Can Online Learning Solve Problems Faced by Rural Schools?

It's undeniable that digital learning provides greater flexibility. Its potential as a solution to current educational challenges in rural areas, which are home to a quarter of all primary and secondary students in the United States, continues to emerge (DePaul, 2020). But rural schools face challenges unlike those of their urban and suburban counterparts. Some of these obstacles include: [1]

Many schools also lack advanced courses in math and science, challenging electives, and world language courses. A real gap exists between the variety of options that students experience in rural and urban districts. For instance, as population size decreases and distance to major urban areas increases, AP course options begin to disappear (The Foundation For Blended and Online Learning, 2018). This is another area where technology can close the gap: Rural schools are tapping into online AP courses so their students can take them and increase their chances of getting accepted into college.

Rural Schools That Are Leading the Digital Teaching and Learning Revolution

Hard work has always been a staple of rural America. Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that "farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field" (Eisenhower, 1956). Despite farms disappearing and other rural jobs on the decline, some schools have found ways to continue the tradition of hard work and ingenuity through technology. New and effective virtual learning and teaching programs created out of necessity during COVID-19 have emerged at rural school districts and are advancing the college and career readiness goals of their students.

Beekmantown Central School, New York, is a prime example of how a rural school district with the dream of becoming a digital teaching and learning leader can change the life trajectories of students through technology.

  • [1] lack of computer and Internet access in homes, • declining enrollments, • no college campuses nearby, • lack of a college-going culture, • low teacher salaries, • high instructor turnover, • smaller budgets and less resources, and • fewer high-level (Advanced Placement (AP)) courses
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