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3 Ways Online Learning Can Help Schools Retain Students

By Jane Gallagher

There were 1.3 million fewer students enrolled in U.S. public schools in fall 2021 than there were before the pandemic began––a drop of nearly 3 percent. Given that educational funding and resources are tied to enrollment, this development has serious implications for the availability of resources in our schools.

Encouraging families to stay or return to their local public schools is a complex challenge districts are facing that requires a multifaceted approach. Families want options for their children’s education, and these options must be high quality. Partnering with an experienced provider to offer high-quality online learning is one way traditional schools can give students more options—and it’s an important strategy for attracting and retaining families.

Here are three ways online learning can help schools retain students:

  1. Supports Student and Family Preferences and Needs
    Giving students the flexibility to learn online rather than just in-person can better serve the needs of many families. When done effectively, online learning makes education more convenient and safer for students who have health concerns or experience other barriers to in-person learning. Online learning also provides greater autonomy for students who need it, and its self-paced nature supports the engagement of students who are bored by the traditional pace of instruction.

    A Pew Research Center survey conducted in spring 2022 found that 9% of teens would prefer learning fully online when the pandemic is over. Another 18% said they would prefer a mix of face-to-face and online instruction. In other words, more than one in four teens would like to have online learning as an option in their schools.

  2. Offers Better Learning Opportunities
    Many K-12 schools can’t offer the breadth of courses needed to match all students’ learning levels and needs. They might not have the budget to offer these courses themselves, or they may not be able to find high-quality teachers with the necessary expertise to teach advanced level courses. For instance, students in rural areas are less likely to have access to Advanced Placement (AP)® courses, which are a valuable asset for students as they apply to and enter college. Additionally, only half of all U.S. high schools offer computer science courses––a discipline which experiences consistent growth and can open doors to many college and career opportunities.

  3. Provides More Choices of Course Offerings.
    Supplemental online courses instantly expand the range of courses that schools can offer. Aside from the range of AP® and honors courses that are available to students, VHS Learning allows students to explore subjects they’re curious about from knowledgeable and qualified instructors worldwide. According to one study, the range of academic opportunities that a school system has to offer is a key factor in where families choose to send their children to school. Expanding choices is critical to attract and retain families to your district’s schools and programs.

Partnering with an experienced online learning provider like VHS Learning can help school districts expand the options available to families for their children’s education with minimal effort. The ability to choose online instruction as the method in which their children learn could encourage some families to reconsider their decision to leave their local school system—and it could give others a compelling reason to stay.


To learn more about what could be affecting public school enrollment and how online learning is helping schools retain students, read the eSchool News article: Online learning can help schools retain students