A proposal by Estherville Lincoln Central principal Frank Christenson to the ELC Board of Education at Monday night's board meeting to require students to take online courses within the next two to three years is a great idea.
Online learning isn't the trend of the future. It's the reality of today. Wherever you go, whether it's school, work or education, you'll find Webinars, e-courses and Web conferences galore. It is virtually impossible to succeed in any upwardly mobile career in today's world without some degree of computer literacy.
Requiring online courses of high-school students would have an added benefit - greater retention in online courses at the college level. Students with experience taking online courses in high school won't have to struggle with online learning methods in addition to college curriculum. In fact, they'll have an advantage over other students who haven't had a similar benefit.
The transition that teens have already made to technology is already profound. It's just about impossible to find a kid who isn't texting someone constantly. Online learning is a natural extension of that same technology, making it more relevant for a lot of teens who are more comfortable texting than speaking before a group of people. Threaded discussions, a term for discussing class material in online courses, have in many cases been shown to get students to open up more than they would in the face-to-face classroom. Offering their opinion online is far less intimidating than it is in the traditional classroom.
While there's a certain upfront investment - generally a few hundred dollars for each electronic device - that's pretty miniscule when compared to the cost of a car that most juniors and seniors drive to school. The only difference is that an electronic tablet doesn't require a seat belt or high insurance premium.
We applaud ELC in making this move. It's a necessary one, and one that has to happen.
To do otherwise would be to fail to serve our students and stand in the way of their future success.