Online high schooling is become more common in Utah since the Utah State Board of Education established the Statewide Online Education Program in 2011. The program allows high school students to earn high school credit by completing certified online classes.
In 2018, 56.6 million students grades K–12 attended traditional schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
However, each year more parents and students are turning to online high schooling, according to education content website ThoughtCo. Students choose online schooling for many reasons, like getting ahead, graduating early, making up missed credits or avoiding negative peer groups, a ThoughtCo article states.
Rebecca Lambert is a high school math teacher at West Lake High School in Saratoga Springs. She said she has observed some of the benefits and drawbacks of both online and traditional schooling.
Lambert said the choice between traditional and online schooling depends on the individual and their needs.
“I would veer to say traditional schooling is beneficial to the majority of students because I see that it has been working,” Lambert said. “A lot of the time, when I see students switch to online it’s because they’re just not finding success in traditional school or they have some outside influences like a family situation or bullying.”
According to Lambert, students who choose online schooling can deal with external factors or can graduate with unique schedules for work or sports. She said the students who get an education online have the opportunity to work at their own pace.
“What’s nice is if you are watching a video, you can pause it and re-watch something that you don’t understand,” Lambert said.
Lambert said a potential drawback to online school could be the video not specifically answering their questions. Another drawback is that students likely wouldn’t have a tutor or teacher to help solve their problems.
“I think the biggest benefit of traditional school is students are learning more than just the content, they’re learning people skills. They’re learning how to work with others and how to collaborate and learn from other people’s ideas,” Lambert said. “If a student doesn’t understand a concept and someone else does, they can explain it. Those are kind of things that I feel are irreplaceable in the learning process.”
Some families have experimented with both types of Utah schooling.
Mother of three Mindy Reidhead graduated college with a degree in microbiology. She said she began homeschooling her three daughters at a young age.
“My degree is not in education, but I always felt so sad with the thought of sending my little kindergartners away so young,” Mindy said. “I just always wanted to have my kids with me. The state of the world was just so scary. Plus, we like to vacation whenever we want. We liked having the flexibility of keeping our own schedule and our own hours, and I liked being able to be in charge of what they were learning and making sure they were where they should be.”
As her daughters Aubrey and Katelyn grew up, Mindy created her own program to teach her girls.
“Early on I found stuff that worked, and it was very productive for them. It taught them what they were needing to know so we just stuck with it. It was just textbook based for the first few years,” Mindy said.
Mindy said she felt her girls got more done learning at home than she estimated they would in a traditional classroom.
“With this kind of schooling, I can work one on one and answer the questions right there,” Mindy said. “They don’t have to work through it and make mistakes to then realize they have been doing it wrong the whole time. What they get done at the high school in seven hours we get done in four.”
Mindy’s daughter Aubrey is a high school sophomore and recently transitioned from full-time online and homeschooling to dual enrollment at Bingham High School. Dual enrollment allowed Aubrey to take both online classes and classes at the high school.
Aubrey said she began to make the transition to dual enrollment last year while approaching her freshman year of high school. She completed her core high school class requirements through BYU Independent Study and took elective classes like French, seminary and ceramics at Bingham High School.
Aubrey recalled the drawbacks and benefits of her math classes with BYU Independent Study.
“I liked the speed of the math class. I was able to move faster on the things I was familiar with,” Aubrey said. “One of the drawbacks was I had to do a lot of research on my own time on how to use the math techniques because whenI was unfamiliar with stuff there wasn’t a live teacher to ask.”
According to Aubrey, her English class experience through BYU Independent Study wasn’t as frustrating.
“It was well-structured,” Aubrey said. “It was tricky to hunt down the really old books I needed to read for the quizzes though. But I’m really good at English and thinking through what they were teaching, so I was able to spend very little time of my day to get ahead in that class, and so I could spend some more time working with my math class.”
Aubrey said her transition to public high school was overwhelming at first. “It was a little daunting trying to find classes because I’m used to just sitting in one room and working on a subject until I finish it,” Aubrey said.
According to Aubrey, despite the different setting, easing into the social environment at Bingham was simple. She knew many Bingham students who were in her ward and students who were on the school swim team with her.
Aubrey said the learning structure at Bingham was different than what she was used to. She and her sister Katelyn, now a freshman, hadn’t ever done homework before since all their work was done at home before.
“We were new to the concept of homework because we used to just use textbooks,” Aubrey said. “We had books that had math problems or English problems and we would just write over the top of what they already had written. Instead of taking notes and homework sheets, we would just have it all in our textbooks.”
Aubrey said Bingham’s class structure lacked the one-on-one feedback she was used to. However, despite the changes, she said her homeschooling experiences shaped the way she responds to the adults and teachers at Bingham.
“With homeschooling you come with a sense of sheltered-ness — I guess. You’re around adults a lot more than kids your own age. Katelyn and I have both developed a sense of respect for adults,” Aubrey said. “I’m not sure if that’s just a homeschooler thing, but it seems to be. So teachers like us because we actually behave and pay attention.”
Aubrey said she plans to continue swimming for the Bingham swim team. She said she may consider participating in dual enrollment again next year, but for now plans on swimming and enjoying the rest of the school year.