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The click of a mouse: How online education is changing the world

By Hope Pasztor
web posted December 7, 2009

Elated, I stood in line at the church rummage sale. It was only 8:15 in the morning, and already I possessed enough new purchases to fill an entire day's worth of standard mall-shopping. My arms were piled high with wonderful vintage clothing; a Guinea Sax dark blue brocade prom dress, two multicolored carpet bags, a handful of whimsical 50's housedresses, and a beautiful fur caplet. I leaned against a table and sighed; the long lingering sigh that comes with the "high" of productive rummage sale shopping. Abruptly, I snapped out of my reverie, as the little old lady at the cash register signaled to me that it was my turn to check out.  Tentatively, she looked me over. "Shouldn't you be in school, sweetie?" she said, the corners of her eyes crinkling into a friendly smile. I laughed. "Actually," I said, "I'm homeschooled. I take my classes online."

Never have online classes been so easy or so readily available as they are now in the 21st century. What started out as a few homeschooled children taking online AP classes has turned into a subculture of cyber-schoolers around the world. Cyber students have taken the concepts of traditional schooling by storm. Both public, private, and homeschooled students now have the opportunity to take some, or even all, of their classes via a computer. Across America, from the rugged dry hills and jewel-blue ocean of California, to the secluded green forests and dimpled valleys of Pennsylvania, there's a virtual army of students who are enrolled in online classes. In my three years of taking online AP classes, I've even known several students who lived as far away as China and Korea.  

When we look at the idea of online schooling, we see convenience. Cyber students have the ability to attend and take part in numerous activities that would otherwise be unavailable through a traditional mode of education.  They're able to work at their own pace-they have the freedom to do their schoolwork in the morning or in the afternoon, so long as they get their assignments in on time.

Let's look at the idea of online education on a larger scale. In the context of online education, will the Internet have as much of an effect on the next 500 years as the fifteenth century invention of the printing press had on the past 500 years? I would most certainly concur with this theory. The invention of the printing press changed the entire world, specifically in an economic sense. With the invention of the printing press, there became a higher demand and supply for printed books. Though by no means cheap, the material printed off Gutenberg's printing press was far less expensive that the hand-written illuminated manuscripts of the past. The invention of the printing press also drastically changed the work atmosphere. A greater supply and demand of books subsequently resulted in the creation of new jobs. People were needed to create the letter stamps, to supply the ink and manufacture the paper, to set the type, to man the printing press, and to bind the books. Society was changed, not just in Germany, where the printing press was initially invented, but all over the entire world. Over the past 500 years, there's not a continent or country on Planet Earth that hasn't been touched by the printing press.

In the same way as the printing press has changed our world in the past 500 years, will the concept of the Internet and online education drastically influence our world in the next 500 years ahead of us. Less than two decades after its invention, the Internet has profoundly made its mark upon our nation and upon our world. Rarely, you will find a home that's not equipped with some kind of Internet-powered device.  From a cheap, slow-powered family computer, to a collection of high-speed laptops, nearly every building in the United States boasts one of these recent inventions. Up until recently, the Internet benefited two basic categories; that of professional work and that of recreation. Now, the invention of online classes and cyber school gives us an entire new reason to sit in front of the computer. Our education and our future can be carried out with the click of a mouse. Not only are we able to carry out our years of highschool on the computer, but now, many colleges and universities are offering part-time and even full-time online tuition. Our world will soon be filled with cyber college graduates. Perhaps, in the years to come, education will be available solely through the means of a computer.

However the rise of the Internet proceeds through the next 500 years-through the form of online education, or through other means-it will definitely increase with even more rapid succession than did the invention of the printing press. Right now, I'm going to focus on my own connections to the Internet: my three online AP classes, Facebook, and my blog. Online education has never been so convenient, and it'll give me opportunity to go to that early-morning rummage sale next Friday. Anyone want to join me? ESR

Hope A. Pasztor is a senior in high school and wrote this essayfor her Pennsylvania Homeschooler's AP Economics class. After high school she's like to purse fashion journalism after she graduates from Liberty University with a degree in English. © 2009





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