The Online Coursework Debate: Is Online Learning the Key to Smaller Classes?

The surge in online coursework for K-12 students in recent years has sparked widespread debate on many issues. Both proponents and detractors of expanding the use of online studies see controlling class sizes as a main battleground. Whether online technology should lead to larger or smaller classes is at the heart of this dispute.

online classes K-12 learning

Shrinking Classes by Going Online

In many states, schools are facing a crisis of swollen class sizes. Budget cuts are forcing more and more students into overcrowded classrooms. While teachers strain under the heavier workloads, students struggle to learn amidst an increasingly chaotic environment. In some areas, districts are desperate to find new ways to ensure all students have access to core curricula while maintaining enforceable standards.

Many see the expansion of online coursework as a solution to this problem. In Florida, for example, core courses are limited to 25 students. Before the 2010-2011 school year, this student-to-teacher ratio only needed to be met as a schoolwide average. Starting in the fall of 2010, the law changed to a classroom by classroom count. After exhausting other options, including hiring additional teachers, attempting creative scheduling and splitting classes, many schools have turned to online coursework.

This has meant that a student whose enrollment in a Spanish class, for example, would cause the school to exceed the class size cap, can take the same course online with a certified teacher. These students study in an independent environment online. Meanwhile, their peers learn in smaller classes where they're better able to get the attention they need. Teachers have noted that funneling some students into online courses has enabled their face-to-face classes to complete projects or other work that was not feasible with 30, 35 or more students in a room.

Expanding Class Sizes Through Online Work

The growth of online coursework in K-12 education in order to affect class sizes hasn't come without controversy. In Idaho, for example, there's a heated debate about how online education is being forced onto students. Detractors argue that legislators are pushing online education in order to expand class sizes while slashing education funding.

elementary secondary computer online classes online education K-12

The Idaho legislature has debated several bills that would develop online options for students. These include bills to provide laptops to students and require four mandatory online classes for every student. With the supplemental online work, proponents say, teachers can handle larger classes. Therefore, these bills would allow the state to cut teaching jobs and increase class sizes while not detracting from education quality, at least in theory. Detractors of these bills point to the lack of data supporting the efficacy of online learning in K-12 education.

A Contentious Future

Online coursework has been growing at a rapid pace in recent years. Because some states use new technology to control class sizes while others use it to expand them, there is certain to be prolonged and vociferous debate. Much of the dispute hinges on sensitive topics such as the quality of education in a bloated classroom and retaining teachers' jobs. Until there's more solid data on how well students can learn in online courses, the debate is likely to continue.

While the jury is still out on the efficacy of online learning for K-12 students, post-secondary students have been shown to do well with certain online formats.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. Next »