Thousands choosing computers over classroom

Photo by Christina Morillo on

Excerpts from the article by Cathryn Atkinson. The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: Apr 30, 2008. pg. S.3

Program offering distance-learning courses has nearly tripled its online student body since its launch less than three years ago Logging onto the computer at home is now the preferred method of education for thousands of British Columbian students who are abandoning bricks-and-mortar schools for Internet classrooms run by teachers kilometres away. The LearnNowBC program has almost tripled its online student body since it began less than three years ago, says Barry Anderson, executive director of the Virtual School Society, the non-profit agency that promotes the program for the Ministry of Education. About 17,000 students signed up for Kindergarten to Grade 12 distance-learning courses when the provincial government initiated them for the 2005-06 school year; the next academic year, 33,000 signed up. This year, the projected enrolment is 48,000, Mr. Anderson said

The program appeals to families who home school their children or travel for extended periods, students who want to take a course that is not offered at their local schools, adults who want to complete their secondary school education or upgrade qualifications, and young people who are either not succeeding at their local schools or are not challenged by the curriculum, Mr. Anderson said

Glen Jasechko, 17, is taking Grade 11 and 12 courses from his home in Victoria

“For me, normal school didn’t quite work out. The atmosphere and the amount of time it took to get between school and home was just oppressive,” he said. “I found I could complete the work at school quickly, but still needed to stay there and it was a waste of time.”

“The onus is on the student. It’s very independent, and it is up to you to set up how and when you do the course,” he said. “If you request help you will get it immediately if you phone or e-mail.” And as soon as he is finished a course, he can start the next one: “You don’t go through that [long] break before the next semester starts.” While interaction with other students is lacking, Mr. Jasechko said his social life isn’t suffering. “The really important thing for me is having more time. It’s like every day is the weekend but a little bit of time is spent working, and then there is time to take up other projects or have a job.”

Kevin White, vice-principal of the SIDES program, which currently has 3,000 students… “We’re at the tipping point. Next year, one out of every five students in high school will be taking a course like this. It’s because of the flexibility of the program. The online medium is something they are comfortable with, and this can give them a chance to take a break in the day and work at night,” he said. “This generation of technically literate students is demanding that there is more online material, and we try to provide that.”

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