In last week’s blog, I described a scenario in which one of my eleventh-grade English students could have benefited from taking an online course. Unfortunately, as a high school teacher in Utah public schools, I was unaware that the state had been offering free online courses to high school students through the Utah Electronic High School since 1994. But, honestly, had I known about this option, I don’t know if I would have recommended an online course to any of my students. The reason being that I viewed online courses as threats, and regarded them as being inferior to traditional courses. Since I began researching online learning, however, my tune has changed. As my research for Innosight Institute has taken me to different parts of the United States to observe how various schools are using online learning, I have found that online learning does indeed work for many students.

I am troubled, however, that as a teacher I was not informed about the online-learning options available for my students, or educated about online learning and how it works. It is my understanding that, in many schools, the guidance counselors are responsible for recommending online courses to particular students. But shouldn’t the teachers, who are very aware of each of their students academic and personal needs, also be responsible for recommending different learning methods to their students?

With the passage of Utah Senate Bill 65, Utah’s public school students now have a wider array of online course providers from which to choose. Although online learning might not be the best solution for all students (see what I wrote about it here), it can help many students who are struggling to succeed in the traditional classroom setting by allowing them to work at their own pace. It can also provide curricular options for students whose traditional schools don’t offer certain Advanced Placement or foreign language courses. It is my hope that schools will begin educating teachers about online learning so teachers can better guide their students in the learning process and help students choose the manner of learning that will work best for them.


  • Katherine Mackey
    Katherine Mackey