More Oklahoma students enrolling in online classes

Sunday, May 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ About 95 Oklahoma school districts offered classes through the Internet this year, a state Education Department survey found, and officials say the number will grow.

``This really is the wave of the future,'' said Beverly Carter, assistant principal at Oklahoma City's Douglass High School. ``Actually, I guess it's now, and I don't think it's going anywhere.''

Muskogee Superintendent Eldon Gleichman said 47 students in his district are taking a full load of classes by computer.

Gleichman said he'd hoped the self-paced classes would encourage some dropouts to come back to school. Instead, he found most of the Web class students are schooled at home. It's also been helpful for students kept at home by medical conditions, Gleichman said.

``This hasn't been easy, but it seems to be working,'' he said.

Phil Applegate, executive director of instructional technology at the state Education Department, said the state's budget crisis could entice more schools to add online classes. He said he's also curious to see whether schools will use it as a remedy in subjects with a shortage of teachers such as high-level math, science and foreign languages.

For whatever reason, Applegate says more Oklahoma students will be studying online.

``The time is just right. Schools have spent the last five or six years building up their technology infrastructure,'' he said.

Officials say there's little research on how effectively classes on computer teach compared to conventional classrooms.

Ben Harris, general manager of online course provider Advanced Academics, said online teaching probably won't reach elementary students. Social development of elementary-age children is too important, and they also lack the attention span required for such classes, he said.

Applegate said studies of similar college courses indicate they can supplement but never replace traditional instruction.

Applegate said the level of the curriculum, the opportunity to meet with teachers and the speed required of students are all issues that school districts must consider.

``There are some real advantages, but also some drawbacks,'' Applegate said. ``They need to just take their time, explore the issues and make sure the content matches their requirements.''