One of the benefits of online education is the vast array of courses available. This choice, while great for personalized learning, can be daunting for administrators choosing courses for students. With this in mind, administrators should understand and avoid the common pitfalls made while selecting courses. This article will examine three of the most common course selection errors.
- NCAA approval
- Graduation Requirements
- AP Courses
Students who desire to go on and play college athletics at the highest level must complete core courses that are approved by the NCAA. The keyword here is core courses. For Division 1 play this requires (NCAA, 2019):
- Four years of English
- Three years of math (Algebra 1 or higher)
- Two years of natural/physical science (including one year of lab science if your high school offers it)
- One additional year of English, math or natural/physical science
- Two years of social science
- Four additional years of English, math, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion or philosophy
Each online course provider is responsible to get NCAA approval for their courses. English 1 for one provider might not be approved, while another’s might be. With this in mind, the school district is still the one responsible for making sure students are taking the proper courses.
The second thing to be aware of when it comes to NCAA approval is that only courses with appropriate rigor may be approved for use. This means students cannot use foundation level or remedial level courses to fulfill the core course requirement. In the online environment, this also applies to the credit recover version of a providers course.
For schools that run their own programs, the graduation requirements for an online student and a traditional student are usually the same: the same amount of credits, hours, subjects, etc, are required to graduate. This issue rears its head in two ways.
The first way is when students transfer in from a cyber charter school. Much of the time, they will be deficient in credits. This can happen even in their 11th or 12th grade years. Because they are a district student, they need to meet the same graduation requirements. The second way occurs in students who slack off and do not complete the work necessary to gain credit for the year. In the classroom, the teacher naturally moves the students forward. By contrast, online students gain a lot of flexibility to work at their own pace. For some, this means they get to the end of the marking period with only a small bit of the course finished and end up taking a failing grade.
In the same way this can be bad for online learners, online learning also provides an avenue for students to catch up. Because of this, a credit deficient 12th grader could take extra online courses to enable them to graduate on time. This would be impossible in the classroom due to a limited amount of class time or teacher availability. Likewise, a student who falls behind in their coursework is able to spend extra time to catch up and is not bound by the speed of the rest of the course.
Course Selection: AP Courses
There is a common misconception that online courses equal easier courses. While this has generally proven to be untrue based off of the research conducted, it is even more untrue for AP courses. Online AP courses must meet the same standards of classroom based ones. This is important to remember when deciding to place a student in an AP course during the course selection process.
The big difference is that in the classroom, students have a live teacher to guide them through the college level content. Online, students end up having to guide themselves and answer their own questions. While online teachers are able to answer questions, there is usually a delay, which tends to make it harder since the course still must be finished in the normal amount of time. Anecdotally from observation of eQUIP members, students taking an online AP course struggle more than their counterparts in the classroom.
NCAA (2019). Play division 1 sports. Retrieved from http://www.ncaa.org/student-athletes/play-division-i-sports