Making Online Classes Work

Educators need all the tools available to ensure every student gets what he or she needs from school. Good for Hancock County Board of Education members for pulling another tool out of the box.

On Jan. 16, the county school system will add another classroom, this one virtual. Beginning that day, some students will be able to take some classes online instead of in person.

Labeled an online “academy,” the program has been developed in cooperation with Edmentum, a company with offices in Minnesota and Texas. The firm bills itself as a pioneer in online education for 50 years.

Most people may not have been aware online school dated back that far. For many years, little seems to have been done with the technology.

Some school systems have had less-than-desirable experiences with such programs. In Ohio, state officials are at odds with one online provider over issues such as proving students are engaged electronically for required amounts of time.

Others’ experience should make the process easier, safer and more productive in Hancock County.

Plans are to allow home-schooled students and others who need to make up course credits to make use of the online classes. Courses will be taught by state-certified teachers. Students will be required to visit their teachers at school at least once a month.

Eventually, the initiative could be expanded to include more students. If successful in Hancock County, it could — and should — prove appealing to other school districts.

Do not expect the experiment to be universally popular. Online education has many critics. Their reasons for disliking the technology range from simply thinking education ought to be done the way it always has been, in classrooms, to teachers who have valid worries about how well teenagers, who often need eye-contact level personal attention, will do when linked only through the internet.

Making supporters out of critics will require success. Hancock County educators working with the program should monitor it closely, supplement it wisely and insist on results, to ensure it serves students well.

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