- The Copper River School District in rural Alaska has shifted to a nontraditional schedule for high school students, giving them core courses for four weeks online and then a two-week break for hands-on electives.
- Alaska Dispatch News reports the shift has allowed the district to maintain variety in its course offerings for schools that have as few as five high-schoolers — there are 350 online course options with more than a dozen others offered via videoconferencing.
- The district has three brick-and-mortar schools and also teaches students enrolled in a home-school program, and while it employs just eight full-time teachers, aids are present for in-school classes, giving students additional support beyond their remote instructors.
Online education options have filled a need in school districts nationwide. Beyond the opportunities to diversify school course offerings in some of the most rural parts of the country, educators have latched onto online learning as a way to limit the impact of snow days or other absences. Teachers who are already flipping classrooms and recording their lectures can overcome some of the negative impact of relying on substitute teachers, when much less work is likely to get done in traditional classrooms.
Online learning also brings the potential for more personalized instruction. Students who are far behind or ahead of their peers can take classes that are tailored to their abilities. Even schools that don’t need to go online for logistical reasons have turned to blended learning because of these benefits. The digital divide must always factor into such planning, however. Students who don’t have access to the technology or internet connections they need at home must be accommodated by their schools.