Editor’s note: We posed several questions about online learning to EEN intern Cami Brix. Here’s her report back on this timely topic.
Q: What online learning options are available to public school K-12 students in Washington?
A: OSPI has approved many different online learning opportunities for Washington students in grades K-12. While the range of service depends on the student’s school district, students can enroll full-time, part-time or even in just one class of an online program. OSPI recommends reaching out to a student’s home school for guidance. From this writer’s experience, it is fairly common for a high school student to earn their PE/Health credits through an online class to make room for other, more interesting classes in their schedule.
However, if this range does not fit the needs of the student (the majority of school districts do not have online learning options for students younger than high school), OSPI has approved many multi-district programs.
Q: Who can enroll?
A: The Alternative Learning Department listed several qualities that indicate a student’s success upon enrollment in an online program. It helps if the student is an independent learner because online education at times can lack the same structure of a traditional school. In general, a student taking online courses should be self-motivated, organized, active and resourceful.
Q: What types of online schools are available? Are they all kind of the same or do some have different focus?
A: There are two types of online learning programs: district and multi-district. Generally, every program focuses on the main subject areas of math, English, social studies, health, etc. However, depending on the program, there are different course levels which range from credit recovery, standard and even Advanced Placement.
Q: What is the total student enrollment in online education for Washington state, grades K-12?
A: The online learning student headcount in the 2017 Online Learning Report is 31,719 students.
Q: Looking at the data and information available through OSPI, what conclusions you can draw about the type(s) of students that are typical of online school –
A: In terms of types of students taking online classes, high school students made up a majority of online learners (79 percent). Only 13 percent of online learners were close to full-time in online courses. The majority (71 percent) enrolled in fewer than 5 courses.
In terms of demographics, white students were over represented in online learning. Students of color, except for Native Americans/Alaskan Natives were under represented. Other groups were also under represented including English language learners, low-income students, students receiving special education services.
In terms of likely courses taken, five subjects accounted for 75 percent of non-elementary enrollments. These subjects include English Language Arts (14,477 enrollments), Math (12,857 enrollments), physical/health/safety (11,682 enrollments), history (10,372 enrollments) and science (8,193 enrollments).