Student Athletes Behind the Screen: Shining Light on the Misconceptions of Online Learning

In hopes of avoiding the inevitable uncomfortable feelings that arise in novel experiences, people tend to stick to what they know. Parents continue to send their kids to traditional schools, despite bleak notions of the education system, because they find comfort in knowing what to expect from it. Although previously considered non-traditional, high schools that operate on online platforms are increasing in number and becoming more widely accepted.
Understanding that this is still new to many, and there are remnants of negativity directed towards online education, let’s dive into common misconceptions and hear examples of its use from a high school, Ethan Athen Preparatory, that is a leader in using online programming as part of their blended model for high-achieving student-athletes!
#1: Online learning is easy
While the challenges of online learning come in different shapes and sizes from those of an on-campus student, they are no less difficult to maneuver. Online learning provides an excellent opportunity to develop self-efficacy in working toward the ultimate goal of graduating high school. This tenacity of working toward a future goal is often referred to as grit. Research shows that grit is more predictive of success than inherent intelligence. Online learning flexes the muscles of resiliency, forcing students to adapt to a newly challenging environment by filling their toolbox with techniques to stay the course. Growth is only possible through hard work and online learning certainly lends itself to that!
What does EAP say?: “Even though their schedules are flexible, they still have the same amount of work as everyone else. Classes are held to common core standards, and students have the option to take honor and AP level courses. Students are also challenged with developing a new set of skills that come along with being a full time scholar athlete. We explicitly teach time management, planning, and organization to help guide students in self-directing their learning.”
#2: Online classes aren’t accredited
While it varies program to program, there are many online schools that are fully accredited. To become an accredited institution, a school must meet the standards of an accrediting organization; examples include: the United States Department of Education, the Northwest Accreditation Commission, AdvancED, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. These independent councils measure school communities against set criteria to ensure they are providing education that is performance, integrity, and quality driven. If an institution is not accredited, class credits may not count towards a diploma or be transferable between schools.
What online platform does EAP use and how did they choose it?: “After significant research, we decided to use the K12 online academy. They are fully accredited by the Northwest Accreditation Commission, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and the NCA Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. What solidified our decision was that they are also accredited by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Being a preparatory school for golf athletes, we are a resource for our students in understanding NCAA regulations and working with them to individualize their experience.”
#3: Little to no interaction between teachers and students
While online learning is often thought to be perturbed by a glass barrier, the experience of an online student is vastly different from what is expected. In an online learning platform, passionate teachers deliver consequential learning experiences to their students. We are seeing this now with public school teachers who have had little to no experience with online learning: teachers are able to bring education into the homes of their students with zeal and dedication. Not only does this speak to the resiliency of teachers and students, it speaks to the power of the thirst for knowledge. If you have a child who is experiencing online learning for the first time, you might have noticed a shift in the focus of their education. The emphasis is less on the amount of work they are doing but on their understanding of the material. This fundamental shift in the paradigm of teaching makes way for an unrestrained connection between the teacher and student. The genuine desire to help students digest complex information becomes the forefront of all communication, promoting a culture of curiosity. With this, students begin to feel more comfortable asking questions. You might notice your student becoming more active in the chat section of their lessons or even speaking up with a question or two. This is not unusual in the arena of online learning. There is less pressure to formulate the perfect question or to sit silently in the corner of the room when their social anxieties become reduced to pixels on a screen. The growth of inquisitiveness is not only a positive consequence of this new style of interaction; it is the essence of a meaningful educational experience.
What is EAP’s approach?: “Our students have board-certified teachers for each class. They interact in live group sessions and provide daily communication. EAP has a blended learning model that is based on a distance learning platform and enhanced with one on one individualized in-person instruction from our specialized education team.”
#4: Colleges don’t like to see diplomas from online schools
Legitimacy is determined by accreditation, not the mode of delivery. Colleges do not differentiate between traditional and online schools. What college admission counselors look for are challenging high school curricula, growth in grades year to year, solid test scores, and well rounded students that are involved and engaged in extracurricular activities. They use these measures to ascertain how a student will highlight the qualities of a school’s culture, as well as how they may propel them into diversity. You might have seen the social media post circulating about the 450 online courses being offered for free by ivy league schools. This speaks to the value prestigious institutions place on online learning. Remote access to educational materials is not viewed as a shortcoming of the student but rather an opportunity for educators to make an impact on the masses.
Where have EAP students attended college?: “Graduates of EAP have gone on to attend schools including Columbia, Bucknell, Holy Cross, Sacred Heart, Franklin and Marshall, and College of Charleston . One of our seniors this year has already signed with Roanoke college!”
#5: The quality of the classes is lower 
Online schools share the same common core standards as any typical high school. Students are obligated to meet the requirements in core subjects such as math, science, social studies, and language arts. They also must fulfill mandatory classes in physical education, health, world languages, and the arts. Teachers for online classes have the same board certifications as teachers who instruct in-person. To some degree, teachers of online programs have to put more thought into the material they teach in order to keep it engaging and make sure they are communicating effectively in both synchronous and asynchronous material.
What does EAP say?: “After the initial adjustments to becoming an online learner, our students find that they typically get more out of their online classes than they did from the traditional environment they were previously in. They have the option to dive deeper into subjects of importance to them, and the material is designed to be engaging- including videos, tons of practice, and daily feedback.”

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