Schools' worthwhile leap online

It may cause some nervousness among stakeholders: Burbank and Glendale Unified school districts are moving some classes online — a model long used by colleges to reach a wider audience and to better fit into the busy schedules of students.

Surely, nothing will replace the benefits of classroom learning, but in an age when tech-savvy high school students are multi-tasking like never before, we should really be asking why this hasn't been done before.

After months of research and planning, Glendale Unified officials launched the district's pilot online economics class in summer 2011 at Hoover High, and plan to offer more this summer. Burbank Unified is well into an online class program for students who need to make up courses or redeem poor grades in several core subjects.

The possibilities here seem promising. As more campuses turn magnet — focusing on particular fields such as language or science and technology — couldn't students at other schools sign up for specialized classes cross-district? Couldn't high achievers pick from a catalog of districtwide courses to fluff up their college applications?

As school districts wade deeper into the online pool, students — and teachers — may no longer be bound by traditional geographic boundaries.

It's an exciting prospect for the future of public education.

Certainly, there are questions about the effects. How will cross pollination of courses among campuses affect academic performance indexes for schools? How will the new work model affect teacher workloads? And how to guarantee the integrity of course work and test taking?

Luckily for district officials, they have a model of aspiration already in place: colleges. Yes, many high school students lack the maturity of their college counterparts, but given all the potential, it makes sense to wade deeper into the pool.

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