Should Elementary School Students Be Learning Online?

Elementary Student on Computer
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There is a long standing debate about the benefits of a private versus a public versus a home schooled education. There are advocates that will argue for any of those options and pros and cons to each. With the advance of technology you can begin throwing online education into the mix. Most people understand the benefit of being able to attend college online, and it is not difficult to look at online classes as a good option for students who live in rural areas or do not have access to some of the higher-level classes they are interested in. But do the benefits of online education stop when you look at it for elementary school students?

Moving at Your Own Pace

One advantage of many online programs is that they allow students to move at their own pace. This benefits all the students because they can truly master a subject before moving onto the next concept. Most of the online programs allow you to move at your own pace, which is great because your child can make real progress. However, if the program is like a college course with a set number of lectures and assignments each week, then this benefit will not be part of the program.


Many online programs offer more flexibility than a traditional school. This is a good option if your child is ill, and may not be well enough to go to school or needs to complete her classes around naps or doctor visits. It is also flexible in that it allows you to travel without worrying about missing school Your child can complete the classes as you travel the country or on an extended stay with family. This allows you to live life the way you want to as long as you have an Internet connection handy so you can complete assignments.

Long Term Effects of Computers on Developing Brains

There have been concerns about the long-term effects of children spending too much time on the computer or other electronic devices. In an article at BBC News Professor Greenfield from the Royal Institute points out the correlation between the rise in computer use and the rise in prescriptions for ADD. There have not been enough long-term studies to determine if an online education at such a young age will have a negative affect on your child and the way that he processes information as an adult. Brain development may be affected especially if the majority of his learning is done online in early elementary school. However, if you use the online program to supplement activities that you are already doing with your child the effects may not be as bad. Other studies such as The Effective Use of Computers with Young Children by Douglas Clements point out that the quality of the computer program may affect the brain’s development more than just the quantity of time spent online. You should be aware of what your child is doing and make sure that the online time is quality learning time.

Will It Be a Good Fit?

Ultimately you need to decide if sitting down at a computer to complete the majority of the classwork will be a good fit for your child. An active energetic boy might do better with a program that allowed more kinetic learning with movement activities. A spatial learner may also do better with the use of manipulatives in math classes. You may need to adjust the program and supplement the same way you would if your child was attending a public school outside of the home. Many schools are beginning to use educational software for review and to help students catch up on topics they fall behind on. As the education system changes, so do the assessment and teaching tools. Technology will be active part of your children’s lives as they grow older and completing an online learning program may help them become more comfortable with technology.

Dana Vicktor is the senior researcher and writer for  Her most recent accomplishments include graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in communications and sociology.  Her current focus for the site involves pregnancy tests and fetal development at 15 weeks pregnant.

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