Online Schools Test Students’ Social Skills

As online high schools increase in popularity nationwide, educators and psychologists are seeking to address a potential pitfall for students of digital learning: social isolation. The upside of these programs is that students can work at their own pace and delve more deeply into subject matter than a traditional classroom might allow. The downside is that some students feel lonely and see they’re missing out on proms, homecoming football games, and other social venues customary to high school life. According to the article below, approximately 100,000 of the 12 million high-school-age students in the U.S. attend 438 online schools full-time, up from 30,000 five years ago, based on research by the International Association for K-12 Learning Online, a Washington nonprofit representing online schools. The article reports:

“Online schools appeal to gifted students who want to work at their own pace, students who dropped out of traditional high schools or who are taught at home by their families, students who travel with globe-trotting parents and teens with competitive outside pursuits like ballet, tennis or gymnastics. Many more students take some classes online, while attending traditional schools.”

Of the home-schooled population, approximately 1.1 million students (2.2 percent of the school-age population) were being educated at home in 2003, compared to an estimated 850,000 students in 1999, says the Department of Education. The National Home Education Research Institute concludes that the homeschooling population is increasing each year. The institute estimates that the number of chil­dren being homeschooled grows 7 percent to 12 percent per year.

1) How can programs like LifeBound’s People Smarts for Teenagers be introduced to home school populations, as well as more fully integrated into conventional school curriculum so that all students develop the requisite social and emotional skills to thrive in our global world?

2) What can local high schools do to help connect online learners with their student populations?

3) How can online programs foster human connection so that students don’t become lonely or miss out on the socialization important to teen and young adult development?

Wall Street Journal
By Paul Glader
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Tatyana Ray has more than 1,200 Facebook friends, sends 600 texts a month and participated in four student clubs during the year and a half she attended high school online, through a program affiliated with Stanford University.

Although top public and private high schools abound in her affluent area of Palo Alto, the 17-year-old originally applied to the online school because she and her parents thought it looked both interesting and challenging. She enjoyed the academics but eventually found she was lonely. She missed the human connection of proms, football games and in-person, rather than online, gossip. The digital clubs for fashion, books and cooking involved Web cams and blogs and felt more like work than fun.

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