Online classes exist for a number of reasons: Nontraditional students (e.g. students who work full-time but need to complete a degree on the side), students who have trouble concentrating and thriving in traditional classroom settings, students who need to save money, students who are far away, etc. They’re a great option to have available to those students who simply cannot thrive in the standard school environment.
Often online schooling is only an option in universities. In recent years, however, virtual secondary schools have been started around the country, allowing a number of students who either don’t do well or don’t like the traditional school environment to learn on their own, on their own time and in their own way.
The first virtual school in Massachusetts — the Massachusetts Virtual Academy — opened in Greenfield fewer than four years ago, but is set to close in June. According to The Daily Hampshire Gazette, the Greenfield School Committee recently voted unanimously to not submit an application to be a “commonwealth virtual school” (that is, a virtual school controlled by the state and structured like a charter school). Since a law passed this January giving the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education authority over any existing and future virtual schools in the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Virtual Academy, which teaches 470 students, will have to close.
It’s a shame that the Massachusetts Virtual Academy will be shut down — hopefully its 470 students will find an alternative option or will adjust to a normal school environment. But if the school can’t live up to state regulations — which make sure students are getting as good of an education as their peers in other regulated public schools. The aforementioned law is in place in order to ensure that this new, nontraditional way of schooling is providing students enrolled with the education that they need as established by the state’s education department. The problem with online school is that it might allow students too much freedom, or too much opportunity to cheat or skirt on their homework. With online schools being largely unregulated and unstructured, it is necessary that there be a standard to which online schools need to adhere in order to make sure their students are keeping up with those benefiting from more structure and the advantage of closer student-teacher contact.