Are Online Physical Education Courses a Viable Academic Option?

Online education isn’t just for the three R’s anymore — as the medium matures, it’s penetrating every area of schooling. According to Vignesh Ramachandran of Mashable, some states in the US are even offering online physical education courses to help high school students satisfy physical education requirements.

It’s still unclear whether “students’ ability to take physical education online is a viable option or is it a lazy loophole in the education system,” writes Ramachandran. But putting physical education material online is important as more students can learn about different workout plans and nutrition.

“Making gym class virtual may seem ironic in an era when more than one in three American children and teens are overweight or obese.” These online classes are suitable for students who have a busy schedule or for those who might prefer to workout in private. However, “the ability to potentially bypass physical activity at school is something to consider — especially when society is arguably spending more time sitting and in front of screens.”

K12, BYU Independent Study, Advanced Academics and other school systems are offering online physical education and health courses. Another prime example of online education for teens is the Florida Virtual School, which is free for middle and high school students in Florida. The school has more than 120 online courses and offers four online high school courses under the health/physical education umbrella, including personal fitness and outdoor education.

Kristen Satin, a teacher of seven years with Florida Virtual School, told Mashable her online students have a “vast knowledge of how to workout,” after completing the courses. The classes utilize embedded videos, text, live virtual sessions with instructors and desktop sharing to teach about stretches, cardiovascular exercises, muscular strength and training. The students participate in the online course at their leisure and must keep a workout log. Satin said the virtual school keeps students accountable for their progress through monthly phone calls with parents and students, as well as with “discussion-based assessments.”

According to Brian Mosier at the University of West Georgia, online physical education may be effective for aligning cognitive concepts of a class with national or state standards. Mosier, an assistant professor, teaches health and physical education majors in addition to conducting research about online physical education in grades 9 to 12.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are staggering: In the past 30 years, American childhood obesity has more than doubled for children and tripled among teens. The issue is so widespread that First Lady Michelle Obama made childhood obesity her platform with the “Let’s Move” campaign.

The Institute of Medicine is recommending that physical education should be a “core subject,” citing it as “foundational for lifelong health and learning.” It also recommended that all children should get “at least 60 minutes per day of vigorous or moderate-intensity physical activity regardless of their region, school attended, grade level or individual characteristics.”