(BPT) – With more school choices than ever before and the evolution of technology, students are redefining their own path to a successful K-12 education. Families are building complete, harmonious educational experiences for their children – dubbed “Generation DIY” by education experts – by choosing schools that meet their needs at a point in time, whether it is a traditional brick and mortar, private or charter school. Over the past decade, families have added fully online and blended schools to their list of options – making online learning one of the fastest growing forms of education in the U.S. today.
Combining elements of brick and mortar schools, distance learning and homeschooling, online public schools deliver public education directly to students in their home via the Internet. Students work with certified teachers online while a parent oversees progress in the home – they even go on field trips and take part in after-school clubs and activities.
With blended learning, students get a mix of in-person and online instruction. Students attend the school’s physical campus where they interact with certified teachers and always have access to their lessons online. Both of these school options utilize curriculum aligned to state standards and students take required assessment tests. And as public schools, they are free to attend.
One of the main reasons families and students choose online learning, as revealed in a recent survey by e-learning provider Connections Academy, is they simply want a different school environment – and one that offers greater flexibility in terms of scheduling and pace of lessons.
“Digital learning meets the needs of all types of students and families – some students find a perfect fit in full-time online or blended schools; others attend for a few years and then go back to the traditional school,” says Tisha Rinker, director of counseling at Connections Academy.
“Students aren’t bound to one method of education or another – they can mix it up and develop a more personalized school experience,” says Rinker, noting that most students who come to Connections-supported schools for a shorter period of time (one to three years) attend because they are looking for a solution to a typical school challenge – they are advanced and want to move more quickly through their lessons, they need to catch up, or are dealing with social issues like bullying. “Students transition between online and traditional school all the time,” she says. “In fact, for many kids, the time they spent in online school is exactly what they needed to succeed later on.”
The Keffer family of Marietta, Ohio, needed more schedule flexibility than was possible in their local neighborhood school. Sean Keffer, a talented quad-runner racer who competes all over the East Coast, had struggled to attend traditional school, practice, train and travel to races, without missing school and/or getting behind in schoolwork. The family enrolled him in a virtual school, where he thrived academically while still actively participating in quad-runner racing. Later, with less of a need for flexibility, he opted to switch back to his neighborhood high school.
Rochelle “Rocki’ Hudson found blended learning the best option to meet her needs. Before enrolling at Nexus Academy of Indianapolis, Hudson struggled in her traditional brick-and-mortar school – a chronic health issue caused her to have extended absences and having dyslexia added to her learning challenges. With the flexibility of blended learning, Hudson attends classes on campus in the morning and then finishes up her lessons online before going to her part-time job. She will graduate this year, and has been accepted to Indiana University on a scholarship, where she plans to get a Bachelor’s Degree in early education and sign language.
“Families are embracing the fact that they have choices for building a school experience that meets the needs of their child,” Rinker says. “When it comes to their child’s education, one size doesn’t fit all – and what ‘fits’ might even change from year to year and from child to child.”