For those of us who’ve grown up around traditional schooling environments, online learning platforms can be quite a challenge to understand. It definitely reveals a whole new world of possibilities that eliminates the need for travel and adhering to stipulated time schedules. For most people from the baby-boom generation, it is hard to imagine a virtual classroom without a bunch of students, a number of writing desks and a teacher scribbling on a chalkboard. For most of us, that is the environment we grew up in. But technology has changed almost everything around us.Information technology combined with the need to lower costs has given birth to a whole new system of education that has not only made it more affordable but has also provided our children with access to opportunities they never had before. Students today, have a multitude of options to choose from. They are no longer limited by conventional obstacles, and all that has been made possible because of innovation. Here’s a little information to get you started on learning more about what an online education environment has to offer you.There are a few basic questions that are more commonly asked by parents such as “What is a virtual learning program?” or “How will my child go about their regular course of study in an online environment?” These questions are better answered within the realm of the following different aspects concerning online courses.

Defining the scope of online courses

K-12 courses offered by online schools differ from each other depending on the scope of impact. They can be comprehensive courses where students are expected to complete the entire course online or can also be taken up as supplementary courses to add on to their traditional education. Full-time online learning courses do not require a student to attend a conventional school. The entire learning process takes place online with the help of a computer and an internet connection. Students have unrestricted access to their course material from virtually anywhere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even interaction between students and teachers and their peers takes place within an environment that’s based on the internet.

Supplementary courses are more of an option for those students who wish to study subjects that may not be available to them in their current environment. They offer students access to a wider range of choices among elective courses, foreign languages and advanced placement programs. Online education provides such students whose schools may not offer such programs with the opportunity to carry on their current education and opt for courses outside their stipulated curriculum.

Transcending beyond physical boundaries

There are several schools that offer courses that can be completed exclusively from home. In such cases, students are required to study their course material as per their own time schedules depending on their individual circumstances. However, there are also those that offer online learning courses that may be carried out at a school, or a hybrid variety that combines face-to-face learning with online study. Selecting the type of delivery mechanism would depend on each student’s personal circumstances.

For example, students with parents whose jobs require them to move around a lot would be better off opting for an online course that requires them to study exclusively from home. This is an option most student-athletes and musicians prefer too, given their rigorous schedules that leave little time for regular school. This helps in fostering a sense of consistency for the child. However, for those who prefer face-to-face interaction can opt for other variants offered by online schools in the country.

Developing student-teacher interaction

With the flexibility offered by online schooling environments, students are allowed to interact with their teachers in a real-time environment or via alternatives methods that do not require instant feedback. Real-time interaction can be achieved with the use of online audio-visual media that facilitate the instant exchange of information via the Internet. On the other hand, students also have the option of completing their coursework and submitting their respective assignments and project work that can be graded as per the teacher’s schedule.

Feedback on the work submitted is then transmitted online via email or online discussion software. Regardless of the manner in which interaction takes place, online learning environments demand regular communication between teachers and students required to monitor the student’s progress. These are usually carried out by phone, email, online chats as well as audio/video conferences.

Removing the age barrier

Online education has the potential to serve a much larger audience as opposed to traditional classrooms. Here, there are no restrictions on the number of students that can be admitted to a particular class. Moreover, reduced stress levels help achieve a much better teacher-student ratio than is possible in traditional schools. Studying online also has the distinct advantage of the absence of public embarrassment that prevents a substantial student population from completing their education.

Failure to cope up with peers in the same class has always been a major contributing factor to students leaving education midway. Being able to study in an environment that’s free from public ridicule can prove to be a strong incentive in encouraging students to try again. Then there’s the added advantage where students across all age barriers can interact freely via the web. Online discussion forums offer students a secure environment for the free exchange of information. There are those who would like to go back to school and complete their education but the fear of standing out tends to hold them back. Online education is the perfect alternative for such people.

Furthermore, students wanting to opt for certain electives or advanced placement programs can do so via an online school without causing any hindrance to their current mode of education. Online courses also provide an effective mechanism for credit recovery in an effort to help those falling behind or for those who would like to get a jump start on college. At the end of the day, online education offers students a multitude of options to suit their specific needs.