For some students, online learning can be the key to educational success. With targeted plans that work at the student’s pace, one-on-one attention from instructors, and a safe haven from in-school bullying and disputes, some families are calling digital education a saving grace. Unfortunately, not all students who choose online schooling make the grade. Last year, a higher percentage of students dropped out of online schools than of brick and mortar institutions. Minnesota’s cyber schools are working to do something about it.
One of the reasons for increased truancy in online schools is the fact that student activity is more difficult to monitor. “It is very easy to become truant online,” Stacy Bender, dean of students at Minnesota Virtual High School recently told Education Week. “Unmotivated students can just stop logging in and then lie about it to their parents and within two weeks, they are truant.”
Local laws only worsen the problem, as they haven’t been updated to account for online attendance. Most states define a habitual truant as a student with a exorbitant amount of unexcused absences. Given the growth of online classes and other programs following non-traditional schedules, truancy laws may need to catch up with the times.
The answer to solving the online truancy problem could come from revising existing laws. Obviously, educators and officials can’t monitor learning from home in the same way that they monitor in-school learning. Assessing time spent with digital learning is doubly difficult as students learn at different paces, making a process based on simply tracking hours insufficient. Bender and other online educators in Minnesota are currently at work on a mathematical algorithm that, if put into use, could properly identify students who are in danger of dropping out. The next step is signing that algorithm into law so that cyber truants can be properly identified and helped. The process will take some time, but educators are hopeful that the results could mean higher graduation rates for cyber students everywhere.
In the meantime, the biggest determining factor will be parent and teacher involvement. Parents should be even more attentive of their children’s online work. Unless they’re actively involved in their child’s learning process, parents might believe everything is fine, when in reality their child is slowly slipping through the cracks.
We’d like to hear from cyber-schooling parents: How do you ensure your child stays on track?