Jump to content

Online school

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Virtual school)
A staged example of an online classroom using Jitsi. The teacher is sharing their screen.

An online school (virtual school, e-school, or cyber-school) teaches students entirely or primarily online or through the Internet. It has been defined as "education that uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students.[1] Online education exists all around the world and is used for all levels of education (K-12 High school/secondary school, college, or graduate school). This type of learning enables the individuals to earn transferable credits, take recognized examinations, and advance to the next level of education over the Internet.

Number of Students Taking Distance Courses by Level (2012-2015)[1]

Virtual education is most commonly used in high school and college. 30-year-old students or older tend to study online programs at higher rates.[2] This group represents 41% of the online education population, while 35.5% of students ages 24–29 and 24.5% of students ages 15–23 participate in virtual education.

Percentage of Students Taking Distance Courses (2012-2015)[1]

Virtual education is becoming increasingly used worldwide. There are currently more than 4,700 colleges and universities that provide online courses to their students.[3] In 2015, more than 6 U.S. million students were taking at least one course online, this number grew by 3.9% from the previous year.[1] In 2021, more than 53% of postgraduate students were taking at least some classes online. The total number of online students in the U.S. was 7.5 million in 2024.[4]

Instructional models vary, ranging from distance learning types which provide study materials for independent self-paced study, to live, interactive classes where students communicate with a teacher in a class group lesson. Class sizes range widely from a small group of 6 pupils or students to hundreds in a virtual school.

The courses that are independent and self-paced are called asynchronous courses. Typically for this type of learning, the students are given the assignments and information and are expected to complete the assignments by the due date. This is done on their own time. There is no scheduled time when the class meets. Usually, the only interactions that take place are through discussion boards, blogs, and wikis.

On the other hand, synchronous online courses happen in real-time. The instructor and students all interact online at the same time. This is done either through text, video, or audio chat. Therefore, these lessons are socially constructed. In addition to the scheduled class time, there are usually additional assignments to complete. A key to keeping Kindergartners engaged in distance learning can be challenging. Individualizing lessons and giving mini breaks can help students stay engaged during short synchronous sessions. As an educator you have to find creative ways to keep children attention on the screen especially since they're in the comfort of their home with all their toys and all the other luxuries within the house they desire. It is hard to keep their attention in the classroom so virtual learning now becomes extremely harder.

Secondary school age students have to be extremely disciplined and focused in order to be successful in virtual learning. Just like being at an actual school, these pre-teens and teenagers have to make sure they are presentable/looking good before logging onto their classes and have to greet all of their friends and turn off their cell phones before the lesson begins because that will be a big distraction for them just as it would in the classroom. Some of the same problems that exist at school have the potential of existing at home with virtual school.

Hybrid, sometimes also called blended, courses are when students learn and interact both in-person and online. These classes meet in-person during the semester in addition to computer-based communication.[5]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, students around the world were forced to attend school online, although not all students had access to tablets or computers to attend. The number of online students decreased in 2022 and 2023, but remained well above pre-pandemic levels.[4]

Virtual school technology[edit]

Virtual classrooms are made possible through the use of educational technology with the help of the internet.[6] The internet itself can be credited on what enabled modern distance learning to be developed.[6] The internet plays a role in virtual classrooms with resources such as virtual test taking functions, systems that aide coursework that include electronic reading materials, video conferencing for lectures and chatrooms.[6] During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States began to encourage social distancing in the education system.[7] One use of technology that was found to be resourceful in the collaboration of students and teachers in virtual learning was the use of video conferencing.[7] The utilization of web video conferencing allows students to communicate virtually with their teachers and simulate a classroom environment, with many using services such as Zoom and Cisco WebEx.[7] To engage virtual students even further, a process known as gamification can be used to teach a student learning material in a form of a game to bring more enjoyment in a student's learning experience.[8] Secondlife, an online virtual world, is a type of gamification system that is used for online educational purposes.[9] Secondlife can be used as a substitute for face to face learning. It has qualities that resembles an in person curriculum such as class discussions, participation in lectures, and completing assignments.[9] Gamification can also serve as an aide to increase a student's intrinsic motivation.[10] The use of rewarding points while a student is using a gamification system can enhance internal motivation and motivate the student to accomplish learning goals from the game's objective.[11] During the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools turned to virtual learning.[12]

Costs and accessibility[edit]

Where online methods are integrated with State provision, costs follow state school standards. Otherwise, fees must be met by the student or parents. Many US school districts are now creating their own online services to avoid paying external providers. Such students can graduate from their home district without ever leaving home. In most of these cases, students are given computers, books, and even Internet service to complete coursework from home.

With the resources of the Internet as a library, and the ease of making online study materials, there is usually a comparatively small requirement for textbooks. Most courses will provide electronic materials free of cost, or included in the course fee. Textbooks are most often required for an exam syllabus course.

Students with cognitive and/or physical disabilities often times face issues accessing online schools. One of the groups of disabled students who have difficulty accessing online learning platforms is students with severe visual impairments. They most often use screen readers in order to use online school, but there are many instances where activities, files, etc., don't support the use of screen readers. Another group of students who face accessibility issues when using online learning platforms is deaf and hard of hearing students. The most prevalent issue that this group of students face is lack of or inaccurate captioning on video and audio media. Another group that has issues accessing online schooling resources is students with motor impairments. These students often have a difficult time using a computer or tablet, and will sometimes use another technology in order to interact with the computer or tablet. This makes learning especially difficult when game-like activities are used for learning and when timed activities or real-time instruction is taking place. The last major group of students who face access issues due to a disability is students with cognitive disabilities. There are a wide range of cognitive disabilities which means that these disabilities can impact learning in a variety of different ways. Some of the accessibility issues that students with cognitive disabilities face include: busy/disorganized media, pages that are difficult to navigate, time constraints, flashing of the screen, pages or articles that lack proper titles and headings, and much more.[13]

Advantages and disadvantages of online education[edit]

Potential advantages:

  • Personal circumstances or health disruptions, specifically contagious viruses such as COVID-19 and the common cold, or injuries will not halt learning since the physical demands are much less.
  • Digital transcripts of lessons can additionally help absent students with learning missed curriculum.
  • Online learning is ideal for students and families who need flexible arrangements. However, synchronous learning does impose limits due to time zones.
  • The integration of Internet resources provides a huge library of content, and students quickly become proficient with online research, resources, and tools.
  • Greater flexibility enables independent students such as self-learners or gifted students to explore learning beyond the standard curriculum, pursue individual skills and ambitions, or develop at their own preferred pace using online resources. Part-time students with jobs or family commitments may benefit from the flexibility of online schedules.[14]
  • Online schools can be equalizers, as age, appearance, and background are far less obvious, and therefore this can minimize harassment, prejudice, or discrimination. Instead, groups are categorized by personal ability.
  • Students may benefit from exposure to others in different cultures of the world, which can enrich their understanding of history, geography, religions and politics, and develops social skills.
  • Online education may collaboratively engage in or discuss universal or real-world issues, which are necessary skills for a successful career.[15]
  • Increased accessibility to remote education for poor or rural areas where commuting to schools or lack of resources are concerns.[15]
  • Increased opportunities may allow a student to take more courses they are interested in that are not offered near them.
  • Cost-effective for schools or districts since it allows teachers to instruct more students than in a face-to-face classroom setting.[16]
  • Online courses may be less expensive for students than traditional classes since less resources may be required. Additionally, many learning resources online are free, easy to access, self-paced, and beginner-friendly.[17]

Potential disadvantages:

  • Remote learning can reduce engagement and interaction and lead to a lack of socialization, which can potentially decrease a student's social competence or skills, such as their ability to cooperate with others.
  • A home or online environment may potentially be more distracting or disrupting than a physical school environment.
  • Organizing an online school may be more expensive and more complicated to organize or lead.
  • Those without access to technology or devices would not have access to virtual education. Although some schools may offer students borrowed devices, those who do not have access can easily fall behind.
  • Expert Teaching: Online schools employ well-trained educators who leverage digital platforms to deliver quality education.
  • Interactive Doubt Sessions: They facilitate direct interaction between students and teachers, ensuring personalized attention.
  • Digital Literacy: Students become proficient with digital tools, an essential skill in today’s technology-driven world.
  • Parental Engagement: Online education fosters a closer connection between teachers, students, and their families.
  • Continuous Improvement: The competitive nature of online schools drives them to innovate and enhance their offerings constantly.
  • Many virtual schools are relatively new and inexperienced, and therefore may be unfit for educating students properly.
  • Technology or the Internet can be more unpredictable since it may be vulnerable to power outages, Internet outages, hacks, exploits, online trolling, glitches, or errors that can potentially be more difficult to fix or deal with when online.[17]
  • Potential employers may be skeptical of the credibility of online degrees and virtual programs.[17]
  • Cheating online may be easier or more tempting since online resources may be more accessible and restrictions or consequences may be more lenient.[17] The increased anonymity online may further encourage or allow the continuance of misbehavior such as trolling.
  • Online schools may be too lenient or disengaging, thus may potentially encourage or harbor potentially damaging and undisciplined behavior that could threaten a student's future or career.
  • Not using the physical tools might diminish a student's ability or competence.[18]
  • Online can be potentially limiting since physical activities or hands on activities, specifically for courses like physical education, Art, and Chemistry, may be more difficult to engage in or occur less frequent. Online classes might take away the value of the active elements that some courses require, and do not offer the same teacher-student relationships. Students might also not experience the same critical thinking, observation, and creative skills.[19]
  • Because online learning has 24-hour flexibility, work-life boundaries can be difficult to establish, which can cause mental and emotional health issues to arise.[20]
  • The immediate availability of AI technologies to assist with students' coursework leads to less interactions with course staff. This also leads to the student not properly learning the material and not properly developing study skills.[20]
  • For students with certain intellectual and/or physical disabilities, online learning platforms can be difficult to access and use.[21]


WebCT, now called Blackboard, was developed by the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Colombia (UBC). It was one of the first online learning platforms created that resembles present-day online learning platforms. UBC conducted a study in order to test the effectiveness of WebCT by implementing it in different ways in each of three sections of a computer science course. One section of the course used WebCT in conjunction with in-person lectures, one section used WebCT as the only instructional method, and the last section used only in-person instruction. By the end of the semester, it was found that the section of the course utilizing WebCT with in-person lectures had a significantly higher average performance, while the other two sections which used only one instructional method, were found to have average academic performances approximately equivalent to each other.[22]

Due to the results from the UBC computer science course, a course titled "Electric Circuits" at Morgan State University made the decision to add the use of WebCT to the lectures. This change was made for the Fall 1997 semester. After a semester of using WebCT in the course, it was found that average grade had gone up since the previous two semesters. In the Fall of 1996 and the Spring of 1997, the average grade in the course was an 82%, whereas in the Fall of 1997, the semester where WebCT was used, the average grade was 86%.[22]

Online Education providers in the United Kingdom are not currently eligible for accreditation by the Department for Education and therefore it is difficult to measure quality of providers. Following a consultation process that began in 2019, The DFE and Ofsted are currently working towards a pilot online education provider accreditation scheme using a variation of the Independent School Inspectorate Inspection framework.[23]

As claimed in a study done by Eric Bettinger and Susanna Loeb, on average, online students "do substantially worse than students in the same face-to-face course".[16] Furthermore, students who attend K-12 online consistently perform worse on state tests than their peers in brick and mortar environments, even when taking into account prior achievement.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Allen, Elaine (May 2017). "Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017" (PDF). Digital Learning Compass.
  2. ^ "Demographics of an Online Learner | Walden University". www.waldenu.edu. Retrieved 2024-04-19.
  3. ^ Friedman, Jordan (January 11, 2018). "Studey: More Students are Enrolling in Online Courses". U.S News.
  4. ^ a b "By The Numbers: The Rise Of Online Learning In The U.S. – Forbes Advisor". www.forbes.com. Retrieved 2024-04-19.
  5. ^ D., Potts Zachary. "Types of Online Learning". www.fordham.edu. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  6. ^ a b c "Distance learning | education". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  7. ^ a b c Mukhopadhyay, Sanjay; Booth, Adam L.; Calkins, Sarah M.; Doxtader, Erika E.; Fine, Samson W.; Gardner, Jerad M.; Gonzalez, Raul S.; Mirza, Kamran M.; Jiang, Xiaoyin (Sara) (2020-05-04). "Leveraging Technology for Remote Learning in the Era of COVID-19 and Social Distancing". Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. 144 (9): 1027–1036. doi:10.5858/arpa.2020-0201-ed. ISSN 1543-2165. PMID 32364793.
  8. ^ Doumanis, Ioannis; Economou, Daphne; Sim, Gavin Robert; Porter, Stuart (2019-03-01). "The impact of multimodal collaborative virtual environments on learning: A gamified online debate". Computers & Education. 130: 121–138. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2018.09.017. ISSN 0360-1315. S2CID 59336901.
  9. ^ a b FLINK, P. (2019). Second Life and Virtual Learning: An Educational Alternative for Neurodiverse Students in College. College Student Journal, 53(1), 33–41
  10. ^ Saputro, Rujianto Eko; Salam, Sazilah; Zakaria, Mohd. Hafiz; Anwar, Toni (2019-02-01). "A gamification framework to enhance students' intrinsic motivation on MOOC". TELKOMNIKA (Telecommunication Computing Electronics and Control). 17 (1): 170. doi:10.12928/telkomnika.v17i1.10090. ISSN 2302-9293.
  11. ^ Gafni, Ruti; Biran Achituv, Dafni; Eidelman, Shimon; Chatsky, Tomer (2018-05-13). "The effects of gamification elements in e-learning platforms". Online Journal of Applied Knowledge Management. 6 (2): 37–53. doi:10.36965/OJAKM.2018.6(2)37-53. ISSN 2325-4688.
  12. ^ "World Economic Forum".
  13. ^ "Four Types of Disabilities: Their Impact on Online Learning". TechTrends. 52 (1): 51–55. January 2008. doi:10.1007/s11528-008-0112-6. ISSN 8756-3894. S2CID 140955393.
  14. ^ "Distance learning | education". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-11-23.
  15. ^ a b Harsasi, Meirani. "A Study of a Distance Education Institution" (PDF). Determinants of Student Satisfaction in Online Tutorial. 19: 89–99 – via Eric.
  16. ^ a b Dynarski, Susan M. (2017-10-26). "Online schooling: Who is harmed and who is helped?". Brookings. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  17. ^ a b c d "Pros and Cons of Online Education | NC State Industry Expansion Solutions". NC State Industry Expansion Solutions. 19 August 2015. Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  18. ^ Calkins, Ruth. "How to Keep Kindergartners Engaged in Distance Learning". Edutopia. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
  19. ^ "Hands on Art Approach to Learning". Hands On Art 4 Everyone. 2019-02-19. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
  20. ^ a b Robinson, Elaine; McQuaid, Ronald; Webb, Aleksandra; Webster, C. William R. (2021), "Unintended Consequences of E-Learning: Reflections on the Digital Transformation of Learning in Higher Education", Transformations of Regional and Local Labour Markets Across Europe in Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Times, Rainer Hampp Verlag, pp. 379–398, doi:10.5771/9783957104007-379, ISBN 978-3-95710-400-7, S2CID 239143286, retrieved 2023-12-08
  21. ^ Goldhaber, Dan; Kane, Thomas; McEachin, Andrew; Morton, Emily; Patterson, Tyler; Staiger, Douglas (May 2022). The Consequences of Remote and Hybrid Instruction During the Pandemic (Report). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. doi:10.3386/w30010.
  22. ^ a b Astatke, Yacob (1998). "Creating A Distributed Learning Environment Using Web Ct". 1998 Annual Conference Proceedings. ASEE Conferences: 3.172.1–3.172.5. doi:10.18260/1-2--6999.
  23. ^ "Online schools accreditation scheme". GOV.UK. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 2021-08-25.
  24. ^ Ahn, June (2016). "Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio's Virtual Charter Schools". Thomas B. Fordham Institute.