The Discipline Needed for Online Education

Yesterday, Sunday, my son took another exam in his AP Stats course. He is taking the course online. It’s been a bugger, to say the least.  Let’s just say it’s not just plug and chug, there is an expectation of understanding. He’s working on it.

There are advantages to online courses. And, there are disadvantages, too. We have a long history in our house of taking courses online. In fact, my oldest graduated from a virtual high school as valedictorian and I completed an online Master’s degree just last year.  Many students turn to online education thinking it will be easier than sitting in a classroom. Or, they take classes via an online platform because of problems they had in a traditional setting with behavior, fitting in, grades, or balancing a talent (like ice skating) with the hours of traditional schooling.

None of the above reasons are why our boys took online classes. Very simply, the main reason we allowed them to take classes online was that they needed a challenge.  A secondary reason we allowed them to participate in online learning was some dissatisfaction with our traditional educational system. Math, in particular, posed a problem in our system, so when it came time to consider where advanced courses would be taken, we jumped ship with our youngest. While the online AP Stats course is not ideal, it has an extremely supportive instructor who constantly asks our son if he clearly understands the material, if he has any questions or needs clarification. In other words, there has been a great deal of support offered by this platform and online instructor with whom we have only had digital contact.  No one (least of all his teacher) questions his ability or calls him stupid or contributes to anxiety through focused bullying and poorly made assumptions. Fortunately, all my boys got through AP Calc at our HS in a positive fashion with a very supportive teacher. So, great teachers exist on both platforms. Consequently, our change in the platform for math did not occur until after calculus was complete. But, the damage was done before that. Since the system would not change after concerns were voiced, we changed. It is fortunate that in today’s educational world, there are choices and options.

Taking classes online requires discipline. It is a good preparation for college life.  There is no “regular class time.” The student needs to carve out time from their day and week to cover the material, study for quizzes and exams, and make progress. Some weeks this is more easily accomplished than others but it is doable.

I watch from the couch as my son takes his sixth exam in this course. He is concentrating. We have provided a quiet atmosphere for the 90-minute exam. Has it been a breeze? Absolutely not. In fact, it has been challenging. But, it is through the challenge that we grow as long as the challenge is not oppressive.

If you have an opportunity to allow your student to take an online course prior to graduating from high school, I would highly suggest it. There are benefits beyond grades and course completion. It’s called self-discipline and is something we can all use more of.

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