As the school year starts winding down many students and families face the same decision every summer: summer school or summer break. Online Learning could allow both but it must be right for the learner. Since I have been teaching and taking online courses since 2000. I decided last summer that I would let my son take a chance at online learning.
We started small last summer taking health – something that is only a half credit so it would take less time online. Plus it was not a core course so we figured if he found out online learning wasn’t for him he wasn’t jeopardizing learning in a core subject area. This course is offered through his school district and it must be completed at the same time as face-to-face courses. The only advantage to this type of course is that you get to take it from home and you fit it into your schedule as long as you get it done in the same timeline of Summer School – meaning finishing the first semester in 3 week.
I felt that since this was his first online course that I should provide him some guidance. After all I want him to be successful. As soon as he got access to the course I asked him to explore the online environment. I then went and asked him a few key questions – such as where can you find a list of all of your assignments and when they are due, how can you contact the instructor, and how and where do you submit your work. The teacher actually had a checklist of everything that needed to be done. My son printed that and kept that next to the computer so he knew what he did and what he had to do. I then asked him when he was going to get his work done. He thought that morning worked best. He still got to sleep in, have breakfast and then hit the computer. He finished all of his course work for any given day before noon, giving him the rest of the day for football practice and friends. Having him set aside time each day really helped him stay on task and be an active learner in his course. At the end of the semester he did well, there were a few technical challenges but in contacting and working with the teacher he was able to figure that out.
To keep physical education as part of his daily experience he has decided once again to take an online course during summer school – and this time it is a core course – American History. This summer the course is offered by the school district but run by a distance learning group and instead of completing in a schedule similar to face-to-face summer school he has 6 months to complete the course. So this is really learning anytime, anywhere. Although he has from June until December he knows that the course must be completed before school starts in the fall as we don’t want him to be overwhelmed with other courses. Thinking back to last summer he realized that one of the first things he needs to do is see if there is a schedule or checklist and if not, then create one. We hope that this experience will be as positive as last summer.
So is online learning for you? I don’t think my son is going to switch gears to attend a virtual school but knowing that online courses can help him fit things into his schedule he is more open to that learning environment. I also feel that the online learning made him take control of his work and schedule- which is not something that all kids do when they are in high school. Although he was successful I know that he prefers the face-to-face environment but appreciates online learning as an option.
If you are considering online learning the following are some resources to help you decide if online learning is right to you.
- Is Online Learning for You? A resource put together for students of the University of Illinois Online Campus
- Is Online Learning for Me? An online quiz about whether or not you are ready to learn online prepared by the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
- Tip for students signing up for online classes – a resource created by the Florida Virtual School
- Is Distance Learning Right for You? - a resource at about.com created by Jamie Littlefield