As thousands of schools across the country close to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many schools are considering transferring students to online learning for the rest of the semester. I attended an online school myself and while I enjoyed it, there are some things I wish I knew before I enrolled. Here are some important things to consider as many students transition to online learning experiences.
Before we discuss the pros and cons of online school, it’s important to know that not all forms of online learning are the same. Some schools, like the one I went to, use an independent, third-party program that manages the course curriculum, assignments, and grading. Programs like this utilize pre-recorded lectures, so students are encouraged to work at their own pace. Conversely, there are some schools that try mimicking in-person school using scheduled video calls with teachers. These programs aim at providing a more structured online school system featuring attendance, deadlines, and nightly homework. How exactly your child’s online learning is facilitated will depend on the program that your school is adopting for the duration of the closure.
Now that you know that online schools vary, here are the pros and cons, from my perspective:
- Self-Paced. Self-paced courses allow students to take as much time as they need to master course content. These programs tend to be extremely popular since they provide students the opportunity to get ahead and even graduate early.
- New Skills. Students in online courses will quickly learn responsibility, independence, and time management skills. Learning these skills at a younger age can be extremely beneficial, as it will prepare them for the future including online college courses and even, their future career.
- Positive Learning Environment. There is no need to worry about bullying, social cliques, or peer pressure when your student works from home.
- Lack of Social Interaction. Schools play a critical role in teaching students social and emotional skills, but unfortunately for online schools, interactions with other people is greatly limited or eliminated entirely. Online schools limit all other social interactions to lectures with teachers, or worse, no social interactions at all.
- Limited Access to Teacher Support. When students need help, they must email their teacher or schedule a meeting with them later in the week. This puts a halt on the learning process, as waiting for a response can take hours or even days.
- Requires Lots of Motivation. Personal motivation is a requirement for online school. This can be taught over time, but if your student doesn’t have the initial drive to learn, they may struggle with online schooling.
Online learning is a useful alternative that will continue the education process during school closures, but it may not be an easy adjustment for everyone. It’s important to support students the best we can during these difficult times. I hope this information will help you and your student make the most of their time during school closures.