Is online education the future?
Find out why more students are opting for digital learning.
By Hank Pellissier
No more pencils! No more books!
For generations this ditty has reflected little more than wishful thinking. Now 450,000 children in the United States can sincerely sing this anti-school rhyme because they've abandoned traditional schools for online education. Released from crowded classrooms, kids are jumping onto the electronic bandwagon in ever-increasing numbers. The largest online school provider — K12, with 70,000 pupils in 25 states — reported that its fall 2010 enrollment was up 23.7% from 2009.
Though cyber schooling hasn't come close to replacing traditional schools, some business leaders like Bill Gates to Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, have gone on record with their assertion that online has a promising future. (In his 2010 annual letter, Gates said his foundation would be funding projects that further the development of online learning.)
In the past decade, e-learning has spread into new terrain and thereby transformed its fly-by-night reputation. The vast majority of homeschoolers now use online curriculum. A number of charter schools have also adopted online programs, and some traditional schools are offering e-learning options as well. "In the last five years, online learning has become much more proven and mainstream," says Jeff Kwitowski, vice president of public relations for K12. "It's differentiated, engaging, and it really provides the ideal situation for many students."
Research firm Ambient Insight predicts that some 10.5 million students in preschool through high school will take at least some online classes by 2014.
What's the appeal of online learning? GreatSchools let the students speak for themselves.