Across the nation, online schools and online classes are gaining momentum. Online learning has seen a hike in the number of students since early 2000 and markedly in the last few years, according to Jennifer Chambers of the Detroit News:
The number has jumped 52% in the past three years, with 55,271 students taking an online course of some sort in the 2012-2013 school year.
There are several reasons for the increase. Some students are taken out of public school by their parents due to personal reasons such as bullying; for others, the drive to school or college is too far. With the rising cost of fuel, that can be a legitimate concern.
Others were taken out of public schools because their parents felt that they weren't being challenged enough academically, reports Chambers.
The latter is the case for student Houston Hemphill. She takes traditional classes four hours a day, four days a week at her brick and mortar school, writes Chambers. At all other times, including evenings and weekends, Houston takes her advanced online classes. Her mother thinks that it is good for her and challenges her more academically.
Online courses also offer more flexibility to working, single parents, full-time job workers, or serious athletes. The student can then take the course around their schedule instead of trying to get into class that they can struggle to make work with their harrowing schedule. The interest in online classes in Wyoming has boomed in recent years, writes Leah Todd for the Casper Star-Tribune.
There are, however, some downsides to online learning. Some students and schools lack the technology required for online classes. Another is that the completion and pass rate for an online class is somewhat lower than a traditional, face to face class. Chambers writes:
"The report, prepared by Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute at the request of the state Legislature, found that while online learning is growing in popularity, performance results are mixed. Data for the last school year show the completion/pass rate for such classes was 60 percent, compared to 72 percent for traditional classes. About 14 percent of students withdrew from their online courses and 13 percent failed in the 2012-13 year."
Online learning is helping in the tutoring sector as well, writes George Lederman for Carnegie Mellon's student newspaper, The Tartan. Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, gave a speech to a packed auditorium of students about the importance of online learning.
George Lederman reports that originally, Khan started out by phone tutoring his cousin, Nadia, who was struggling with math. Nadia progressed from low level math to advanced math under Khan's tutelage. After Nadia's success, several other family members wanted him to tutor their students. It got to the point of him teaching up to ten students at a time. After awhile, a friend suggested that he put him tutoring videos up on YouTube.
At first, Khan did not like this idea, but tried it out anyway, says Lederman. Eventually, more people than just his family members were watching his videos. Many said "thank you" and that he had helped them pass their class. He offers his online curriculum free of charge and believes that learning should be a basic human right and not a privilege.