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Bill would require Georgia students take at least 1 online class to graduate
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Most colleges offer classes on the Web, but Georgia's high school students could be required to take online courses.

Georgia lawmakers recently voted 36-15 along largely partisan lines in favor of a bill that would require all high school students to take at least one online course before they graduate.

Only three other states, Alabama, Florida and Michigan, require students in kindergarten through 12th grade to take an online courses.

"We have a unique opportunity to open an entire new world of learning for Georgia students," Sen. Chip Rogers, who authored the bill, said in an email.

"Whether it's advanced physics, mandarin Chinese or third-grade reading enhancement, digital learning can offer students resources never seen before in our state.

Georgia can become the national leader for real and powerful learning reform."

Tonya Aiken, academic coach at Gainesville High School, said online classes can make all the difference for a struggling student.

"I've watched students walk across the stage that could have walked out the door and not finish high school," Aiken said.

Since implementing the online classroom in 2005, Aiken said it has been a huge success.

Aiken explained that the virtual classes can individualize students' experience in a way that can't be achieved in a traditional classroom.

Students take a test to determine their starting point and work from there. Before moving on to another level in the course, they have to pass an assessment. Since so many colleges and vocational schools are offering more online classes, Aiken said she feels that students would benefit from being exposed to a Web-based learning environment.

"It would be something positive and progressive that all students could do," Aiken said.

Hall County Superintendant Will Schofield said that though he hasn't read the entire bill, requiring students to take courses online could cause a few challenges.

"In general, I'm negative about something that requires everyone to do the same thing," Schofield said.

Schofield said there is a strong amount of research that says many children don't thrive in an online classroom.

However, many Hall County students already take online courses. North Hall High School Principal Joe Gheesling said virtual classrooms have been successful at his school.

"But the key to that success is the motivation of that student," Gheesling said.

The courses offered to high school students vary from advanced placement to regular education courses.

Students take their virtual classes in the school's computer lab and can access their course work from home as well.

Gheesling said the virtual classes are a benefit to some students who have an interest in taking a more specific course of study.

"It provides schools with more flexibility. It allows (students) to take a course that we might not offer because there aren't enough students to take it," Gheesling said.

While many students have found success with online education, it isn't for everyone.

"In my mind I don't necessarily feel that every child should have to do it at this point but I think they should have the opportunity," Gheesling said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.