Over the last month I have seen countless parents express their concerns for the 2020-2021 school year. Should students go back to school? Should students stay home? Should parents start to homeschool? For those parents trying to figure it out, I wanted to give you my honest thoughts as a virtual teacher and tutor in the hopes that I can shed some light on virtual learning.
- Virtual learning can be effective for special education students. In my opinion, this has been a hot topic over the last few months. I have worked incredibly close with schools, students and families with students with IEPs to ensure that all accommodations are met and supports provided (where I can). Just because a student is classified does not mean that he or she will not thrive in an online learning environment. With the proper guidance from teachers, case managers, tutors and parents, students can still fulfill all requirements needed to pass a course. It may take a little bit of time to figure out what works best, but virtual learning can be effective.
- Virtual learning requires organization. When students are in a brick and mortar school, they have a teacher in front of the class outlining the plan. With virtual learning, the information is all there too, but students may need to look at a handful of Google classrooms or web pages to find it. Some students prefer to keep an electronic planner (Google calendar, phone calendar) to record when assignments are due, while others may still prefer a paper planner. To make virtual learning effective, students need to be on top of their assignments, live lessons, teacher meetings, read alouds, etc., so keeping a calendar and being organized is imperative.
- Virtual learning requires discipline. Depending on the virtual program a student is enrolled in, he or she may heave to be online from 7-3 every day, or they may need to log 6 hours a day, etc. That’s a lot of time spent working on assignments, watching videos, participating in live lessons and more. It can get frustrating and overwhelming, but the work still needs to get done. Teachers are amazing at breaking down assignments for kids into manageable chunks, but kids still need to have the discipline to sit at home and get it done. This can be challenging for students of all ages. Just because the work is done online doesn’t mean it’s not time consuming.
- Virtual learning requires communication. This is the biggest component to virtual learning. In the classroom, I could always look at my students and know who may need a little help or clarification by the looks on their faces or interactions. This doesn’t happen in the virtual world. Even with live lessons, it may not always be easy for a teacher to see that a child needs help, which is why kids and parents need to communicate with teachers. Depending on the school/program, kids can message their teacher in their course, send a quick text, shoot an email, meet virtually, or even call their teacher. Normally I have kids email or text me with questions because that’s what they feel most comfortable doing. Without this communication virtual learning can be difficult.
- Virtual learning requires screen time. In an online learning environment, kids will have everything delivered electronically. The books they read may be in PDF form or lessons may be delivered through online modules. In some cases parents can print out materials, but sometimes that’s not an option or it would be an insane amount of paper and ink. I have had parents purchase paper copies of novels, but it’s important to realize that there will be A LOT of screen time and reading on a device.
- Virtual learning requires a lot of reading. Most of the time, students are responsible for reading posts, lessons, directions, comments, etc. from teachers and classmates. Depending on the program or teacher, there may be audio support, but there is still quite a bit of reading that students are required to do in order to complete assignments.
- Virtual learning can give students more choices. This is one of my favorite aspects of virtual learning. Kids love having a say in their education, especially when it comes to the classes they take. Virtual learning allows kids to explore new classes, languages, hobbies, and topics that they may not have been able to pursue in a brick and mortar school. For instance, as a virtual teacher I have taught an elective course on Social Media, which was not offered in many high schools.
- Virtual learning classes are taught by passionate teachers. I have taught in public, charter, and private schools, and just like in a brick and mortar, virtual teachers have such passion for their work. Teachers will go out of their way to create incredible supplemental activities, projects and assignments for their students at all grade levels. They are constantly communicating with parents about student progress, providing intervention services, and participating in professional development opportunities.
For more information also check out E-Learning: Setting Kids Up for Success
Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.
2 thoughts on “What Parents Should Know About Virtual Learning”
Hi, thank you for your article. My son’s school has chosen Edoptions academy and after looking into what I could find of the program I feel we will have to homeschool.
You stated the program works well for students with special needs, but I cannot see it working for my very unique son. He is diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, and TS, as well as being highly gifted (FSIQ above 99.9th %ile, 160 non-verbal IQ, 160 WIAT Math). He is at a high school reading and math level, but has behavior, attention, and work completion capabilities of a toddler. His IEP allows for all work to be scribed and a drastically reduced workload. (For instance, he answers one question while the rest of the class might do 20). He still fails to complete most of his work. His tics take up much of his time, and his internal and external distraction due to ASD and ADHD further limit his output. Screen time is something we also very much avoid for him. His special interests are meteorology and piano and getting him off those subjects can be difficult, he’s constantly looking out the windows and composing songs in his head.
How can this child do online learning? When I informed the district we will be homeschooling until covid is under control they said we then forfeit his IEP services such as speech and social skills. I’d love to make EdOptions work somehow so we can keep getting services. My son was doing Beast Academy 5th grade last year (provided by me) and getting some level of enrichment in other subjects as well. He’s going into 5th grade. His next math stop should be algebra (MAP score in 3rd grade of 258 on the 6+, didn’t take since then). It doesn’t look like high school or middle school courses are even open to elementary students. So, I’m guessing my 5th grader won’t be able to take algebra I with a tests only, no practice needed approach?
Really want to do what’s best for my child, he needs his IEP services, but he also needs a low stress school day with appropriate work and output requirements that he can meet. If you have any input or advice I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you.