The COVID-19 pandemic is by no means over. But as more of the vulnerable population is vaccinated, there is a sense that we will be returning to “normal.” In schools normal would likely be defined as in-person classes as opposed to online ones. While in-person classes will return and have started to already, it would be foolish to assume that necessarily coincides with the demise of e-learning.
Most schools are already back to at-least hybrid models where parents have the option of sending their children back to school in-person. Many students and families are not taking that option. There is obviously the fact that some of them are worried about safety. We shut down schools for months over safety concerns, but fear of the coronavirus is not the reason many people are choosing to stick with e-learning. Some students and families just like it better.
There are a few reasons that someone would grow to prefer e-learning:
Every e-learning model and online platform is different but a lot of families like the flexibility. This is especially true when it comes to time. I noticed when I was recording videos and posting assignments a sizeable chunk of the class engaged with the material outside of traditional school hours. There is research to back up the positive impact of doing schoolwork later in the day, but that’s not possible in a traditional rigid model governed by buses and a parent’s workday.
Children who faced bullying while i- person are among those who have expressed a preference for e-learning. It’s not like cyberbullying isn’t a thing, but “The Host” is borderline omnipotent in a zoom classroom, and if a student limits their interaction with their peers outside of that setting, they can very much avoid some of the traditional bullying hot-spots. Some who have been bullied in the past are actually more outgoing with their online personas than they are in-person.
If your child constantly got in trouble while in person you may notice e-learning works better for them, too. There are a ton of different behaviors, so every child with behavior issues won’t have a renaissance during e-learning. However, for a lot of families the flexibility of the day, the comfort of their own home, and the distance from peers is the sweet spot they needed to be successful. Some of my best e-learners were my most difficult in-person learners.
If a child has significant academic needs or task avoidant behaviors, an online setting may not be best for them. I have plenty of students who have elected e-learning as their setting and have not even logged on. (Which unfortunately is not uncommon) In most of these student’s cases, I have personally confirmed that their lack of work completion and participation is not the result of technology gaps.
E-learning isn’t for everyone, but it doesn’t have to be. In the past, a preference for online school would have meant nothing. But in a post-COVID-19 environment in conjunction with school-choice, if there are enough people who prefer the digital experience to the brick-and-mortar one, there will likely be someone who steps up to meet the demand. Many districts have already said as much. We will likely see the beginning of this in the summer with remediation pushes for students who are behind.
School will get back to “normal,” but there is going to be a new normal that includes online options and online extensions.