Online summer classes: How do they affect students?

Many students take classes over the summer through online platforms, like Silicon Valley High School and UC Scout, so how does this affect them?
What a lot of kids miss out on when they take classes online is what the students learn from each other, said Mr. Anderson. Thats what a lot of kids remember: the little things they did with a classmate and thats gone.
“What a lot of kids miss out on when they take classes online is what the students learn from each other,” said Mr. Anderson. “That’s what a lot of kids remember: the little things they did with a classmate and that’s gone.”
Sydney Forsyte

LOS ALAMITOS, CA — Many students at Los Alamitos High School take classes over the summer, whether it’s to relieve an overburdened schedule or simply to have an unfilled period. This trend isn’t just increasing at Los Al; as of 2023, around 78% of U.S. public schools provided summer programming designed to benefit students academically, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

“I’m taking U.S. history over the summer [through Silicon Valley High School] to make room for AP Psychology in my schedule and because I don’t like history,” said Paola Mucciaro, a Los Al sophomore. 

At Los Al, there are a variety of classes available for students to take over the summer, but the majority are in the social sciences. In fact, according to Los Al faculty, English is the only discipline that students must take from Los Al teachers during the school year. 

“We want to try to have our students take as many classes with us as possible and also not necessarily have an unscheduled period,” said Dr. Platt, Los Al’s Assistant Principal of Curriculum, Instruction, and Instructional Technology. “We have students that have that for a variety of reasons, but we want to encourage students to take all their classes with us and try to have as complete a schedule as possible.”

For some students, taking these independent classes over the summer can be beneficial and help them clear the way to take other classes at Los Al. 

“If you have an impacted schedule, I think that there can be a personalized need that would necessitate doing coursework during the summer, but, again, it’s based on individual student need,” Dr. Platt said. 

Others use summer courses as a resource in order to concentrate on more difficult subjects.

You’ll be able to zero in and focus on just one class at a time, allowing you to keep up with the coursework, get a better grade, and stay on track toward graduation,” argues Emily Freeman in her article for the U.S. Career Institute. 

On Los Al’s campus, there is a summer classes option, Griffin Connections, where students work 95% online and around 5% in person. Requirements include attending one in-person class day for the first semester and five in-person days for both semesters total with an estimated workload of three to four hours per day. 

“Griffin Connections is a great opportunity because you’re getting courses taught by Los Al teachers, and you’re getting that instruction and that rigor that we provide,” Dr. Platt said.

Unfortunately, not all students who wish to take social science classes over the summer are able to utilize this resource, as spaces are limited. As a result, many choose to take online courses at UC-approved, accredited, and NCAA-approved sites, such as Silicon Valley High School and UC Scout.

However, these online programs don’t guarantee that the students won’t have to take them again during the school year. Many courses provide less oversight for students and may cover the information differently than Los Al teachers, leading to gaps in students’ knowledge. Students who face issues with anxiety, attention, or learning challenges may struggle with adapting to this online format of learning. 

“I know a lot of kids thrive in that environment, for whatever reason, but there’s a lot of kids who struggle, and even though they take classes in the summer, they don’t finish them with an appropriate grade and have to retake it in the regular year,” said Mr. Anderson, Los Al’s Department Chair of Social Sciences.

For those who are able to pass their summer classes, there are still hurdles ahead when they return to school. Some teachers have noticed that students who take these independent summer classes return with significant gaps in their knowledge. 

“There’s kids that will do well regardless of whether it’s in class or not, but there’s definitely a lot of kids who have admitted to me that ‘Oh, I don’t remember that because I took it online,’” Mr. Anderson said.

This new trend in education can also negatively impact teacher’s livelihoods. 

“Since people have been able to take these classes online, we’ve lost three or four teachers in my department that have not been replaced… It does indirectly cost us jobs,” Mr. Anderson said.

Los Al’s administration has been adamant that the goal is not for students to choose an education away from Los Al. 

“The goal is you want students to come to Los Al and have a Los Al education… because our teachers and instruction are top notch,” Dr. Platt said.

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