Online Schools: How Do They Make Their Courses More Online Friendly?
In a broad sense, online means when an electronic machine is connected either to its own personal computer or to other computers, including another personal computer, a modem or a wireless device like a laptop. In recent years, the word online has also come to imply connected to the Internet through various technologies. For example, some cellular phones come equipped with built-in browsers. Some laptops come equipped with Internet connections built in. While most people would think of a computer as being online when it is connected physically to a network, this definition may extend to various combinations of hardware and software, even to a digital network such as the Internet itself.
Online in our current context does not necessarily refer to total connectivity to a global network but to complete access to the Internet at any time, from any place. This online/offline dichotomy may be illustrated most dramatically by means of an online shopping comparison. A customer in Canada may at any given moment be connected either to a local Internet connection or to a corporate intranet, or he or she may be connected either to a home Internet connection or to a mobile device that accesses the Internet via a cell phone signal. Therefore, if the customer does want to shop online, he or she is either online or offline.
Many businesses, of course, are more comfortable working offline. It is often a practical matter for them to rent or purchase office equipment, hire employees locally or make other business arrangements that are far more manageable than online transactions. Because these practices are more affordable and do not involve the complex application of the internet, it can be more practical and reasonable for a company to establish its presence in the physical world and to operate offline. A social networking company may, for example, operate an online store that can be accessed either by browsing through a desktop site browser or a mobile app. An employee can browse the company’s online store using his or her own smartphone or tablet or he or she can simply download an app and log into the site from wherever he or she is.
With regard to public schools, there is also the issue of uniformity. Students can take online courses at the same time, learn in the same classroom and at the same time interact with one another. They can even take online classes when they’re sitting in a classroom and engaging in other activities. The only thing holding students back is whether the classes are administered within a school district or online learning venues such as the Internet and mobile apps.
In terms of uniformity and convenience, online schools may want to consider a blended learning program. A blended learning program includes both online classes as well as a regular onsite classroom. For example, some schools may want to offer blended learning programs that feature video conferencing. Classes may be taught live over a video conference or recorded for review later.
In order to keep pace with online students, many schools have taken steps to make their online programs as user-friendly as possible. These include enabling online registration and login, allowing online students to access discussion boards, providing “chat” features so that teachers can communicate with students outside of class, and even allowing online students to download class information to portable media players. It’s also a good idea for online schools to keep student work within their own electronic digital library. It’s much easier for struggling students to pull up needed information from their computer than to have to physically retrieve files. This is especially important for students who are in need of particular materials but cannot access the files in their traditional school library. Online schools will undoubtedly continue to find creative ways to give struggling students the tools they need to succeed.