This reader shared her experience with online courses:

“Several years ago I was required to get an admin certification and one of the courses I had to take was an on-line course. It was dreadful. We were all supposed to be graduate students but the on-line discussions were silly and superficial. I think the instructor could have deepened the discussion but he didn’t. It was one of the biggest wastes of time I’ve ever had to endure.

“In my district we began an on-line component for our high school students and all students had to take at least one course on-line before graduation. Again, it was horrible. Ours is a poor district so many of our students don’t reliably have electricity much less internet access at home. Schools were put in the position of having to set aside time during the school day to provide access for students. I wasn’t able to examine the on-line instruction but I know that there were constant problems with access. Even students who did have internet access at home had problems logging on and gaining access to the content.

“Any on-line course requires a certainly level of hardware and software so no older computers can be used. In addition to requirements for accessing the on-line software the computer that the student is using to access will need certain supporting programs for the on-line access to work properly. For students who are not computer savy and don’t have parents who are computer savy, the whole operation can turn into a nightmare. I interviewed a teacher who taught one of the on-line courses and she was very impressed with some of the videos involved. However, when I asked her about the long term retention of the material, there was a very awkward silence and she sheepishly admitted that she doubted that kids retained much.”