We’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t admit to raising our eyebrows at the notion of home-schooling children. But, what about the idea of an online high school? What if we said that high school was being run by Stanford University? Well, the eyebrows are going up anyway, but the clout carried by the school that regularly produces Nobel laureates and technological wizards isn’t just running any old online high school.
Last month, the New York Times reported on Stanford’s new venture, which has quietly been operating under the radar for the past five years. Little did anyone know that the online program was turning out graduates who were themselves getting accepted to top-flight schools just like the one that issued their high school diplomas. Now, other universities are considering coming on board to educate high school students online.
A Significant Development
Although online education is not yet taken seriously by many, Bill Tucker, the director of Education Sector, a non-partisan policy institute, feels this development is “significant,” especially because it is associated with such a highly respected institution. “One of the country’s most prestigious universities feels comfortable putting its considerable prestige and brand behind it,” he said. Prestige and reputation have a lot to do with perception, especially when the program costs $15,000.00 per year.
Other universities are throwing their hats into the online high school ring, although none with as much caché as Stanford. The University of Nebraska, Lincoln and the University of Missouri have awarded a few hundred online high school diplomas over the past few years, and The George Washington University Online High School opened its “doors” in January. Middlebury College worked with a not-for-profit company to develop online language courses for 50,000 students, but the school is not ready to go the Stanford route just yet. “The risk is great and I’d be silly if I said otherwise,” Middlebury College president Ronald Liebowitz said.
Stanford Aiming to Be Online Destination for Elite Students
While the market for online education at the high school level is still in its infancy, Stanford is already angling to be the premier destination for students who are motivated to excel. Of the school’s 75 graduates, 69 of them have gone on to enroll at four year colleges. Eight of them went on to take courses at Stanford, and 25 others are at Ivy League schools and other elite institutions. John Etchemendy, Stanford’s provost said, “I don’t see this for a second competing with quality high schools, but for some people this could be an education they can’t get. I’m quite impressed with it, and they are clearly attracting capable students. It’s something that does make me comfortable making Stanford’s ownership of it more prominent.
An Early Start Can Influence the Future
The earlier our kids get comfortable with online education, the better prepared they’ll be when they enter the workforce. The problem is, how do us older folks increase our comfort level with the medium? When we think about all the technological advances we utilize now, we must remember that today’s high schoolers have have them all their lives. If we can tuck away our memories of what life was like before the Internet and the smart phone and the tablet computer, we can allow ourselves to embrace advances in online learning. Hey – we had to learn “new” math to help our kids with their homework; how would it look if would couldn’t cut it in an online classroom?
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