Team 2 Report: Students Find Success with Online Schooling

KATU-TV News, Portland, Oregon

February 8, 2002

Reported by Deanna Connell

Watch the broadcast


SALEM - It looks nothing like the traditional school we are all used to.

There are no classrooms, schoolbooks or teachers in front of chalkboards.

Just a computer.

It's what some say is the school of the future.

In a Team 2 report, KATU's Deanna Connell investigates online learning in a program where students can learn from virtually anywhere they can log onto a computer.

Supporters say it provides learning to students who might not be in class otherwise. But some opponents say it's cheating children out of social interaction during the crucial teen years.

"At first I thought it would be kinda boring, but its proven actually to be a lot of fun," says online student Kylie Boda.

15-year-old Kylie wears her slippers to math class. With the click of a mouse she signs in and begins her geometry lesson.

For this home-schooled Keizer teen, who tried traditional high school but didn't like it, virtual classes offer flexiblity.

"I can do it in the morning; I can do it at twelve o'clock at night," says Kylie.

If Kylie gets stuck on a problem she e-mails her teacher who sits at a desk a couple miles away.

"He can go through it with me on his computer, and I can ask him questions over the phone," says Kylie.

With the Salem-Keizer District's online school where students can learn from home or at the school's downtown office.

The program expects to serve 1,300 students this year, making it the largest virtual school in Oregon.

Spending five hours a day in front of a computer screen is tough on the eyes of Azucena Galeno. But like a lot of the full-time cyber students, without online school she might not be in school at all.

Azucena is a busy 16-year-old. She works 20 hours a week and helps care for her younger siblings.

"Going to work and then to a normal school didn't leave me much time to do homework," says Azucena.

But critics of online learning worry cyber students are missing out on social interaction that's so critical during the teen years.

"We like to think of school as being only a place for academic learning, but I don't think that's true," says counselor Patty Kellogg. "I think we learn how to interact with people, and you don't get that kind of thing online." Kellogg says research shows people learn better in groups but groups aren't for everyone.

It's that very social aspect that made Andy Markishtum's grades take a dive.

"Friends in the class was part of the problem," says Andy. "Too many kids talking too much -- just a lot of that -- too many distractions."

Andy prefers Internet classes because he can work at his own pace without distractions. He does what works for him, like listening to rock while studying government.

It's that no rules concept that some kids find liberating.

"I believe we're one of the tools for connecting with learners who are disenfranchised and lost and bringing them back in the system," says Mary Jean Sandall, principal for the Salem-Keizer online school.

Someday the principal expects there will be virtual schools in every district across the state, and Kylie Boda thinks that's a great idea.

"I could easily see it becoming the school of the future," says Kylie


1115 Commercial Street NE • Salem, Oregon 97301 • 503.399.3205 • Office hours: 7:15 a.m. - 3:45 p.m.
Darren Hunter, SK Online Lead Teacher• Jason Weeks, Roberts HS Principal