Believe it or not, quality online physical education (OLPE) is not an oxymoron. In fact, over the past two decades, OLPE has experienced immense growth. According to the 2016 Shape of the Nation report, there are 31 states in the U.S. that allow their state-required physical education courses to be completed through an online platform (Society of Health and Physical Educators [SHAPE] et al., 2016).

Yes, there are constraints. Motor skills can be hard to instruct at a distance and often require some degree of autonomy from the learner. Many learners will not have access to the equipment often used in a traditional setting, making online PE potentially expensive. There is also the issue of accountability. How does one go about accurately verifying the participation of a learner who completes a task on their own?

The skepticism surrounding OLPE is understandable. That said, with those constraints also come some interesting strengths not so easily achieved in the traditional setting.


  • OLPE programs are famously flexible with many programs allowing learners to self-select their activities.
  • OLPE courses are convenient. Many programs allows learners to choose when and where they complete their coursework.
  • OLPE can be a global experience with some courses pulling in learners from all over.
  • OLPE opens the door for increased personalization. This is particularly true in an asynchronous setting where instructors can truly customize instruction.

Now What?

So… How do we go about making OLPE the best it can be? We lean into its strengths!

We make it flexible, uniquely interactive, personal, and convenient in ways that a traditional course could never be. OLPE is not traditional physical education. If a learner had wanted a traditional experience, there are no shortage of options. We really do ourselves a disservice when we try to claim otherwise.

At the very least, OLPE can be a viable choice for people looking for an alternative to the traditional physical education experience. Ideally, it will be another powerful tool at our disposal as we work to educate another generation of young people. If our learners want a remote experience, let’s give them one.