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Proposal would return flexibility to online learning

Online Learning

A proposed change for Oklahoma's online schools could bring back flexibility for virtual schools that also offer in-person teaching. Currently schools that offer classes online are not allowed to let students meet with teachers in person for up to nine hours a week.

The move to restrict in-person teaching was made a few years ago amid protests by some virtual charter schools. Even though school is online, virtual charter schools like Epic say it is important that their students do not miss out on interacting with teachers.

“A lot of teachers you can just call them and say hey I don't really get this do you think you could explain,” said Epic student Jordan Daniels.

Some students say it is easier to ask for help in the blended learning environment than it was for them in traditional public schools.

“I’ve always been the student where if I need a question or if I have a question I don't want to look dumb so I don't raise my hand,” said James Golston Jr., “So being able to have a teacher who you can just text and we get on Google hangouts and he works with it works with me through the problem.”

While a lot of the one-on-one is technology assisted, Epic also has in-person contact with students at homes or public libraries.

“The bulk of our workforce reside in close proximity to where our students are,” said Shelly Hickman a Deputy Superintendent at Epic. Hickman is hopeful the state will roll back the regulation that placed restrictions on the in-school instruction.

“A blended opportunity with no type of arbitrary ceiling on how much a student can be with a teacher is in the best interest of a student,” Hickman said.

Epic argues the rule for limiting in-person instruction do not take into account individual differences. Some students may need less one-on-one time while others may need more and ultimately it is the flexibility of the blended model that is helping with its success.

“I really enjoy the freedom to work anywhere,” said Xavior McKittrick, another Epic student. McKittrick is an example of why the online options are needed in today's world. His dad's job requires travel and his family often goes with him. However, the McKittrick family isn't left choosing between family time and education.

In fact, there's little about traditional school that isn't missed by these students.

“Originally it would have been connection with people, just being able to be around with people my age and talk to people,” Golston said. “However, something that fixed that was the different events that Epic provided.”

If online learning works at Epic, why not just require every school to be the same?

The future of public education isn't a one size fits all,” Hickman said. “It is not that all schools are going to be like Epic, it is not that all schools are going to be like a brick and mortar.”

Some students will excel when given the freedom to learn with a virtual program while others will be best suited with the more rigid boundaries of a traditional public school. The goal of the state and charter schools is to find a way to allow every student an equal opportunity to succeed.

The proposed rule change that would potentially lift the cap on face-to-face instruction time for online charter schools will open for public comment on February 2nd, and will be open through the first of March. You can voice your opinion by contacting the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

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