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Online learning

7 reasons why online learning is here to stay

The COVID-19 crisis will pass, but K-12 online learning could be here to stay for the long-term. Online learning has experienced tremendous growth recently—even before the pandemic—but now it’s exploding in record numbers due to school shutdowns all over the country.

According to Bernhard Schroeder’s Forbes article, “Disrupting Education. The Rise of K-12 Online and the Entrepreneurial Opportunities”: “Types of online education programs being implemented in the USA are state virtual schools, charter schools, multi-district programs, single district programs, programs run by universities, blended programs, private schools, and consortium based programs.”

As of mid-2019, according to Schroeder, more than 2.7 million K-12 students were engaged in online learning—many of whom were already attending online schools full-time. As online learning continues to grow, there will be a wider array of options, from full-time online school to hybrid school arrangements. 

Even when COVID-19 has passed and schools reopen again, it’s likely many students will continue learning online in some capacity. Let’s take a look at 7 reasons why online learning is here to stay.

1. Flexible schedule

For many K-12 students, flexible scheduling is possible. If online classes have been pre-recorded, students can—to some degree—structure their days in an order that works best for them. 

Although your student is likely to have some measure of structure implemented, they’ll likely have a greater chance at flexibility than students in a traditional school setting. For example, instructors may have structured lessons and online class times, but your student may be able to complete assignments on his or her own schedule, whatever that may look like.

2. Customizable curriculum

Online learning allows students—particularly older students in middle school and high school—to design a customized curriculum. Many high schools offer career development courses that allow students to explore the subjects and professions they’re interested in pursuing after graduation. 

Additionally, some community colleges allow high school students to dual enroll. Between an array of high school and college courses to choose from, distance learning students can build a curriculum that fits their strengths and interests. 

If a high school student has a part-time job, they may also be able to flex class schedules around work. 

3. More extracurricular options

When students are engaged in remote learning, they’re sometimes removed from many of the traditional aspects of school, including physical education classes, sports, clubs, band, and chorus. When students learn completely online, they can supplement their courses with extracurricular activities of their choice.

Beyond the basic activities typical at most high schools across the U.S., your student could engage in martial arts, dance, fencing, gymnastics, community theatre, one-on-one music lessons, or an array of community team sports.

4. Location independence

Online learning opens up a wide world of possibilities for students, including studying at schools outside their immediate area. The ability to learn from institutions all over the country—and even the world—is an exciting prospect for many students.

5. Affordability

All told, online learning can be much less expensive than attending public school. It all comes down to the activities your student is involved in and the course curricula you decide to invest in. Additionally, dual-enrollment courses are often offered to high school students at a low price or even no charge—so the students gain access to higher education at a dramatically reduced rate.

Parents with younger students engaged in online learning will save money on the supplies they would normally buy for an elementary school classroom throughout the year. Instead, they can save that money—or invest it in specific activities their kids are interested in doing.

6. Accessibility

Students with special needs can experience an online learning environment and materials that are completely accessible. While many traditional schools go above and beyond to accommodate students with special needs, parents have an extra hand in overseeing the accessibility of their materials and learning environments at home. 

Parents who enroll their students in online learning may also select the best tech and curricula for their student’s particular needs. Rather than relying on a traditional school to provide the accessibility solutions, they can tailor each detail at home.

7. Parental guidance and increased safety

Online learning also opens the door for increased parental involvement in the education process. Parents can help their students with assignments, comprehension, and review. They can also act as a guide through the curriculum each day.

Additionally, setting up a home learning environment is, in many ways, safer than attending traditional school. Students are more likely to be protected from many of the issues that arise from attending traditional school, such as bullying and peer pressure. As a parent, you can use distance learning as an opportunity to supervise your student’s friends and take a more active role in guiding them to healthy friendships. 

The bottom line

Online classes open doors for students who might have been limited by their location or the resources available in their areas. It’s likely that many more schools will continue offering online classes long-term, even after the pandemic has come to an end.

In the near future, parents and students will have more readily available access to online learning than ever before. This will open up a wide range of educational and career opportunities for students from every walk of life.

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Apprenticeship Colleges Dual Enrollment General Interest

How to work your way through college like a boss

Google the phrase “pay your way through college,” and you’ll be bombarded with a lineup of articles, news stories, and blog posts bemoaning that, in today’s economy, it’s simply impossible. But is it really?

The idea of working your way to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree harkens back to a time when tuition was comparatively cheap matched against median salaries. There’s no doubt about it—the cost of college has risen astronomically. In 1971, a year at Harvard would set you back $2,600. Today, it costs $45,278. If that figure had merely kept pace with inflation, the cost would be only $15,189. Clearly, tuition costs have spiraled out of control.

While college is nowhere near as inexpensive as it used to be, working your way through school isn’t as impossible as pundits would have you believe. Of course, it all depends on how you define “working your way.” It’s true that you can’t work 15 hours a week at minimum wage and expect to cover all your tuition, materials, and living expenses for school. But there are other options.

Here are four tips that can make working your way through school a reality:

1. Public, in-state schools are your best friend

In most cases, you’ll need to stick with a community college or a local state university. Unless you have a job from Daddy Warbucks, you won’t be able to make a private school work.

The numbers are straightforward. Working full-time year-round at the federal minimum wage, you’ll take in $15,080 per year before taxes. That won’t cover the cost of a private school, but it will at state-run schools. Average tuition at a public two-year community college is $3,347; at a four-year college, in-state tuition is $9,139.

Granted, working a full-time schedule while in school is seldom feasible, and you’ll probably need a lot more financial margin than minimum wage allows. But as we’ll explore below, there are other ways to keep costs in line.

2. Stay local, buy cheap

To effectively work your way through school, you’ll probably have to live at home (preferably rent free) and be selective in how you purchase school materials. If you simply can’t live at home, take on two or three roommates and split the rent. In many areas of the country, you’ll be able to live quite cheaply this way.

Another must: purchase your textbooks used, and look for good deals on school supplies and equipment. Don’t be afraid to buy a used laptop—Craiglist is full of them at significant discounts.

Remember, to make this plan work, you’ll have to live like a college student—or at least, how college students used to live! That means keeping your costs low and forgoing luxuries and perks. For some ideas on how to keep costs down, click here.

3. Go online

The popularity of online learning and distance education has exploded during the past decade. Tens of thousands of students are earning degrees exclusively online, while the vast majority of all college students regularly take online classes as part of their degree plan.

Pursuing your degree through distance education can be one of the best ways to make working through school feasible. Online learning allows for expanded schedule flexibility during the day. Even if you work a traditional nine-to-five job, you can get in your classwork in the evenings and on the weekends. How cool is that?

4. Pick up financial aid and scholarships

Don’t just work on the income part of the equation. Also consider ways to reduce your overall tuition costs, either through financial aid or hard-won scholarships. If you can, begin that process in high school. Apply, apply, apply. It just might carve a significant chunk off your tuition bill.

Conclusion

While working your way through school is certainly feasible, remember to keep first things first—your academics are crucial, and you don’t want them to suffer because you’re worn out from burning the candle at both ends working a job.

In fact, the best path might be to work a part-time schedule during the school year (15 to 20 hours per week) and then reorient to a full-time schedule during the summers. Better, if you can find work that is academically and vocationally relevant to your field of study, you’ll come out better prepared for your career.

For more reading on this topic, check out Georgetown University’s report Learning While Earning: The New Normal.