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eLearning Update: Limitations to Full-Time Virtual Learning

Many of the people I talk to for Digital Directions and Education Week are quick to point out the excitement and growing interest in online learning for K-12 students. However, it is equally important to think about the limitations of online learning—something this story by my colleague Michelle Davis brings to light.

The story explores how full-time online learning is not an option for the majority of students because it requires an adult to be home during the day. Less than a quarter of families with children under 15 have a parent at home during the work week, the story says.

Many full-time virtual schools require much more involvement from parents than a traditional school setting. At the Idaho Virtual Academy, for instance, K-5 students must have a parent or other adult working along side the student for at least 20 hours per week. Although there are work-arounds like finding partner families to split the burden of stay-at-home time and scheduling classes after work hours, those aren't realistic options for everyone.

The "National Primer on K-12 Online Learning," published in October 2010, reveals that a relatively small percentage of all students taking online classes are full-time online students. The report estimates about 200,000 of the 1.5 million K-12 students taking online classes are full-time online students.

The report doesn't say how this plays out among student demographics, but does say equal access to online learning—which the computer, Internet access, and software that are all more common in affluent homes—is a major challenge. And it's likely requiring parental presence for full-time virtual students would be an even more limiting factor for low-income families. Or is it?

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