Virtual School Meanderings

January 10, 2012

Guest Blogger: How Online Learning Can Prepare Your Child for College

This guest post is contributed by Amanda Tradwick, who is a grant researcher and writer for She has a Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on graduate school grants and grants for colleges. As is the tradition at Virtual School Meandering, this will be the only entry today.

Online learning in the K-12 environment has many advantages, including allowing your child flexibility in the learning environment and getting an education at a reduced cost. In addition, studying online in these early years of education can help prepare students for success in college and graduate school — as well as in business and in life. Here’s how an early foundation of online learning can prepare your child for later academic and personal success:

Fosters Independent Learning

While online courses are structured and guided, there is a great deal of independent learning that takes place. Students do not have the benefit of one-on-one attention that they could receive in the classroom, and they do not have the opportunity for instant interaction to work through difficult concepts. Students must learn how to navigate the material and master the concepts through critical thinking and study. These are valuable skills that will help them to succeed in college, when coursework is more rigorous and self-guided. It is a skill that will also serve students well throughout their careers and in their lives.

Teaches Time Management

Online study is largely self-directed, as courses can be taken at any time. There is no set class schedule, even if assignments are meant to be turned in by a certain deadline. Students can study when they want and where they want. Learning time management is critical to success in an online learning environment. Learning these skills early will benefit students when they are independent adults responsible for their own studies in college.

Strengthens Writing Skills

Online education strengthens writing skills because all communication and coursework must be completed in writing. “Discussions” with teachers and other students is written. Testing, reports, and evaluations are primarily written. Almost all student output is written. This ongoing writing practice helps students to strengthen their writing skills, which are fundamental to later success in college and in business.

Exposure to Technology

Most students today are digital natives, and they are very comfortable with technology. Online learning helps to teach familiarity with new software and new technology for those students who are not as comfortable with it and to reinforce skills for those who are. Technology and software are always changing and updating, and being able to quickly learn how to use these new tools is a valuable skill that will benefit students in academic, business, and life.

Familiarity with Online Learning

Of course, early exposure to online learning prepares students or later success in advanced online learning environments. More colleges are making course offerings available online, and more workers are choosing to pursue their degrees online for the flexibility and cost. Even businesses are beginning to offer training and continuing education through online programs. Students who are used to learning in this type of environment will be better positioned for success later in life when online learning is likely to become even more widespread.

Early online education doesn’t just provide immediate benefits to students; it also prepares them for later academic and personal success. It teaches students valuable skills such as independent learning and time management, and it helps them to become more technologically savvy and familiar with learning in an online environment.

This guest post is contributed by Amanda Tradwick, a grant researcher and writer for Amanda welcomes your comments below.


  1. For those unfamiliar with the policies I try to maintain here are Virtual School Meanderings, I try to allow me guest bloggers carte blanche when it comes to content. From time to time I do make suggestions, as I don’t want to post things that I know to be incorrect or unsupported, but most of the time my involvement is just editorial. As such, in some instances I have to take issue with the content, and this is one of those times.

    Note that nothing that has been written above is supported by research. There is little to no research out there that looks at whether experience with online learning or distance education has any impact on whether a student will develop the skills listed above. In fact, given the nature of the students in historically have enrolled in K-12 online learning – and the student performance measures that we are currently seeing come out when that selective student population is broadened – many have argued that only students that already possessed or were predisposed to the kinds of skills Amanda is taking about were enrolled and/or successful in K-12 online learning to begin with.

    In one of the only studies on the topic, Dale Kirby, Dennis Sharpe and I looked at whether experience with online learning in high school had any impact on students taking online learning at the university level. We found that university-level online students that did not have online learning experience in high school reported that they had better independent learning skills, enjoyed the course more, were able to evaluate themselves and their performance better, and wanted to take more courses online than those students that had online learning experience in high school. Seems counter-intuitive, and research-based findings often run counter to what is considered population or pedestrian wisdom. Unfortunately, our data did not allow us to explore why the students had these perceptions or to add the variable of student performance to the data. Note that this research was presented at the 2011 European Distance Education Network annual conference, where it won the Best Paper Award, and it will be published in the American Journal of Distance Education early in 2012.

    Comment by mkbnl — January 10, 2012 @ 10:13 am | Reply

  2. […] jQuery("#errors*").hide(); window.location= data.themeInternalUrl; } }); } – Today, 6:43 […]

    Pingback by Guest Blogger: How Online Learning Can Prepare Your Child for College | E-Learning Suggestions, Ideas, and Tips | — January 11, 2012 @ 8:43 am | Reply

  3. […] jQuery("#errors*").hide(); window.location= data.themeInternalUrl; } }); } – Today, 7:07 […]

    Pingback by Guest Blogger: How Online Learning Can Prepare Your Child for ... | The eLearning Site | — January 11, 2012 @ 9:07 pm | Reply

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