High Schools Turning to Online Courses

More than 50 percent of U.S. high schools are currently offering online courses or exploring them for the future, according to a study by Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc. (IESD). The study was sponsored by Apex Learning and Blackboard Inc.

The researchers surveyed 447 high school principals and 345 school district administrators, and asked their districts’ and schools’ status, opinions and future plans for offering online courses. The survey revealed that more than 40 percent of all public high schools are already using online courses or planning to start using them during this school year. Another 17 percent are interested in offering online courses in the future. The study also revealed that 32 percent of public school districts will adopt and use an e-learning platform for the first time in 2002.

“When we began this study, we expected that we would see a fair number of schools offering online courses, but the momentum that virtual learning is building in U.S. high schools is noteworthy,” said Jay Sivin-Kachala, principal investigator at IESD. “The data suggest that many educational leaders are committed to taking advantage of the benefits that online courses can offer their students.”

Schools and districts are turning to online courses to help solve several problems. Among the top reasons cited were delivering a broader curriculum cost effectively and expanding college preparation/Advanced Placement offerings. Providing educational equity and resolving scheduling conflicts were also cited by many as key motivators for offering students the opportunity to enroll in online courses.

“In just a few years, online courses are quickly becoming an integral part of the high school experience,” said Keith Oelrich, president and CEO at Apex Learning. “This research supports Apex Learning’s belief that online courses can help schools ensure that students have access to the high quality educational opportunities needed for success in college and in life, regardless of the resources available locally.”

When selecting a vendor for online courses, survey respondents reported that an accredited/approved curriculum was the No. 1 factor in their decision-making process. Other important factors included affordability; configuration for the needs of grades 9 to 12; ease/speed of implementation; reporting of student progress and outcomes; and realistic time/training demands on district and school staff.

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