The K-12 Online Education Revolution Part 4

What to Ask When Considering Online Courses

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) offers the following advice on what you need to know when considering an online primary or secondary school:7

  • Is the school approved by the state and reviewed by an accrediting agency?
  • What is the school’s ranking on the “annual state report card”? (Annual results are available from your state’s Dept. of Education website.)
  • How well do students in online Advanced Placement courses perform on the AP tests?
  • Are there any sample lessons available to check out before enrolling? Are all procedures for submitting work and obtaining help explained? Is there any student orientation (including course software and technical support), so students will know what is expected of them?
  • Are guidance counselors available?
  • Is there a schedule that will show what a typical school day will include?
  • What are the conditions and prerequisites for AP courses? Are they approved through the College Board?
  • What about programs for special needs (or gifted) students?
  • Is there a library available? Is it completely online or is there a physical location to visit?
  • Does the school provide “hands on” courses such as music or Physical Education? What about lab work and the like?
  • Are there any requirements such as placement or achievement tests? Are these provided by the school or required by the state?
  • How do you contact teachers with a question? By phone? Email? Online chat? What if the teacher is not immediately available or there is a problem with the teacher?
  • Does the school provide any social activities?
  • What is the procedure for a parent’s concerns or complaints?

Online enrollment at all levels of education continues to expand rapidly: 30% per year, according to iNACOL.8 It is unlikely, however, that the traditional classroom will be entirely replaced by online alternatives in the near future. Yet more and more traditional schools are including an online component, and completely online institutions like George Washington University’s Online High School are springing up all over America. The reason for this is simply that to educate the current generation of computer-savvy children, online learning is not only cheaper, but also more effective.

7 John Watson, Butch Gemin, Marla Coffey, A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program, Evergreen Education Group, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, Promising Practices in Online Learning, Feb. 2010, p. 9 - 21 (Checklists)

8 Ibid., p. 2