How To Ensure Rural Students Benefit From eLearning

How To Ensure Rural Students Benefit From eLearning
Summary: Online courses are proving a viable and popular way to fill gaps for K12 students in rural areas. Read on to learn how rural students can take advantage of online learning resources to fill gaps that brick-and-mortar schools can’t always cover.

How Can Rural Students Benefit From eLearning? 

Rural areas often struggle to achieve the same educational standards as more densely populated regions. For example, a national issue brief from the University of New Hampshire reports that rural schools are ten times less likely to offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Perhaps as a result of these limited course offerings, rural students are also less likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to attend college the fall after high school graduation.

eLearning courses are proving a viable and popular way to fill gaps for rural K12 students across the country. Ten years ago, online learning was groundbreaking and rare, but since then the eLearning sector has grown stronger — as of 2014, 30 states offered full-time virtual schools. And as David Miller notes in his 2014 eLearning article Online Learning Advantages: Why Online Learning Offers Plenty of Incentives, besides physical college campuses often feeling too far and few between, living in a rural community "can be even more difficult for students to find experts in the fields they’re interested in". This is where online learning can make all the difference.

Read on to learn how rural students in rural areas can take advantage of online learning resources.

Benefits Of Online Courses For Rural Students

eLearning makes it possible for students to take classes that wouldn’t normally be available to them. For example, schools in the Idaho Education Network (IEN) can share and exchange classes online. Homedale High School is just one of many rural schools that share resources, allowing students to participate in physics, calculus, and hybrid speech courses from schools across the state.

Online learning can also support rural students when shrinking budgets and strained resources limit access to libraries and other learning materials. With eLearning courses, students can study at their own pace with a wide range of online tools from scholarly articles to audio or video lectures.

How To Find eLearning Courses

If you’re looking for online courses, connecting with teachers and librarians is a good starting point. More schools are working with online charter schools than ever before, which means that many educators can recommend courses to supplement the education students get in the classroom.

If your school district doesn’t offer eLearning courses, there are also several useful online communities where you can connect with parents to find other options. Ask those who have used online courses which they recommend, and search for course- or school-specific reviews. You’ll also want to check accreditation for any school you choose. Because the United States doesn’t have a national accreditation process at the high school level, check for state or regional accreditation organizations. You may also want to try out a free online course to test and see if a full semester is something you'd like to pursue. From big data and analytics to marketing, you can find a free online class for just about anything.

What You Need To Take Online Courses

Online learners need to access materials, connect with teachers and other students, participate in discussions, and submit coursework - all of which requires a reliable internet connection. Course providers should outline internet access and computer system requirements to ensure students in rural areas can accomplish all of their required tasks. From there, you can use an online speed calculator to determine the minimum internet bandwidth you’ll need. Since rural areas aren't always blessed with the fastest broadband connections and many other internet service providers don’t cover rural areas, satellite internet may be the best way to gain high-speed access to the web.

In addition to a fast internet connection, students also need a reliable computer or tablet - ideally one that they can access at any time. A quiet place to study is also useful, since distractions such as TV, computer games, or family members in the same room can hinder learning outcomes. Studying online outside of classroom hours takes discipline, so recognize that it’s not always easy for pupils to put in the extra hours to gain the education they need.

In rural areas, online learning can have a transformative power. Students can access new areas of knowledge that could define their future career paths. The extra credits may make it possible for them to attend or complete college, find fulfilling employment, and do what they never thought possible. It is a powerful way for students in rural regions to enjoy the same advantages as their peers living in urban centers.