Online learing

David Bitton/Stillwater News Press  Alanna Manners, 17, of Stillwater, works on her Senior English schoolwork Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 in the Edmon Low Library on the Oklahoma State University Campus in Stillwater. Manners is a high school student at Oklahoma Connections Academy, a virtual charter school.

School is back in session for more than an estimated 9,000 K-12 Oklahoma students who learn online.

Alanna Manners, 17, is entering her senior year with Oklahoma Connections Academy, one of five virtual charter schools that fall under the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

“I’m a borderline introvert so conversing with people online is very, very awesome,” the Stillwater resident said.

Manners said she chose virtual learning over a traditional classroom five of the last six years because she likes doing things at her own pace and not being tied to a classroom where there can be distractions.

“You can’t control who you are in class with,” Manners said Tuesday while studying at the Edmon Low Library on the Oklahoma State University campus. “Rambunctious kids get in the way of learning.”

All five schools authorized by the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board are tuition-free public schools that are state funded.

Their curriculum meets the state standards and teachers are state certified.

“A lot of people would say it (the curriculum) is harder,” Manners said. “I’m OK with that because I can push myself and still have fun.”

Tammy Shepherd, principal at Oklahoma Connections Academy said, “I think online education is a great fit for families that need a different option.”

Some students need more flexibility, while others may need something traditional schools don’t offer, Shepherd said.

Demand has grown for the school – now in its sixth year – and Shepherd estimates 1,300 student will attend Oklahoma Connections Academy this year.

Alanna’s mother, Tabitha Manners, said online learning has been a great benefit for her daughter.

“I’m seeing a lot more independence and confidence in reaching out to professors,” Tabitha Manners said.

Alanna Manners is taking concurrent courses at University of Central Oklahoma, where she hopes to attend college and study theater.

“I love the theater so much,” Alanna Manners said.

Tabitha Manners likes how online learning has allowed the two to spend time together.

She cautions other parents considering online school for their child to make sure they understand the time commitment involved.

“I can see her work on a daily basis,” Tabitha Manners said. “It has been very rewarding to work with her as a parent and coach her through the more challenging sections.”

Twitter: @dbittonNP