When comes the time to schedule the 30-hour portion of Driver Education, students and parents have a choice to make: classroom education or online at-your-own-pace classes? Let's look at the various factors weighing on this decision:
1 - Cost
Many families choose online classes, thinking it will be cheaper. It's rarely the case. That's because after your student has obtained the learner permit, another requirement in order to receive a license before the age of 16½ is to drive for 6 hours with a State-certified instructor. At the cost of $125 for a 2-hour drive (in our car), the total cost of behind-the-wheel instruction is $375. Our complete package includes the 30-hour classroom instruction, the permit test, and the 6 hours of behind-the-wheel drive for $450.
Unless the online class alone costs less than $75, you will end up paying more for your student's license if you take an online class.
2 - Time
Since the State requirement for online classes is 30 hours (exactly 1800 minutes), online classes all need to track the time the student spends on the program. Obviously, they can't track if the student is focused on the important content, or even in front of their screen, but the actual running time of the instruction program is tracked. Any glitch in the internet connection, and some time has to be spent again, running the program in order to be recorded toward the total required time. Parents have stated that there have been multiple times when a module’s time was not recorded properly, and the student had to redo completed work.
In theory, the time requirement is identical... IF every technical aspect works perfectly, and if no section has to be played again. The student attention level, however, is probably not quite as sustained in front of a screen as it is in front of a classroom instructor.
3 - Convenience
Depending on the time of the year, we offer all-day, 1/2 day, and weekend classes, either at our location, or at a variety of Longmont area high schools (after school). We want to make it as convenient and flexible as possible, and also adapt the classes to your busy schedule. Online classes, however, are more convenient, as they can be taken from home, without any necessary transport, and with the possibility of taking breaks whenever wanted. But when you think about it, if a student's schedule is so full as to not allow for a 4-day class, when are they going to find the time and energy to focus on the online program when they get home?
Online classes are more convenient, as there is no need for a parent or guardian to drive them anywhere. It does, however, require a certain level of motivation and self-discipline from the student, in order to choose to spend the required time at home watching online lessons.
4 - Success
While you will find a lot of information online about how fantastic online classes are, take the time to verify the source of such claims, as it's often from a company selling online classes. A 2013 study showed that students are less successful when they take a class online than when they take it in a classroom. Read about the Washington State study here. Another study with similar results was also published in The American Journal of Distance Education. In the field of Driver Education, online students don't have the opportunity to open the hood of a car, experience in person how large the blind spot really is, interact with a Longmont police officer, or learn about motorcycle awareness and safety directly from a Riders Association member.
Being a safe driver on the road is different from driving in a video game.
5 - Driving ability
Many Longmont police officers and driving instructors have seen, in recent years, a very noticeable difference on the road between the driving abilities of students of classroom instruction and students of online instruction. Being responsible enough to command a 4,000-lbs vehicle on a public road is very different from using a game controller or a computer mouse in front of a screen.
The classroom students seem to understand better the physical aspects of driving, and proceed from the classroom to the road in a safer manner.