Many schools tried to re-open for in-person learning this fall, but as winter approached and people began spending more time indoors, a new wave of rising COVID-19 cases forced many of those schools to go back to all-remote online learning or a hybrid model with a mix of in-person and distance learning. The result is that the overall demand for e-learning remains at an all-time high, driven largely by the ongoing global pandemic.
Fall Enrollment Spike at Achieve Virtual Education Academy
Unsure of what the school situation would be like this past fall, an increasing number of families opted to enroll their high school student(s) in programs that specialize in online learning even if they wondered how personal such an education could be. After all, when the pandemic first hit, many realized how ill-prepared their schools were to immediately switch to remote learning for their course of study, especially in terms of teachers being trained in the skills needed to do it well. While the quality of much of the online learning in the spring was understandably low due to the lack of time for teacher training, the prospect of more of the same in the fall was too much for many families and they looked for remote learning programs with more experience in delivering online education. As Achieve Virtual celebrated its tenth anniversary, fall enrollments shot up to 1,271, a nearly four-fold increase of 285% from 2019’s 330 fall enrollments number.
Enrollments Rising at Many Online Schools Across the Nation
The fall enrollment spike at Achieve Virtual has been mirrored in online schools across the entire nation. Most online charter schools in Pennsylvania were completely full as of August. Epic Charter School’s enrollments increased to more than 60,000, making it the largest school district in the state. VirtualSC reported a 368% increase in enrollments, Michigan Virtual enrollments were up by 184%, Wisconsin Virtual saw a 130% increase and the Wisconsin eSchool Network was up by 400%. To be sure, not all of those enrollments are for full-time online learning, but the pandemic-driven increases in demand response are nonetheless mind-boggling, even if it’s just for a course here and a course there, such as for credit recover purposes. These data were gathered from a variety of sources for presentation in an article on the Digital Learning Collaborative website.
The Debate About Pandemic-Driven School Closures and Online Learning
With the exponential increase in COVID-19 cases throughout the fall, many schools across the USA are once again restricting in-person education and opting for increased remote learning. But not everyone agrees on this approach. To them, the big-picture data have never shown that schools have been a major contributor to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Bars and restaurants, on the other hand, have repeatedly been shown to drive a lot of virus transmission, as have holiday family gatherings. Thanksgiving was a major factor in case numbers rising—a scenario that could well be repeated during the Christmas holiday. The counter-argument, however, is that many schools have done well with their mitigation measures in a hybrid model that limit the number of students coming to school on any given day of the week and enforce strict mask-wearing and social distancing. But not every school or teacher has the resources or skills to do mitigation practices right. And the plain fact of the matter is that on an individual family basis, no one wants to face the prospect of their child potentially transmitting the disease to either their immediate or extended family.
Data Perspectives from Google on Families and Online Learning
The previously cited article from the Digital Learning Collaborative also contained interesting information about parents and their shifting attitudes about online learning throughout the pandemic based on Google search data. Since the pandemic began, fully 43% of parents actively researched sending their children to an online school. But drilling down into how that number has changed over time is especially fascinating. In April, 33% of parents were exploring online learning options. But in June that number had increased to 75%! After that it came down to 57% in August, indicating many families had made their decision about school by then, and many of them did not pursue full-time enrollment in an online school.
Achieve Virtual Meets the Online High School Needs of Indiana Students
Energy is flagging when it comes to mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. People want to get back to normal life, including many a teacher and student. While the approval and distribution of safe, effective vaccines signals the beginning of the end of this pandemic, it’s still going to be months before any sense of normalcy is restored. Keep in mind that cases are still rising exponentially, as are hospitalizations and deaths. The healthcare infrastructure is on the edge of being overwhelmed. And there is still the potential wave of new infections that could be caused by more holiday gatherings. Given this current state of things, online learning is going to remain in high demand throughout most of the spring semester. And the current vaccines aren’t even approved for children and youth under the age of sixteen.
Achieve Virtual stands ready to serve the online learning program needs of any high school student from anywhere in the state of Indiana. We’ve been educating Indiana students this way for ten years, which means we know how to do it right. We leverage our expertise and experience in online education technology to provide a rigorous program in which every course is taught by a real certified, highly qualified Indiana teacher. Online high school is increasingly viewed favorably by institutions of higher education, including both undergraduate and graduate schools. Also, because of the huge disruption the pandemic has caused in K-12 schools and declining enrollments throughout higher education, many colleges and universities are loosening their pre-pandemic standards to be more welcoming to students suffering from the academic and economic impacts of the pandemic. Standardized tests are less important and may not be required, and the assessment of learning as seen in transcripts will be considered with the pandemic in mind.
In this period of unprecedented historical demand for virtual learning, our Indiana teachers are passionate about quality online learning and seeing their students succeed, including giving them the personal support they need during every course and lesson. Explore our website to find out everything you need to know about Achieve Virtual Education Academy, or feel free to call us directly at (317) 739-4276 and we’ll be happy to speak with you. Spring registration is now open!