As students, parents, and teachers have struggled to adapt to the emergency measures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 has been perhaps the most disruptive year for education in living memory. But it has also been a major experiment in online learning.
For years, education experts have predicted that the future of schooling will be digital. As cities across the continent have experienced lockdowns that closed entire school boards, many of these theories about the potential of eLearning have been put to the test.
As the year draws to a close, a few things have become clear:
- Classrooms cannot simply be moved online without adjustments
- Specialized eLearning tools are essential for effective learning
- With the right support, online education can be a viable alternative to the classroom
This is good news for parents who are considering switching to online schooling - but it also raises questions about how to identify which online schools are best situated to guarantee positive education outcomes for the current school year.
What Successful Online Schools Have in Common
Online education has been around for nearly as long as the Internet, and not all virtual schools are equally effective. Those that have distinguished themselves have put a great deal of effort into crafting eLearning models that allow students to pursue their studies independently, while also offering robust academic support.
Crucially, successful online schools are able to strike the right balance between allowing students to move through the material at their own pace, while providing trained, certified teaching staff able to monitor progress, provide nuanced feedback, and step in when they notice that a child is falling behind.
Good virtual schools also provide specialized teaching tools and narrated video lessons that help students of all learning types master the curriculum.
The Advantages of eLearning
When done right, eLearning can be an even more effective option than traditional classroom-based schooling.
Every student learns at their own pace, and juggling the needs and learning styles of twenty to thirty students has long been one of the biggest challenges of conventional schooling. One of the key advantages of eLearning is that students at either end of the bell curve can process new information in a time-frame that is comfortable for them.
A gifted student may be able to complete a class like grade 12 advanced functions in a matter of weeks, while a student who needs more time can take up to six months to complete that same credit.
This doesn't just provide a more comfortable way of learning - it can also be transformative for children who sometimes struggle to keep up with their peers. Instead of falling into the trap of believing they aren't smart enough to handle the material, they have the encouragement and support necessary to build confidence and develop their problem-solving skills.
With many cities in North America going into a second lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge, parents are starting to explore more sustainable options for schooling that will help ensure their children don't fall behind in the coming year.
For many, the born-digital curriculum and dedicated teaching support established virtual schools can offer are an increasingly appealing alternative to the uncertainty of working with a local school board. What this means for the future of education has yet to be seen, but there is no question this experience with eLearning will play a significant role in shaping how education evolves in the years to come.