Popularity of online courses increase in mainstream education

October 30, 2019 — by Preston Fu and Krithi Sankar

Recently, online school programs provided by prestigious universities and for-profit education companies alike have grown in popularity among undergraduate university students, according to the Babson Survey Education Group. This past year, the number of higher education students in the U.S. has increased by over 330,000, or 5.6 percent, exceeding the increases seen over the last three years.

This trend is also happening here; online courses account for nearly 10 percent of out-of-district classes taken by students, according to registrar Robert Wise. Online classes have also doubled in popularity among SHS students since the 2011-12 school year.

This figure has grown on a national scale as well. According to Education Week, K-12 students took a total of roughly 4.5 million supplemental online courses in the 2014-15 school year, compared to just 317,000 in 2002-03.

While some Saratoga students choose an online course to remediate a class previously taken or to fulfill a credit for graduation such as Visual Performing Arts, others choose to take on additional work in a subject of interest, Wise said.

Along with retaking the first semester of Algebra 2, senior Ananya Krishnan is taking AP World History online. Krishnan has always had a passion for world history, and despite already having taken the SAT subject test, she is interested in learning more.

Krishnan has enjoyed her experience thus far, mainly because the self-paced nature of her class gives her some more breathing room when she is having an exceptionally busy day or week. Additionally, Krishnan has been able to develop personal motivation from taking these online courses.

“Because it’s online, there’s no one telling you a due date, so you have to motivate yourself to do it,” Krishnan said. “It’s a good life skill to be able to tell yourself, ‘I need to do this, so I’m going to do it.’” 

Senior Lauren Hansen found similar benefits when she took a geometry course online through K12, an organization based in the East Coast, during her freshman year. Despite her tendency to procrastinate because of the block schedule, Hansen was forced to improve her work habits, managing her time more efficiently so that she could submit all assignments by 12 a.m. EST, or equivalently 9 p.m. PST.

Hansen’s situation took a rough turn when she suffered a concussion midway through the volleyball season. Consequently, she fell 23 assignments behind. Because she couldn’t talk to the teacher face-to-face and explain her situation, she was forced to plow through all of the material, making up all of the work she missed during her absence.

Although Hansen said she did not have the greatest experience with online courses, she acknowledges their impact on personal development, both in the classroom and in the long run.

“Despite not being able to ask anyone for help, online classes really helped me mature and solidify my understanding of the material,” Hansen said.

Another area that heavily uses online education is the school’s special education program. Students have the chance to  use Cyber High, which helps students recover credits in order to graduate from high school. Teachers Brian Elliott, Lauren Taylor, Clare Rieber and Danny Wallace are involved with its use.

“It’s a great tool for students because it really benefits the ones that are struggling,” Wallace said. “The teachers have a lot of control over it so it’s a lot easier for us too.”

While there are many reasons students take online courses, overall there is an upward trend in the number of students who take online courses while also attending a traditional high school. The projected number of online courses taken by Saratoga High students for the next couple of years range from 90 to 100 online courses per year overall, according to Wise.

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