- Online Advanced Placement classes, provided through organizations like the Global Teacher Project, offer a way to expand access for the more that 7,100 rural school districts in the U.S. that find it difficult to offer rigorous pre-college courses to their students, explains an article produced by the Hechinger Report for KQED.
- Online courses, either through consortiums, through video-conference classes with other schools who share an instructor, through virtual academies, or through pre-produced online AP offerings, can offer students the opportunity to learn more advanced material and a chance at reducing college costs for those who pass AP exams.
- However, school administrators need to carefully consider the quality of the curriculum they use and realize that online programs work better with teacher support on location to track student progress, keep students on task, and offer supplemental learning opportunities and support, even if these teachers are not certified in the field.
As technology advances and becomes more affordable, the use of online instruction has expanded greatly. Many universities now offer entire degrees online, though the quality of those degrees vary greatly. On the high school level, offering more rigorous courses online can be simply an expansion of this idea and can actually help prepare students for online learning environment at the college level. Virtual courses can also expand instructional access to rural schools or school districts where certified teachers for certain courses are scarce.
As school administrators explore options for these courses, they should carefully consider the pros and cons of these courses and evaluate the relative strengths of each course. Not all online options are the same: some are easier to navigate and understand than others and some have a better track record of success in preparing students to pass AP exams, though even students who don’t pass exams have the advantage of exposure to more rigorous course work. Administrators also need to consider the support staff available to help with these courses in order to help students stay on track and succeed. Though the ideal situation is to have credentialed teachers leading these courses directly, those without certification in these areas can often receive enough training to manage these online classrooms and provide additional support.
Online AP classes are not the only option for expanded access to rigorous instruction. Schools can also look to local colleges or universities for access to dual enrollment programs, some of which can be offered online. School districts may also be able to make arrangements with these institutions to gain direct access to teachers who come to the school to offer instruction at specified times. Though it may require some creativity, access to these rigorous courses is expanding.