by Kelsey Sheehy
US News & World Report
While adult interest in online courses at the college level appears to be waning, enrollment in virtual classes at the K-12 level is on the rise.
Nearly 620,000 students took an online course during the 2011-2012 school year, up 16 percent from the previous year, according to an annual reportreleased this week by the Evergreen Education Group, which works with schools to implement online and blended learning programs.
The number of states and school districts requiring online courses for high school graduation also grew, as states aim to teach students how to operate in a an increasingly digital world. Lawmakers in Virginia and Idaho signed legislation in the past year requiring students to take at least one online course in order to earn a high school diploma, and the governor of Minnesota signed a law in May that “strongly encourages,” but does not require, students to take an online course before graduating from high school.
Alabama, Florida, and Michigan already have laws on the books requiring virtual education for graduation, and school boards in multiple districts have enacted similar provisions, includingMarietta City Schools in Georgia, Memphis City Schools andPutnam County Schools in Tennessee, and the Kenosha andCedarburg School Districts in Wisconsin.
For officials in those states and districts, requiring online courses for graduation is a necessary step toward college and career readiness.
“The reality is, when a student leaves us, whether they’re going to a four-year college, a technical college, or going into the world of work, they’re going to have to do an online course,” Kathleen Airhart, deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Education, told Education Week last year while she was director of Putnam County schools. “This helps prepare the students.”