A new study by Stanford University claims online school students are falling behind their peers. The traditional teacher-classroom method has proved more successful.

The study said students under the conventional school system scored better in Math and reading as compared to students in charter schools — publicly-funded independent schools now in demand in the United States.

Charter schools provide the flexibility of learning online in a virtual classroom. The US educational technology sector wants to bring in hi-tech start-up innovation into learning and teaching, combining technology with education, said a BBC report.

"The National Study of Online Charter Schools offers a rigorous analysis of the operations of online charter schools. It also offers an analysis on their policy environments, and their impact on student achievement," said the report.

Despite digitisation of learning, charter schools have failed to match the teacher-classroom learning experience for the students. "In Math, it was the equivalent of pupils having missed an entire year of schooling," it added.

The idea of virtual classrooms has been growing in the United States, and they are being seen as an alternative option to traditional forms of schooling. As per the study, there are currently 200,000 pupils registered to online charter schools in the US, said the report.

An interesting feature of this is, students pay no tuition fee. Also, rural students with limited options or those with health problems benefited under this system, BBC stated.

Doubts about approach

This biggest headache of this form of schooling, identified by workers, was keeping students engaged in the class. "Challenges in maintaining student engagement are inherent in online instruction," said Brian Gill, one of the co-authors of the report.

Researchers compared performances of students in online schools to mainstream schools. The factors included race, gender, ethnicity and relative family wealth. It was found that online charter schools would take in a higher number of "white students".

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said they were disheartened by the results, BBC reported.

"The findings are sombre, but at least they provide evidence for discussing the future role of such online schools," said James Woodworth of Stanford's Centre for Research on Education Outcomes.