Research on school-level impact of online education is one of the research topics mentioned in Greg Kearsley’s book Online Education. He points out that teaching online involves serious alterations in instruction and should be analyzed for institutional impact. Studies such as Co-nect, Technology and Education Reform project for the Office of Technology, U.S. Dept. of Education, and the Living Schoolhouse Project are three studies that deal with curriculum that fully integrate technology into class activities. In general, the conclusion is that online learning can have a huge impact on the school learning environment. But, the impact will be contingent upon factors such as student demographics, local and regional politics, and what the community wants and expects from its teachers and students.
Our school offers Kentucky Virtual High School classes through the Kentucky Education Technology System for students who may want to take a class that is not offered in person such as Latin or math classes beyond pre-calculus. We don’t have enough students who are interested in these classes to warrant paying someone to teach them in a regular classroom. KVHS is a good situation for the school system because courses are accessible to students that might not otherwise open to them. So, interested students attend the classes online at the school computer lab. These students must be self-motivated and self-directed. Students participating in these classes often receive more scholarship money than the students who do not take the classes. A school-level impact might be that more of the scholarship money ends up in the hands of fewer students. The inverse might tell us that if more students took online courses, more students would likely receive scholarship money, although not as much as when fewer students take the courses because our community is not very prosperous and local scholarship money is on the meager side.
A solution to the problem of the dearth of local scholarship money lies within the online community. Numerous scholarships are available if one just spends a little time looking for them, determining the required criteria, and then, preparing oneself to earn the notice of the benefactors. As more students earn scholarships from online sources, other students will learn where to look for resources. Student searches for scholarship money will also help school counselors identify more means for the students. All of this could have a net result of more students being able to attend post-secondary school or training.
Our school computer lab uses A+LS software to help students practice math, English, writing skills and science learning. I don’t think this is actually online learning because it just a program that features integrated assessment and automated reported tools that are aligned to all state and national academic standards. Nevertheless, students do enjoy working with the program. We are waiting to determine the overall impact of the program as this is only its second year of use.
Due to students positive reception of the A+LS software, I think students would be more attentive if we were able to use computers more often, but we have a limited number for use at our school so it is difficult to determine exactly what the school-wide impact of online classes would be for us.