A good guide for individuals considering online learning

Are You Ready for Online Learning?

Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr. (originally published in the Huffington Post, click here for the full article)

A question that prospective online students often ask us is “how do I know if I’m ready for an online course?” For adult students who may be juggling full-time jobs, families or other obligations the answer almost always involves time commitment. Online classes offer more flexibility, but flexibility does not mean less rigor. In fact, an online degree program can sometimes be more challenging than the traditional classroom.

So, how do you know if you are a good candidate for an online class? Consider these 10 tips before enrolling.

Consider the online learning environment
The online classroom is much different than the physical classroom. Sitting in the back row and not making eye contact to avoid being called upon is not an option. Online learning is engaging, participatory and challenging. Successful online courses require frequent and productive interaction between you and the content, instructor, and other students. Be prepared to work, as students generally spend 9-12 hours per week on each course.

Find a regionally accredited program
Regional (not “national”) accreditation is the gold standard.

Now more than ever, students are focused on employment after graduation, and for good reason. It’s important to recognize that not all programs are created equal in the eyes of employers. Try to stick with regionally accredited colleges and avoid the many online programs on the market that are unaccredited. If you’re not sure about accreditation status, do your homework through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.

Understand how you will be learning
As with any tech-oriented field, online learning is an ever-changing environment. Tools that are used this semester might not be used a year from now, or even a month from now. Email, discussion boards, links to course materials, web conferencing are all integrated into several online learning programs. While most allow for flexible schedules, there may be discussions or special events that require class participation at a set time to integrate personal interaction.

Talk with an admissions counselor
Admissions counselors are treasure troves of information. They’ll be able to provide details on academic support services, specific degree programs, faculty members, other students, student services, financial aid, technical support and career services. These should all be considerations when choosing which services will best support you.

Explore academic support services
Very few traditional freshmen determine which college they will attend without first spending some time on campus. They want to see what services and facilities are available to students.

Do the same thing when considering an online program by exploring the institution’s website to see what support services are provided and try to speak with an academic advisor. While access to databases and writing centers is important, an academic advisor can be a personal, ongoing resource throughout your college career and even after graduation.

Be computer ready
You don’t need to be a technology guru to be successful in an online program but you do need to possess some basic technical skills and have a center level of comfort when navigating online. If you don’t have that yet, consider enrolling in some sort of basic computer skills course prior to matriculating into a formal degree program.


No more snow days?

Check out this EdWeek article.

E-Learning on Snow Days Now an Option for Pennsylvania Schools

Snow days may soon be a thing of the past in Pennsylvania.

In the event of inclement weather and other unusual circumstances, the state’s 501 school districts will now have the option to use “nontraditional educational delivery methods,” such as cyber school, in order to keep kids learning.20snow-closed-school-weather-michigan-280px.jpg

“As we continue to advance through the 21st century, our education system is adapting to and actively using technology for the delivery of instruction and educational materials,” Carolyn Dumaresq, the state’s acting education secretary, said in a statement.

Another one on district cyber schools

Western Pa. districts aim to win back students from cyber charters (from TribLive News)

By Megan Harris

As scores of students flee traditional classrooms for the comfort of their keyboards at cyber charter schools, Western Pennsylvania school districts are building cyber academies in an attempt to keep those pupils and the tuition they’d otherwise take with them.

In Pennsylvania, cyber schools get 80 percent of the state funding a public school would receive for a student, usually several thousand dollars per student. The student’s home district keeps 20 percent with no obligation to educate the child.

Online programs began this year in Karns City, Avonworth and Franklin Regional, and cyber academies at Fox Chapel and Gateway expanded. Other districts, including Norwin, West Allegheny, Blairsville-Saltsburg, North Hills and Baldwin-Whitehall, have led successful programs for years.

The growth of cyber charters has been costly for brick-and-mortar schools.

This year, 14 cyber charters in Pennsylvania taught 36,596 students — up from just one with 155 students in 2002.

Pittsburgh Public lost hundreds of students and an estimated $42 million in state funding to cybers from 2008 to 2012, the year the district began its online academy for grades 4-12.

Pittsburgh was losing 557 students to outside cyber charters in 2008, and that number steadily grew to 829 in 2012.

Projections at the time showed the district would pay cyber charters who enroll Pittsburgh students $11.4 million in 2016-17, up from $232,200 in 2000-01.

Since the in-house program began, about 126 students have come back, spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.

“We specifically targeted kids who opted out of the district for other online programs,” she said. “They’re Pittsburgh students, so they weren’t just losing out on extracurriculars. Our online academy is the only cyber school still eligible for free college tuition through the Pittsburgh Promise” scholarship program.

West Mifflin Cyber Academy took on 31 full-time online students when it started in 2010, about the same number as those who opted out of the district the two years prior. Enrollment at the in-house cyber academy grew to 63 students last year, representing more than $610,000 that stayed in the district.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/education/6538917-74/cyber-students-online#ixzz3EC1kaTRK
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

This is an interesting read

Tourette Syndrome group honors PA Cyber Charter School

VENANGO COUNTY, Pa., Sept. 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Pennsylvania Tourette Syndrome Alliance Inc. has presented its 2014 Accommodating School Award to the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.

PA Cyber is the first charter school in Pennsylvania –  cyber or brick-and-mortar charter school – to receive the award, an Alliance spokesperson said.

PA Cyber was nominated by parent Wendi Riddle on behalf of her son Kevin, 15.

Wendi said in her written nomination that in PA Cyber, “Kevin is accommodated, not punished, for his Tourette’s, for his obsessive-compulsive disorder and ADHD. PA Cyber has promoted Kevin’s learning, and understands his basic teenage boy development along with his disabilities.”

Involuntary muscle movements and vocalizations, called tics, are classic manifestations of Tourette’s. Kevin said teachers at the local classroom school he previously attended believed he was intentionally being disruptive.

“They didn’t understand,” Kevin said. “They would sit me in a corner and tell me to just do something.”

The PA Tourette Syndrome Alliance’s Sherrie Sponsellor said she advocated for Kevin several times at his previous school and repeatedly offered free training for the educational staff there.

Continue reading here

Interesting article about something we are planning on studying here at Penn State

Online education programs offer alternative for students, savings for districts

BY BRITNEY MILAZZO (CenterDaily Times)

— Maggie Koon was afraid that if the Bellefonte Area School Districtdidn’t offer an alternative education program, she wouldn’t finish school.

The 17-year-old Bellefonte Area High School senior moved to Bellefonte last year from Lewistown.

Without knowing anyone and hesitant to be back in the classroom, Koon was given information that she could study online instead, through the district’s BeLA program — Bellefonte eLearning Academy.

“I still feel like I’m getting a good, solid education,” Koon said. “I love it and it’s the kind of program that’s good for students who are bullied or not ready to be in school. … I met other students (in) the program who feel the same way.”

The program, which is open to students from fifth through 12th grades, provides an alternative learning style with parallel requirements for graduation — as if the student did classroom study, Bellefonte Area Middle School Principal Sommer Garman said. Garman helps run BeLA.

“It’s a full cyberschool through our district,” she said. “It’s become a growing trend in education, and we recognized that if students are interested in this type of learning, then we need to have it.”

A under-discussed point about charter schools

So after about a year of studying financial records for charter schools, I came up with one obvious conclusion that folks rarely talk about. If we don’t have enough money for one school in a district, how in the world did we think were are going to come up with enough money for two or more? No matter what you think about school choice and how it relates to student achievement (I am still on the fence with this one) charter schools have been far more expensive to the public and we haven’t been very good at paying for them.