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Public Online Charter School Students

Posted on Dec 17, 2012

Annotations GraphicIn “Public Online Charter School Students: Choices, Perceptions, and Traits,” Paul Kim, Flora Hisook Kim, and Arafeh Karimi, of Stanford University, attempt to begin generating an explanation as to why students decide to enroll in online schools. Enrollment in online learning is increasing rapidly, by approximately 20% every year. It is obvious why parents are drawn to online learning: such programs offer individualized programs and progress reports that can be viewed by students, parents, and teachers, leaving no one in the dark as to how a given student’s education is progressing. However, it is not clear why students are turning to online learning.

According to the authors, “students who consider online education do not necessarily understand what may actually be required in online learning. As a result, students often discover that online learning requires much more active participation and a much higher level of self-regulation.” Furthermore, the authors state that “it is not easy to find an empirical student explaining how online students enrolled in public K-12 online school programs perceive online discussions.” Based on these assertions, it seems to be the case that students are drawn to the idea of the online learning because they believe it will offer more flexibility, independence, and individualization than a traditional program would without realizing the changes in work ethic that might be necessary to properly engage in an online learning program.

The authors also find it problematic that there is a lack of information regarding how students feel about online discussions. Generally speaking, online discussions are thought to be an important part of an effective online learning program, but strangely, studies are not done to determine how online discussions affect student learning, or even how students feel about engaging in online discussion.

In an attempt to combat this lack of information, Kim, Kim, and Karimi gathered some data and found that a dichotomy existed in how students felt about online discussions. The authors found that “56% of respondents indicated that online discussion is helpful in achieving their academic goals, while 44% indicated otherwise.” The authors were also able to determine that “students who find online discussion helpful are ‘more likely to have prior online learning experience, enjoy working in groups, do not like traditional learning materials, engage in multiple tasks while studying, make plans to complete tasks, and periodically set goals for long-term projects.’”

From these results, the authors conclude that, in light of the fact that “no study has shown that students seek online learning in order to engage in online discussion,” it may not be necessary to treat online discussion as an integral part of any online learning program. If online learning programs are to accommodate as many student groups as possible, then some programs may need to ignore online discussions in favor of other features that will be useful to the students who do not find online discussion meaningful.

Josh Luthi is a computer science student at the University of Kansas and has a penchant for politics.

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