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Why Online Schools are Booming

Always felt that it would be a great idea if classes began and ended as and when you wanted them to? Ever felt that you didn't want an education that worked at you like a cookie cutter? Ever wondered if you could switch off, switch on and rewind your instructor?

Thanks to online schools, your wishes are more likely to be realized than you may have ever imagined. One million students from kindergarten to high school and as many more college and university students are living this dream of gaining a 'customized' education and you can too!

Life as an Online School Student
With an internet connection, requisite software and the desire to study at your own pace, virtual schools are all the rage. And for good reasons. It's not that online schools provide 'easy' courses. But they do offer a great amount of flexibility that makes it a viable option for those juggling jobs, kids at home, sickness, aged parents and so on.

Though online schools are generally associated with bachelor's, master's, diplomas and certificate programs, a large number of K-12 students are also opting for cyber classes through emerging online elementary schools, as well as online middle and high schools. The reasons are varied - other interests and hobbies like athletics and music can be pursued; inability to attend physical classes; or quite simply, the desire to study at one's own pace and style. Also read Online Education vs. Onsite Education to compare and contrast a distance learning education and the standard on-campus learning programs.

The Future of Online Schools
If experts are to be believed, online learning will "reinvent" high school in the United States. What began as a trend among community colleges in the 1990s now has a growing number of takers among high school students.

Almost 61 percent of students are likely to be from high school according to federal data. According to the North American Council for Online Learning, enrollment (the total number of available seats and not students) has grown twenty fold in the last seven years, and is likely to grow 30 percent annually!

What that essentially means is that there has been a growing acceptance about this mode of education. To keep pace with this trend, many universities are making an all out effort to ensure that online courses are on par with traditional classroom instruction.

California has taken the lead with a senator even introducing a bill to ensure that online schools are not deprived of state funding. Today, nearly half the states, about 24 in fact, offer public school classes online. The following article in the North County Times also outlines the growth in the online schooling sector and it's exponential growth in the future.

What the Statistics Say
If you need to see the numbers to really believe in the potential of online schools, check out these stats!

  • In Washington State alone, the number of students in elementary, middle and high school who are enrolled full-time in public online schools has nearly quadrupled in the last three years and in the last four years, it has risen by about 75 percent.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of students nationwide who're enrolled in online schools has jumped by 60 percent.
  • More than 60 percent of school districts having students enrolled in online courses expect their online enrollments to grow exponentially. They predict that over the next two years, online enrollments will increase by 19 percent and blended course enrollment by 23 percent.
  • A survey published in 2007 by the Sloan Consortium found that online enrollment across the country was growing faster than average student-growth rates, with almost 3.5 million students taking at least one online course in the fall of 2006.
  • Among college students, nearly 20 percent were taking an online course
  • .

Is it for you?
If you're thinking of enrolling younger students, you may have to think twice. Peer interaction and social skills are an important aspect at the formative stages and unless you have other circles, perhaps church meetings, hobby clubs etc., where your kids can interact with others, it's better to put cyber classes on hold or to opt for a blended course.

Only 2 percent of students in elementary schools opt for virtual schooling and these are mostly students with special needs such as child actors, students training for ballet or music, athletes, slow learners, advanced learners or students from rural districts.

Also, while online schools are a great way to home school your kids, remember that the rules of the game are quite different, there will be a standard curriculum and there will be assignments and tests.

Don't just opt for an online school because you think that it's the cool thing to do: evaluate your own reasons. At the same time, don't let questions of credibility hold you back: as long as the institution is accredited by a reputed agency, you can't go wrong!

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