With the advent of computers and internet technology, it was only a matter of time before it was put to use in schools. It seemed like a perfect fit. Schools are often under-resourced and understaffed. Computers can close those gaps.
But unfortunately, due to scandals and bad results, the reputation of virtual learning has taken a hit. Virtual classrooms will never replace brick and mortar ones. But if virtual learning settings are used in the right way and the right context, they can be effective.
There a number of benefits to virtual learning:
A normal classroom setting can’t meet every student at their exact level, but a computer program can. When programs are used in conjunction with real face to face teaching, they can be instrumental in closing academic gaps. Particularly, programs can give immediate feedback and self-paced options which is hard to replicate otherwise.
Increased availability and access
Web-based programs and applications give a student the ability to access their coursework and learning from anywhere. This also offers opportunities for remote learning for students who can’t make it to a certain place or live far away.
There is obviously the cost of the technology and equipment but typically those expenses pale in comparison to the cost of hiring an actual person. This is a big selling point for schools that have already invested in computers.
There are obvious downsides to digital learning too. The biggest one being the fact that it relies on the motivation of the student more than a traditional classroom setting. Because of this, many schools opt for a hybrid approach where students receive instruction from teachers and work independently on their own. Either way, the potential is there.
We have seen virtual schools done wrong recently. And because we live in a culture where people are likely to throw the baby out with the bathwater, many are ready to give up on the concept. However, this is not the appropriate response. Instead of discarding the concept altogether, we should invest more time and energy into figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Districts may need to provide more oversight to ensure schools are on the up and up, but it’s important to remember that a couple of scandals and bad results is not an indictment of the whole concept.