How Tech-Savvy Parents Change the Future of Online School
A growing population of tech-savvy parents are more accepting of online learning—and likely to influence future growth of online schooling. Millennials, defined as those who were between 18 and 34 years old in 2015, are the first wave of adults who never experienced life without the Internet or personal electronic devices. And now they’re having children and embracing the educational options made possible by connectivity.
A new independent survey of U.S. households,1 supported by Connections Education, the parent company that offers Connections Academy®—supported online public schools and International Connections Academy online private school, found that millennials are overwhelmingly in favor of alternative approaches to education.
Now the largest living generation in the United States,2 having surpassed baby boomers, millennials have the power and motivation to shape public opinion about their children’s education. In 2014, 43 percent of children age 0–17 had millennial parents, and this figure is expected to exceed 50 percent in 2016.3
Three-fourths of millennial parents surveyed (77 percent) said a do-it-yourself approach to education, in which learners craft a path to graduation that best fits their needs, is a good idea. As leaders in online education, Connections Academy–supported online schools have fostered this personalized learning approach since the company’s founding in 2001.
“The millennial generation flipped the workplace on its head, and all signs point to them breaking the status quo for education as well,” said Steven Guttentag, president and cofounder of Connections Education. “Compared to older generations, this generation of parents has more experience in education options beyond brick-and-mortar schools, such as online courses and blended learning. As a result, we’re finding they’re more open to and supportive of different education options.”
The survey showed that the vast majority of Americans (76 percent) feel that K–12 public school students should be able to choose tuition-free online learning options to meet their learning needs. This number increased significantly with millennial parents; nearly all millennial parents (92 percent) are of the opinion that students should be able to choose tuition-free online learning options.
Having trouble seeing? Try going directly to YouTube.
Online Experience Makes a Difference
Most of today’s adults attended traditional schools, so it’s very common for people to question how online learning works. In the survey, across all generations, exposure to online learning was shown to have a significant impact on whether someone views public online schools favorably. Unsurprisingly, the survey found that millennial respondents—the generation that came of age with the Internet—have the highest exposure to online coursework.
- 55 percent of millennials and 48 percent of millennial parents have taken an online course, compared to 45 and 25 percent of Gen X and baby boomer nonparents and 41 and 31 percent of Gen X and baby boomer parents, respectively.
- Millennial parents (35 percent) are most likely to have or know someone with a child who is enrolled in online public school.
- A majority of millennial parents (51 percent) think that high school students should be required to take at least one online course, and are more likely to be of the opinion that the option to take all courses online should be available.
And Connections Academy parents agree. “We live in a technologically advanced world and our kids need to be savvy with computers. Everything my daughter does through her schooling can carry her into college and beyond,” said Rozanna Eckstein, a millennial parent of an online school student. “Everything is in your hand now, so the more advanced she can get, the more advanced she’ll be for her future and, ultimately, [the more she’ll be] prepared for a successful path to adulthood. I believe online school gives her that. Everything is structured to what I feel is the future, and the future is technology.”
Beyond being supportive of online learning options, 8 out of 10 millennial parents agree that online schools have the potential to personalize education. Also, those who have taken (or are taking) online coursework and those who express support for tuition-free online learning are much more likely to agree that online options offer more personalization. This reinforces the idea that exposure to online learning positively impacts attitudes toward online learning.
“Not every child learns the same. That’s the great thing about online school, and I think people are starting to realize that,” said Michael Tobeck, a millennial parent based in Oregon.
Whether you are a millennial, a Gen X, or a baby boomer, the desire to provide your child with an education that is customized to his or her interests and abilities can be compelling. While it’s not a good fit for every family, online education has helped many students excel academically, overcome obstacles, and gain the scheduling flexibility to pursue their dreams.
To learn more about online school and how it works, visit the website for Connections Academy or International Connections Academy.
- The results are based on a nationwide online survey of U.S. adults that was fielded by ORC International in April 2016.
- Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research report published in 2015.