by Roxanne Greenberger
“A new experience can be extremely pleasurable, or extremely irritating, or somewhere in between, and you never know until you try it out.”–Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book
Are you skeptical about online instruction? Concerned that it might not be as effective as the traditional classroom experience?
Online learning is education’s new frontier. Understandably, many parents and teachers have questions.
CTD is an advocate. We believe online learning is a valid and engaging teaching method. Web-based courses can be particularly well suited for gifted students, allowing them to set their own pace and schedule. In addition, online programs offer many students access to honors, AP® and enrichment courses that may not be available in their school.
If you are among the skeptics, let me make the case for online learning by highlighting five key benefits:
1. Online learning is motivating and makes use of popular mediums.
Today’s students are multitasking youth who are as comfortable in front of a computer as they are the television. Giving students this educational platform is a motivator. Online courses often incorporate multimedia and allow students to work with their intellectual peers in a flexible environment that can be tailored to meet personal learning styles. The nature of the online format allows students to explore in depth, topics which appeal to them.
2. Online learning is the answer to scheduling dilemmas.
The modern world moves fast and schedules fill up quickly. Gifted students often find themselves unable to accommodate all of the classes they would like to take during school hours. In the online format, classes are available 24/7, and students can work as they choose. Prerequisite courses can easily be managed online in order to promote students to advanced courses earlier. Taking online courses can provide more time to pursue additional interests.
3. Online learning provides high quality educational experiences delivered by expert instructors.
Online institutions have the ability to recruit the best instructors available for any given subject matter without the limitations of physical distance. With access to experts and flexibility to determine what courses will be offered, online learning can help schools and families expand course options, particularly AP and Honors level courses. Online helps fill gaps and open new doors. Instructors from around the globe can deliver a wealth of courses to students in any time zone, on any continent, at any time.
4. Online learning is differentiated and provides students increased interaction with their instructor.
Online instructors have the ability to adjust course pace and content to meet the needs of individual students. And, contrary to some popular belief, one of the best aspects of online education is the student’s access to the instructor. Imagine having your teacher’s undivided attention and being able to ask questions at any point when you are in need of further explanation. In many ways, being an online student is much like having your own private tutor who is invested in your success. Many students appreciate the opportunity to ask questions they might not be willing to voice in front of the class, for fear of being judged. Online learning also allows students to pursue projects tailored to their personal interests at a pace comfortable for them.
“Self-paced courses allow students who learn quickly to complete courses at a pace that remains engaging and avoids boredom before they move on to the next course. Flexible courses give students who need more time and practice to accomplish course objectives the built-in opportunity to take the time without the stigma of asking for an exception to a rigid calendar.”
Getting Students More Learning Time Online: Distance Education in Support of Expanded Learning Time in K-12 Schools, by the Center for American Progress (May 2009)
5. Online learning prepares students to take responsibility for their academic growth.
Engaging in the creation of their own coursework and taking responsibility for their progress drives students to be more productive. Online students report they engage more fully because they are not as distracted by other students. The online experience can mitigate outside factors (social-emotional, time constraints, etc.) and personalize the learning experience, making it more rewarding.
“Students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”
iNACOL Fast Facts About Online Learning A Summary of Research on the Effectiveness of K-12 Online Learning, iNACOL (September 2009)
The CTD online learning program, “Gifted LearningLinks”, offers stimulating classes for advanced students from PreK (with parent participation) through high school. Our new 2011-2012 course catalog is now available. Check it out online, or call (847) 491-3782 X5 to request a printed copy.
So, proponent or skeptic? What do you see as the pros and cons of online learning for gifted students? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Roxanne Greenberger is the Director of CTD’s Saturday Enrichment Program and of Gifted LearningLinks. She enjoys the stimulation of working with insightful and talented educators and loves creating courses that challenge students’ intellect and inspire them to venture into new subject areas.