Originally published in Traverse City Record Eagle on May 20, 2023
In the aftermath of COVID and the pandemic precautions that prompted most school systems to make a hasty pivot to an online instructional model, there has been some unfortunate pushback against the entire concept of virtual learning.
But judging the value of virtual learning based on the experiences of stressed students and unprepared teachers during a crisis is a mistake. As an educator with experience in both traditional classrooms and virtual learning environments, I can personally attest to the transformative power of virtual learning for many students facing challenges to success in traditional classroom setting.
Growing numbers of families and students have discovered that virtual learning can provide the safety, structure, service and support to help them achieve academic success and personal growth.
In my conversations with parents and kids over the years, I hear familiar themes when they talk about why online learning is a good fit for them. One of the most common is safety and security. The peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that your kids are safe at home during the school day is hugely important for many families.
Students who perform better with extra attention or fewer distractions often thrive in virtual learning environments. The stability and increased degree of personal attention that virtual learning environments provide means those students can maintain their focus and learn at their own pace.
For students with disabilities or significant health challenges, online learning offers an educational experience that meets their unique needs in ways brick-and-mortar schools never could.
For a student of mine with cerebral palsy for example, virtual learning enables her to get an outstanding education from the comfort of home. Because virtual learning offers personalized attention and specialized educational support, it actually benefits in-person learners as well. Educators don’t have to devote extra time or attention to dealing with disruptions or individualized needs.
Unfortunately, at a time when some politicians — including some right here in Michigan — are advocating for dramatic budget cuts to virtual learning programs, the online educational resources that have been a life-changer for so many Michigan families are now imperiled.
Tens of thousands of students who count on the personalized instruction and educational opportunities available to them through virtual learning programs — structured academic lessons from dedicated and experienced state-certified teachers — will suffer.
My hope is that the growing popularity and sophistication of virtual education platforms will help us avoid this potentially damaging misstep.
My hope is that teachers who recognize the power and potential of virtual learning will speak up and speak out in support of this unique and valuable educational platform; and that Michigan’s leaders will recognize that value and preserve these critical programs.
About the author: Carrie Meyers is a special education case manager for seventh graders Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy — a full-time online public school for K–12 students. With more than 20 years of experience in the field, Meyers has worked with students of all ages in virtual and traditional classrooms.
To learn more about Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, visit https://mglva.k12.com/.