Any adult will tell you what they learned “between the lines” as they were growing up was as valuable as what they learned in the classroom. An online high school education can often do even more for students than a brick-and-mortar institution when it comes to building real-life skills necessary to succeed on the job and as a person.
Consider these three fundamental capabilities:
1. Time management
Traditional high schools tell students when to arrive, which class to attend at what time, when to eat lunch and when to go home. Online high school students have no fixed schedule. They don’t waste time traveling back and forth to school, milling around between classes or waiting for something to happen in the classroom. Instead, they learn how to organize time efficiently.
Flexible time management can effectively give students more time to do extracurricular activities they love. It also makes online study a superior alternative for students who require flexibility due to an unusual work schedule, medical issues or other family obligations.
Self-direction is the first step in learning to be a leader. Online classes facilitate each teen’s transition from fully supervised child to accountable adult.
And there is a vital side benefit to flexible time management: online students can get a good night’s sleep. Education experts across the country warn that chronic and worsening lack of sleep is undermining American students’ ability to concentrate and thrive in the classroom.
2. Critical thinking
Online high school both requires and encourages students to make many decisions – either on their own or in conjunction with parents or teachers. They gain an ability to consider options intelligently, choose a path and follow through with minimal direction.
It’s not unusual for students in a traditional classroom to be merely given information – listen to a teacher, look for answers in the assigned textbook, etc. While some of this occurs in online learning too, there is more opportunity for online students to explore the answers to various questions on their own. This demands that students must make qualitative evaluations of the information they are seeking to help them with their understanding. Textbooks only go so far into their topics, and the truly curious student has the vastness of the Internet at their ready use to investigate their interests. This freedom, however, must be tempered with the patience and the skill to investigate the reliability of their sources. Just because it’s online (or in a book, for that matter) doesn’t mean that it’s true.
In an asynchronous online environment like that found at Sterling Academy, students contact the teacher when they need help with material; otherwise, they work on their own. Each day, students must make choices in what to study, how to study it, figuring out the meaning of the material on their own, and evaluating source material reliability. All of these contribute to the development of critical thinking skills that puts the online student at an advantage.
Studying online enables you to set your own pace. You’re in control, but that means it’s also your responsibility to complete the work without a parent or teacher nagging. One reason employers prefer to hire college graduates is that achieving a 4-year degree proves you have the ability to stick with something and see it through. An online high school education accomplishes the same thing, ensuring students graduate with the skills to do well in college or as they start a career. Students who study in middle and high school online put themselves a step ahead of their peers by learning earlier how to hold themselves accountable.
Taking responsibility and persevering teaches students they can accomplish things because they want to, not because someone else is pushing and prodding from behind.
By the time children reach middle and high school age, they are supposed to be learning to manage their own time; learning to make sound decisions on their own. By promoting these skills, online high school education can produce young adults that are more competent and more self-assured as well as extremely well-educated.