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The Evolution of Online Education: Past, Present, and Future Trends

Updated: Apr 5

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The field of education has changed significantly throughout history. From the dawn of time, children naturally learned lessons from their parents and other adults in their communities. Back then, many educational experiences were based upon oral tradition, or children learned skills through hands-on experiences.

As time passed by, formal educational experiences began to take hold throughout the world. Most likely, you are already familiar with the old one-room schoolhouses of the pioneer days when children of multiple ages and skill levels all gathered to learn from a single teacher.

Slowly, the field of education expanded to include multiple community schools that ranged from primary to post-secondary programs. International travel further expanded options for students who were interested in global learning.

Today, families can choose from the best online middle and high schools to meet their child’s learning needs and goals for academic success. Whether you’re looking for an academic program that supports your child’s developmental needs or prefer more flexible scheduling, taking a look at the evolution of virtual education can help you to decide if an online private school is the right fit for your child.

Exploring the Pre-Internet Solutions for Distance Learning

The best online schools didn’t spring up overnight. Instead, the education field has a long history of people who were long-distance learning pioneers and helped pave the way for all the options we enjoy today.

While most people think online private schooling began after the development of the internet, there were rudimentary forms of distance learning that developed in the mid-1800s long before computers were a household necessity.

Back then, the development of the U.S. Postal Service opened up communication lines between students and professors all over the United States. During this big boom, colleges offered correspondence programs that allowed students to complete their education through mailed print materials.

As one can imagine, the learning process through this method was lengthy and full of pitfalls compared to the ease that comes with enrolling in a modern online private school. While a correspondence course wasn’t ideal for learning hands-on skills, it did open up options for earning general degrees and certificates.

Thankfully, it wouldn’t be long until modern technology brought faster, more effective options for helping students learn from anywhere.

Discovering the Benefits of Modern Technology for Academic Programs

Once television and VHS became available, colleges and universities began taking the next steps that look more similar to what an online private school does today.

Distance learning programs began to incorporate more media into their curriculum. Beginning in the late 1980s and ‘90s, schools often offered courses that involved instructional videos that students could watch at home. While this opened up new opportunities for students to obtain their education, the majority of credible schools still required them to come to campus for testing.

Proctored exams were another option that allowed people to participate in off-campus education programs. To take a proctored exam, a student would visit a testing center and provide proof of their identity before taking a test. Typically, this was a strategy schools used for mid-term and final exams.

As technology progressed even further, students began to enjoy using tools that you still see in the best online schools today. For instance, professors began to offer live lectures that included webcam streaming. In the earliest stages of this transition, online learning platforms often offered a chat option along with voice streaming for the viewers.

These early video lectures also allowed for recording for students who preferred asynchronous learning. When you’re looking for an online private school, you can take a cue from these early students to find out how the programming works for specific courses.

For instance, the best online schools tend to offer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous scheduling. This way, students can benefit from working independently while also being provided with opportunities to learn and socialize with others.

While the early days of online education typically only allowed adult learners to participate in their programs, younger students now get the chance to attend an online private school as well. Parents also benefit from modern technology to stay actively involved in their child’s education.

Being able to log in to your child’s account online to check their grade book or progress in a course empowers you as a parent of an online private school student. The best online schools also encourage parents to be involved in their child’s education. From attending virtual parent-teacher conferences to participating in surveys and panels, you should expect to see your child’s school encouraging your involvement.

Taking a Look at the Pandemic’s Effect On the Rise of Online Learning

While many schools shut down during the pandemic, the best online middle and high schools rose to the occasion. Before the pandemic, many parents hadn’t considered enrolling their children in an online private school simply because they were unaware of how technology made virtual learning programs just as effective as in-person classes.

After many public schools attempted to teach children online, parents began to explore these types of programs further. After all, it only makes sense to enroll students in an online private school that is well-established and known for utilizing the most recent technology available to deliver quality learning experiences.

Once the public schools opened back up, many students continued to stay enrolled in the best online schools. Many families knew that they had finally found an option for helping their child to achieve their academic goals from the safety and comfort of their own home. While students must still work hard to succeed in an online private school, making accommodations is easier for students with unique circumstances.

online high school student

Anticipating Future Trends for Online Learning Opportunities

To find out what to expect in the future, you only have to look at what the best online schools are doing today. In the earliest days of online learning, students were often lumped into one big cohort that included a wide range of abilities and learning styles. Now, an online private school can use technology to offer more individualized programming to meet the needs of a diverse student population.

The best online middle and high schools prefer to stay on the leading edge of technology. Using smart educational software, educators can use student data to develop individualized learning programs that include all of the support that students need to be successful.

As a parent who is looking for an online private school, you’ll want to look for programs that offer small group instruction along with larger class meetings. The future is also opening up opportunities to include more physical education courses compared to what students had access to in the past.

For instance, students who take in-person sports lessons may use their time learning to play volleyball, soccer or other athletic activities to fulfill their graduation requirement for physical education. An online private school will simply ask you to submit information and signatures from your student’s coach to verify their participation in the sport.

The best online schools also blend sports into the curriculum. For instance, your child could learn about the history of tennis or swimming while also having their instructors build academics into the coursework. Learning how to calculate the area of a football field or writing an essay on the history of basketball helps to keep students personally interested in their work, whether they are actively playing a sport or learning mathematical concepts.

The future plans of an online private school should also include staying current as new technology emerges. Providing students with the ability to learn the latest video creation and editing software helps them prepare for their careers and post-secondary education.

The best online high schools offer coding, AP computer science courses and additional opportunities for students to continue to update their technological awareness and abilities. While many of these courses overlap with ones that you’ll see in traditional schools, the element of attending an online private school gives students more opportunities to use their new skills in real life.

Although it is difficult to foresee all of the new things that the future will bring in the field of online education, there is one that is already taking hold in the best online schools. Today, middle and high school students benefit from special software that simulates labs that are often difficult to do at home.

Conducting science experiments once required students to visit an on-site lab, which limited their ability to complete rigorous courses that were required for graduation. Now, your child can use immersive virtual experiences to do a frog dissection for biology or conduct a chemistry experiment. Feeling like they’ve stepped right into a lab is an experience that helps to reinforce the concepts that your student is learning. Plus, they’ll feel more comfortable if they choose to attend in-person courses once they graduate and enroll in college.

Deciding If An Online Private School is Right for Your Family

Once you’ve seen how the best online schools support student learning, you’ll wonder why you haven’t tried it before. Your student might benefit from attending an online school if they participate in extracurricular activities that restrict their ability to attend programs with traditional schedules. Athletes and performers often find that the best online schools fit their schedules better while still allowing them to cultivate academic relationships that foster their success.

An online private school might also be ideal for your student who has special needs that go beyond what is offered in a traditional classroom. The best online middle and high schools offer more than one type of instruction. Working independently might be best for learners who need more time to complete a course or who tend to learn new information faster than their peers.

Alternatively, your student could need more small group or one-on-one instruction that helps them catch up on skills that they missed out on during the pandemic or another life challenge. Individualized instruction can also help a student master concepts that are a grade or more beyond their current level. Students who enjoy diving into extended elective courses or completing honors coursework tend to do well in the best online schools that nurture their goal-oriented spirits.

Every child deserves the best learning opportunities that the field of education can offer to fit their needs. When you’re ready to give your child the best education possible, you can learn more about ICL Academy here. Our team is eager to show you how we bring learning to life online while helping every student achieve their brightest academic goals.

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