In a Wall Street Journal article titled “Online High Schools Test Students’ Social Skills,” Paul Glader writes about the challenges online schools and students have with regards to the lack of in-person social interaction.

In our case study about the Alpine Online School, we chronicled how that school dealt with this by holding activities and creating opportunities for students to mingle with each other in person. Glader chronicles similar attempts as well as some online attempts to foster more social interaction such as having an online student government and model U.N. In many cases, however, these attempts have not worked, as students have clamored for more in-person contact.

We’ve addressed some of the broader related concerns around socialization in a blog before, but this element of not meeting the students’ own needs and motivations should be of concern, too, if we’re trying to build a student-centric system. As we think about how the online learning disruption improves year over year, its ability to better connect students to other students and teachers is likely one facet of this—whether this be through improved video chat functionality or discussion boards and the like or by adding a brick-and-mortar element to the online offering to form a hybrid-learning environment. For a variety of reasons I continue to believe the latter will be the form that serves most of the K-12 students in the future.

In essence, we “hire” education to do several jobs. One of these is learning, but there are other important jobs schooling does including a custodial/safety job as well as allowing children to socialize and have fun with friends. Migrating the learning job to an online platform but keeping children in a physical spot—creating a bricks-and-clicks environment in essence—should allow us to get the best of all worlds.

– Michael B. Horn


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.