There are many online drivers ed programs available and doing a search will show a large number of programs ready to train teens how to drive. However, there is a wide variance in the style and type of training available for the online world. The programs range from simple presentations to highly interactive training that prepares the student to pass their drivers permit test and to become a safe driver.
There are many differences, so lets explore a few ideas to use as comparison points:
1) Interactive. Many, if not most of the online drivers ed programs available are simply automated slide shows. While the information is available there is very little effort made to actually provide a true learning environment. Experience has shown that providing the student with multiple ways to interact with the curriculum is one of the keys to learning. For example, rather than always just selecting from a simple list, "drag and drop" interactions can increase student engagement substantially. Videos are particularly good for "difficult to visualize" skill areas.
2) Research-based. It is very important that the drivers ed program is based on current research. Research on how teens learn and drive during their formative driving years is continually updated. There has been great research work done within the last decade that gets to the core of what trips-up novice drivers. The entire curriculum should be based on this type of research rather than meandering around material that was developed in the 1950's.
3) Integrated Testing. Most drivers ed programs have a minimal amount of testing which usually occurs in the form of a "final test". Unfortunately, this is not a good way to reinforce learning nor is it a good way to actually test how the student is learning. Good online drivers ed courses have testing as an integral part of the program. Every section should have "challenges" built-in which help reinforce the material the student has just learned.
4) Student controlled navigation. The student should have a degree of freedom when navigating the curriculum. The material should be collected into "modules" such that one module builds off from the prior module. However, within each module the student should be allowed to choose their path through the material. It has been shown that students learn better when there is the ability to customize the order in which material is learned.
5) Accredited. Sounds obvious, but be careful here. In some states, online drivers ed is accredited and results in a state-approved certificate. In others, teens still have to take an in-classroom course in order to get their drivers permit. In either case, an online drivers ed course can help teens with their drivers education by ensuring they know the rules of the road and how to drive safely. It is important to realize that the course must be approved by the state DMV in those cases where it can be used as a formal part of the teens' drivers education.
The bottom line is that the quality of online drivers ed varies dramatically from program to program. Given that driving is an important part of everyone's life, it is critical to choose an online drivers ed program using proper due diligence. And using the above criteria as a basis for choosing a program will increase the chances of the student becoming a safe driver.
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