As more schools across the country open for in-person classes, there’s no doubt that online learning has become more commonplace as a result of the pandemic. Families are viewing online school as more than just a temporary option, but many still are thrown off because of public misconceptions
Below are the top three myths I hear as an online school teacher, and the real truth about virtual learning I see every day.
Myth: Online school is the same as homeschool. This is a very common misconception—I have probably said the same thing prior to my experience as an online teacher. Both options provide flexibility in learning outside of the brick-and-mortar environment. However, there are some key differences.
In homeschooling, the parents both build the curriculum and serve as instructors. With online school, the curriculum is established by a public or private virtual academy and parents act as learning coaches alongside hired teachers. These teachers serve as a resource for both the students and their learning coaches.
Both options require parents to be more hands-on than they would be with a brick-and-mortar school. Homeschooling gives complete control to the parent, while online schools do follow state school requirements, provide socialization opportunities and relinquish much of the teaching responsibility to a teacher. But the outcome is the same—the instruction is tailored to the student, and parents have autonomy in their child’s education.
Myth: Students won’t develop social skills in online school. Just like in brick-and-mortar schools, online schools provide plenty of opportunities for students to socialize in and out of the “classroom,” perhaps even more so because of its digital setting.
The truth is students do make friends and have peer interaction within the virtual classes. Their learning goals are the same, and this shared goal connects students regardless of location.
In addition, the teacher is able to create a community that serves to bolster students’ academics as well as their sense of belonging. I personally do this through weekly “class connects,” hosting monthly social events, and keeping a virtual bulletin board where we share some of the students’ hobbies outside of school.
Outside of class, in a pre- and post-pandemic world, online schools offer extracurricular activities just as any physical school would, such as clubs, field trips, game nights, talent shows, and so much more. And often, students have more time for purposeful play, interactions, and activities outside of school because they are able to complete their schoolwork at their level and their pace.
Myth: Online school only works for student athletes and performers on the road. Yes, there are high-powered students who benefit from the schedule of an online school to train for a sport or tour the world. But online schools also serve students of various cultural backgrounds, some who attend religious school each day, military families, students with special medical or academic needs, many with safety concerns around COVID-19, those who have been bullied, and more!
The online learning environment is incredibly diverse, and students can only benefit from being exposed to peers with unique personal stories and reasons for choosing online school.
Truth: Online School Works! Any changes and decisions regarding the education of your children are scary regardless of the situation. Charter, private, magnet and online are all choices that parents are presented with, each with their own pros, cons, myths, and truths. Parents know their children better than anyone, and these education options give parents the ability to apply this knowledge towards their own child’s learning while being given the resources, structure, and curriculum to ensure that they are supporting their unique academic needs.
Online learning creates an individual path for each student and allows families to tailor the instruction to their social, academic, and emotional needs. Students are able to learn the way that they and their families feel is best, and that in itself makes them a success.
Amanda Morley teaches 3rd grade reading and math at Virginia Virtual Academy. She currently lives in Valrico, FL.
To learn more about Virginia Virtual Academy, visit vava.k12.com.