Online tutoring in the USA

Online tutoring has been getting more and more popular in recent years due to its’ affordability, usability and numerous opportunities it gives. It all started with online classes provided virtually and some online lectures available for college students. But today online classes are a powerful tool to educate people of all ages and abilities. Universities and colleges are actively utilizing it. Apart from that, online learning is now re-shaping the world of school education.

According to statistics, in 2008 more than a million high-school students were enrolled into online courses either partially or full-time. Some choose this format of education to take the courses in subjects, which their local schools are unable to provide or had to reduce due to budget curtailments, others use it to earn credits in courses they did not pass during the academic year.  But there are those who choose to attend virtual K-12 schools full-time. Their approximate number amounts to 200,000 people.

A few years ago online learning was an option for either “failing” students who faced the risk of being expelled or those who were motivated to deepen their knowledge in a subject and go for Advanced Placement credits.

The situation looks differently now for more students of traditional public schools prefer to attend virtual K-12 schools, often encouraged by school administration and teachers.

Traditional brick-and-mortar schools begin to drop important subjects like computer science or mathematics or they are simply not equipped to meet the academic needs of students and that is when parents start looking for alternatives.

Virtual K-12 schools offer the same curriculum as traditional schools do, but they are more likely to meet the wants of a student taking into consideration his individual abilities, rate of learning and academic background.

Across the U.S. 29 states provide full-time online schooling, other 19 states offer various online courses for children who prefer to combine traditional schooling with online educational component.

However, along with the benefits there are questions yet to be answered. Many critics doubt the effectiveness of full-time online K-12 schools. The recent survey of Minnesota virtual K-12 schools showed that students who attend online schools full-time tend to show worse academic achievement than high-schoolers who go to brick-and-mortar public schools. Besides, another alarming fact is the dropout rates in online K-12 schools which are twice as high as in traditional schools.

National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has been trying to encourage state authorities to restrain the growth of such online schools until it becomes clear they can compete with traditional educational establishments in academic achievement and attendance rates.

Computer-based learning undoubtedly holds a great promise. And now it is more than ever important to co-operate improving virtual K-12 schools’ accountability and developing their unique aspects, to make them available to everyone.