Online classes offer new alternative to Marshfield students

By Alyssa Lovell & Helena Platt | Collaborative Reporters
More students are choosing online courses as part of their educational path for a variety of reasons.

Online classes are an alternative to being in a classroom for students who may have an illness, conflict with their schedule, a desire to take courses not offered at MHS or who are struggling in school. When students are noticed to be failing a class, according to counselor Jessica Skinner, they are given the choice by one of Marshfield’s counselors to engage in a more seclusive education on the Internet.

“I think it’s just a totally different way of learning,” Skinner said.

The student meets with their counselor, who informs them of their options. If the student   pursues online schooling, they are sent ahead to Principal Greg Mulkey, who has the final say. Testing Coordinator Brenda Landrum gives students orientations and assists students during their classes if needed.

Last year, prior to graduation, between 150-200 students district wide were enrolled in online classes. Currently, 12-15 students are full time online students while over 30 seniors are involved in credit recovery. According to Skinner, the number is likely to increase throughout the school year, and most enrolled students are seniors.

“Last year I had about one third of the senior class in online classes for credit recovery,” Skinner said. “They don’t take time to do it. They wait until the last minute.”

Paige Benedict, a senior, believes an online education is not necessarily easier than a traditional  one. She said it requires students to have self-motivation and discipline since most of the assignments are done without an instructor. Benedict, who is taking multiple courses online, believes it requires a certain degree of personal sacrifice.

“If it was a personal choice I would definitely not take it, but I have to pass my senior year…” Benedict said. “You have to tell yourself you’re going to do it.”

Benedict stated there are both advantages and disadvantages within a cyber education. On one hand, pupils are able to work at their own pace and classes are accessible through multiple mediums.

“It’s pretty much the same thing except you have more time to do it,” Benedict said. “I can do them at home, I can do them on my cellphone, I can do them pretty much anywhere.”

In addition, besides taking these courses for credit recovery, students are also able to use them to enhance their education. Last year, junior Kirsten Woolsey obtained an application for online classes and has been taking them since last summer. She is hoping to graduate early.

“I am over high school. I don’t really want to be here anymore,” Woolsey said. “I’m ready to move and go to college.”

With this educational setup, students have less interaction with teachers and other high schoolers. Woolsey said since the material is not being administered by human personnel, sufficient reading comprehension skills are called for to acquire the information.

“You can’t ask questions so it’s what you get out of the reading,” Woolsey said.

Mulkey takes a decisively negative stance about online courses.

“I just don’t think it’s at the level of rigor and level of accountability as being in a classroom. I feel strongly about that,” Mulkey said. “I think it’s unfortunate it’s becoming a reality.”

Math teacher Tim Wall does not believe online courses can be perceived as good or bad.

“I don’t think it’s a black and white issue; I don’t think it’s right or wrong,” Wall said. “I think it has its place.”

Landrum, who works with students taking online courses regularly, has mixed feelings about it.

“As a parent, I think it’s more important for kids to actually be in school for the interaction,” Landrum said. “As an instructor, I think it’s the wave of the future.”