it's something they all want to continue with. Each year it is, wholeheartedly, and each year they continue on the online learning path.
Cooney acknowledges that online learning may not be for everyone but only asks that people give it a chance. At the heart of her argument, though, all she wants to see is children being educated in ways that work for them most efficiently, and that online learning may just be a valid way of getting there.