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What is online schooling and how does it work?

What is online schooling and how does it work?
father and son with school work


In this post we’ll look what online schooling is and how it has developed today. In it you will discover:

  • The origins of online schooling
  • The role of online schooling in the UK today
  • How online schooling works
  • The differences between online schooling and traditional education
  • The advantages of online schooling

The Origins of Online Education

It’s 1948 in the Australian outback. Miss Adelaide Miethke, a local woman, is the vice-president of the South Australian wing of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and a former inspector of girl’s schools.

She noticed an outstanding opportunity which would inevitably change the lives of the young people in the Alice Springs region. Prior to 1948 there was a radio service network in the region for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) which all the young people knew how to use. Miss Miethke saw an opportunity for young people to be educated over the network

Until the 1950s, children living in remote communities would either have to attend a boarding school, or complete their lessons by mail. This meant that students were either separated from their families or they had no interaction with their teacher and other students. In 1948 the Alice Springs RFDS base was used to broadcast the first school lessons to outback children.

Just a few years later, the School of the Air (SOA) was officially established. The SOA program has now extended to teach primary and secondary students and adult education courses, over a network covering more than 1.5 million square kilometers allowing access to education to thousands of people, no matter where they are living.

When educating young people, there is a constant need to look at new ways that allows access to education for all, just as Adelaide Miethke did back in 1948. Today, technology plays such a pivotal role in the way we learn and it can open up so many possibilities for young people to engage with learning.

The Role of Online Schooling in the UK Today

Home schooling in the UK has seen a 65% increase in the past six years, meaning that some 37,000 young people in the U.K. are educated at home. Currently in the U.K. there is no legal requirement for a child to attend school, however if they don’t, they must receive an education at home.

Online education aims to provide those young people with access to a curriculum, taught by experienced teachers. Access to a curriculum means that students can prepare to take examinations, or should they wish to do so, they will be able to ‘slot back in’ to school life if and when they choose to return to a traditional school.

How Online Schooling Works

Online schooling operates in many similar ways to traditional schools. These similarities include:

  • Pupils follow the National Curriculum
  • Qualified teachers teach engaging lessons
  • Homework is set and marked by teachers
  • Students take part in collaborative classroom learning as well as independent self-study
  • Formative feedback is provided for students to allow them to progress in their learning
  • Pupils are able to sit examinations if they wish
  • There are a wide range of subject choices

The differences between Online Schooling and Traditional Schooling

There are of course, many differences between traditional schooling and online education:

  • The school day is shorter. As there is no moving between classrooms, classroom disruption, travel to school, school assemblies or other school events, lessons can be condensed into a much shorter time frame. This means that there is much more time for independent study or free time to spend on interests or hobbies.
  • All lessons are recorded meaning that they can be viewed back at a later date. This is perfect if a pupil misses a lesson, needs consolidation in a particular area or are preparing for an examination.
  • School is with you wherever you are. Whether you are living or travelling overseas, there is always access to your school. Online lessons are delivered through virtual classrooms and can be accessed via a laptop, tablet or Smartphone.

The Advantages of Online Schooling

Online schools allow young people an access to a curriculum from wherever they are in the world. As many as 5.5 million British people live overseas nowadays. A large number of young British expats attend international schools which gives them access to a British education.

The global mean cost of sending your child to an international school is around £12,000 per year, which can turn into a very expensive process. Online schooling allows students access to a British curriculum at a fraction of this cost.

They can follow the same programme of study, at their own pace, whilst still enrolling to sit exams, should they wish to do so. There are examination centres in 120 countries around the world that students can enrol in prior to their examination date.

Many young people may be travelling either within the U.K. with family. They therefore require access to a full, curriculum led education, taught by qualified teachers.


Schools allow young people to flourish whilst allowing them vital time to build social interactions with their peers. For some young people however, there may be barriers which prevent them accessing a traditional, bricks and mortar education.

Online schooling is a 21st century solution which allows these people to exceed in education wherever they are, whatever their ability and whatever their need.

To find out more about whether online schooling could be the right fit for your child, click here.

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