What it is:
Despite the name, Online Physical Education classes take place in the real world, not on a computer screen. Thirty states allow their public school students -- usually middle school or high school -- to take PE online, according to About.com Family Fitness Guide Catherine Holecko. Some public and private Online PE programs are open to homeschoolers as well.
Online PE usually consists of a computer-based portion and an activity portion. The computer portion can involve learning about physiology, doing writing assignments on different parts of the body and various exercises, and taking tests.
The real-life portion is often up to the student. Some use sports they're already involved in, others add walking, running, swimming or other activities to their schedule. But students have to monitor what they're doing, either with technology like a heart-rate monitor or pedometer, or by keeping records that are submitted with their other class materials.
The Pros of Online PE:
For public school students, Online PE allows them to fulfill their physical education requirement outside of regular school hours. That frees up more time during the school day for other subjects.
For homeschoolers, the benefits are slightly different. They include supervision by trained physical education professionals, without having to go outside the home. For kids that are already involved in physical activity, it adds a written component that might be covered only briefly or not at all by real-world coaches.
Both public school and homeschool students also get the chance to get credit for sports that may not be part of a traditional physical education program, such as roller blading, surfing, ballet or equestrian sports.
The Cons of Online PE:
Students who have taken it say say online PE isn't easy. In some programs, students must complete certain goals, no matter how long it takes them.
Students are also all held to the same standards, regardless of their ability, conditioning, or strengths and weaknesses.
Students who choose to do activities on their own don't get the same level of supervision and instruction as kids who take a real-world class with a teacher who can watch them week after week. And the temptation to fudge their activity records is always there -- although programs often require parents to verify their children's reports.
Where to Find Online PE Programs for Homeschoolers:
Florida Virtual School the first and largest online public school in the United States, offers individual classes in Personal Fitness, Fitness Lifestyle and Design, and other Physical Education topics. Florida residents may take the classes for free, but they are also available on a tuition basis to students who live outside the state. The courses are approved by NCAA.
Carone Fitness is an accredited school and provider of online health and PE courses for grades K-12 and higher education. Options include adaptive PE and homebound courses. Students set individual goals, participate in a weekly exercise program, and receive one-on-one feedback from an instructor.
Family Time Fitness is a company founded specifically for homeschoolers, although it is also available through some public schools. Its physical education programs consist mainly of printable lesson plans and videos, although parents also get reminder emails and access to supplemental downloads and online webinars.