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Like Learning in the Classroom? Some Students Don't Have a Choice

Oct 03, 2011

A new educational mandate for the state of Florida began with 2011's freshmen class. Going forward, all high school students will be required to complete at least one completely virtual learning experience. The Education Insider takes a look at what this means for Florida schools, students and parents.

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By Erin Tigro

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Florida's Tech-Driven Initiative

Since the late '90s, Florida has led the country in e-learning with its operation of the Florida Virtual School. Today, this performance-based online institution provides more than 100,000 students across the state with K-12 cyber education. With reduced overhead, virtual schools generally spend less money than their bricks-and-mortar counterparts. And according to a 2011 article published by The Miami Herald, Florida doles out almost a quarter less per online versus class-based student. The shift to Web-based education will be subtle and gradual, since this year's freshmen will have up to their senior year to enroll in an e-class.

Pros of Online Learning

Most of today's high schoolers live by technology - often glued to iPads, cell phones or laptops. In a 21st century world, online education seems like the next logical step. Some of the positives of this new learning plan include:

  • Potential for more individualized interaction between teachers and students
  • Self-paced learning
  • Lower overall operating costs for districts
  • Relief from overcrowded classrooms
  • Students more prepared for tech-driven work and college environments

Cons of Online Learning

From Miami to Tallahassee, the new online learning requirement for mainstream public schools has been met with some cynicism and cock-eyed glares. Arguable negatives include:

  • Reduction of in-person social interactions
  • Potential challenge in adapting to an online classroom and virtual learning tools
  • Difficulty for some students to succeed in a different and seemingly less structured environment
  • Individual costs associated with virtual classes
  • Financial burden for less equipped schools that may need to provide additional on-campus computers

One Company's Idea to Help Make Virtual Education More Accessible

Many families throughout the state do not have the means or the need to get wired. So in an effort to help subsidize the cost of online education, Comcast has started its Internet Essentials initiative, which is designed to help low-income families afford a Web connection as well as a computer. Any family who currently has a child enrolled in their school's free lunch program may be able to qualify. Incidentally, in 2010, Florida had over 1.5 million National School Lunch participants, so this philanthropic launch should be far-reaching. Comcast has made a commitment to continue to provide its low cost services through the summer of 2014. Specifics of the program include:

  • Wifi-enabled netbook available for $149.99 plus tax
  • Internet connection for about $10 per month plus tax
  • No equipment rental fees to access the Internet
  • Free Internet training

Learn about a college that has taken virtual education to the next level.

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