The concept of online learning in K-12 education began to take shape in the 1990s with the arrival of the Internet and the development of early online education platforms. During this time, a few trailblazing educators and institutions started experimenting with online courses in the K-12 educational setting.
During the pandemic, schools were driven into the use of emergency remote learning as a means of continuing education while schools were shut down to prevent further spread of COVID-19. This was vastly different from the online learning modality that has been in place for decades.
In this blog, we will examine a few of the most notable benefits of the use of online learning in K-12 education, both before and after the pandemic.
One of the greatest advantages of online learning is its flexibility. Students can learn at their own pace and schedule, which is ideal for those with other commitments. Online learning also allows students to learn from anywhere in the world, which can be especially beneficial if they are homebound due to illness, traveling, competitive athletes, performers, etc.
Indiana Online supports districts/schools that would like to offer flexibility for students by providing options to allow them to take courses online that they aren’t able to offer, to make up a credit, clear scheduling conflicts, or accelerate their learning. Students can begin their courses when needed based on our academic calendar and rolling enrollment.
Some students thrive and excel in an online learning environment. A parent of a student with accommodations shared, “Indiana Online has been the blessing we had needed for so long. I can’t tell you how much he loves it and how much we love seeing him get so much from it. It truly is a perfect fit! I love seeing him enjoy learning again!!”
At Indiana Online, accessibility plays a role in all aspects of instructional delivery including course design and teaching practices. Accessibility is an approach that enables each student to have the same opportunities to access information and engage in learning. Screen readers are one type of assistive technology used to read text aloud to learners. Many students with visual impairments rely on such technology. However, screen readers benefit other students, too: auditory learners, students with focus and attention deficits, English language learners, and students with low processing abilities. All videos and live Zoom sessions can be Closed Captioned enabled, which may be helpful for students with hearing impairments, as well as those who are better able to focus and retain details when they read the information instead of only listening to it. Some other features include minimal color contrast ratios, alternate text for images, and guidelines for font size, style and spacing.
Indiana Online is dedicated to supporting each student who enrolls with us, including students with accommodations. Our virtual learning environment naturally provides a quiet space to work outside of the general education classroom, extra time since students are able to work at their own pace in our asynchronous courses, and the use of a calculator on all assignments. Additionally, one-on-one time can be scheduled with teacher(s) during their office hours or an agreed upon time.
Online learning can also provide students with more personalized learning experiences. Not only in our supplemental or summer school courses can personalized learning be evidenced, but also in our full-time Academy program. Post-pandemic, Indiana Online introduced a full-time option for students in grades 5-12, if their school approves or recommends this option for them based on individual needs. This provides students the ability to engage in a robust and standards-based curriculum, and remain a part of their school community, all while not attending their school in person. These courses are offered in an asynchronous and/or synchronous format which provides increased flexibility.
At Indiana Online, multiple instructional methods are used in all of our courses to ensure a personalized approach for all learners, while cognitive supports such as graphic organizers, collaborative opportunities, and summarization help scaffold instruction to meet individual learning needs. Combining instructional strategies with high-quality, accessible course design allows us to provide engaging learning experiences for all students.
Many students feel more comfortable asking questions of their teacher in an online environment as they can do so privately. Students can sometimes feel intimidated or embarrassed to raise their hand in class and ask for assistance or clarification.
At Indiana Online we believe students are more successful when they are interested in and actively engaged in the content they are learning. However, students have different learning styles and engaging with content might look different from one student to another. It’s important that a quality online program provides a variety of learning experiences that meet the varying needs of each individual student.
Our Student Services team conducts student orientations giving learners time to familiarize themselves with our specific technology platforms, similar to exploring a physical learning space, and the onboarding site provides resources for students and parents to successfully navigate the online learning environment. Teachers receive regular professional development focused on high-quality instruction for all students. Positive and inclusive learning environments are established by Indiana Online teachers contacting each student at the start of every course and frequent teacher communication in various formats which gives students multiple avenues to consume information.
With the use of technology and the internet in post-secondary education, the Armed Forces, business and industry, and beyond, digital literacy is critical for everyone in today’s world. Some schools have elected to partner with Indiana Online to use online learning to provide students with experience and skills that will carry over into their everyday lives.
Online learning can help students develop important lifelong skills, such as time management, and self-motivation. These skills are crucial in the workplace, and online students can develop them through their coursework and participation in online communities.
While online learning is not new, the following benefits surfaced after the pandemic:
- Improved student health and well-being: Online learning can give students more flexibility to manage their time and avoid stress.
- Greater diversity in the classroom: Online learning can help to create more diverse classrooms by bringing together students from all walks of life.
- Teacher Shortages: With the number of teacher shortages being experienced across the country, online learning can bridge the gap for schools until they can find a licensed teacher. This allows students to continue to learn and grow in the absence of a face-to-face teacher. Indiana Online offers a FlexED program that allows schools to fulfill their needs in such situations using Indiana Online teachers and curriculum or, leasing the curriculum for the school’s teachers to utilize.
The Central Indiana Educational Service Center (CIESC) acquired Indiana Online (then called Indiana Online Academy) in the fall of 2005. The progress we have made since then has been tremendous. In our first year, Indiana Online had 389 students enroll in courses, but we have grown steadily each year since then, and we supported and served more than 33,000 course enrollments combined in summer 2022 and school year 2022-23. Our constant growth has allowed us to utilize more than 270 Indiana licensed teachers, partner with over 300 schools across the state, and employ a staff with a combined education experience of more than 165 years.
If you are interested in learning more about Indiana Online and whether it is a good fit for your school and students, more information is available on our website indianaonline.org or contact us today at email@example.com.
Some information in this blog was taken from previous blog posts by other Indiana Online staff members. To read those blogs in their entirety, please check out Accessing Education, What To Look For In An Online Educational Program and How we assist Students with Accommodations.