Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina has become the sixth state in the country to require students to take an online course before they graduate.
The State Board of Education approved the measure Thursday in an effort to help students be better prepared to be 21st century learners beyond their secondary school years.
The requirement goes into effect with the graduating class of 2020, or current fifth-graders.
"We think it's important for them to have the opportunity to learn online before they graduate from high school," said Tracy Weeks, executive director of The North Carolina Virtual Public School, which oversees online courses for the state Department of Public Instruction. "The goal here is to give as much flexibility so districts can look at what makes sense for their needs."
State education officials, however, still need to look at the cost of the program and how it would work, including what courses would be offered.
"We're looking for as many flexible options and schools as possible," Weeks said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said the biggest challenge will be making sure all students have access to the technology they need.
"We are working very hard to find ways and make sure every student has a digital device and that every teacher has access to a wealth of material via computer, tablet, a smartphone – whatever the technology may be," Atkinson said.
Alabama, Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia already require students to pass at least one online course. Florida requires two online courses to graduate.