Virtual Academies: A Potential Option for the Future
By CARRI GRAHAM
After much of the school year has been spent in virtual academies, officials are determining whether it could provide a more viable option in the future.
Most students have participated in virtual learning throughout the past school year due to schools experiencing closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although many schools are back to in-class learning or hybrid schedules – combining both in school learning and virtual learning — some believe it could be a viable option in the future as well.
Dr. Kristin Stewart, head of school of the Ohio Virtual Learning Academy, said virtual academies help to provide a consistent platform for learning.
“This last school year has changed everything in education, and it has shown us that Ohio families need a consistent platform to help move their child’s education forward,” she said.
Stewart said virtual learning allows students to be better prepared to handle technology, working in teams, problem-solving on their own, and even get possible career training.
“All designed to give them an early start on their future,” she added.
Ohio County School District Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Miller said she has been happy with the benefits online learning has provided over the past several months and its ability to keep students connected amid the pandemic.
“It’s been very beneficial during the pandemic so that when kids are having to move in and out of the classroom whether that be to quarantine or if they’ve tested positive or whatever the situation, they’re able to stay right in contact with their own classroom teacher,” she said.
Students are able to have virtual learning with their classroom teachers which has made for a smooth transition from the classroom to online instruction, Miller said.
Although virtual learning has its advantages, Miller said she feels face-to-face in school instruction is the most beneficial way for students to learn.
JoJo Shay, innovations coordinator for the Ohio County School District, said virtual learning is on demand and provides students with an accessible learning mechanism. Many students are familiar with technology and instructional videos and some may prefer that learning style, she said.
Additionally, virtual learning has helped students build time management skills.
Students have to determine how long it will take them to compete and turn in an assignment in a timely fashion, Shay said.
It also allows continued learning when students or faculty cannot be in the classroom.
“The availability of when we can’t be here (in the classroom), we’re able to still deliver instruction,” she said.
“If a student is unable to be in class, you can live stream them in. I think that’s an advantage that we didn’t’ explore a lot before.”
Shay said once the school year has ended, the district will be more equipped to determine the effectiveness of virtual academies and whether they could be an option for some students in the future.
“I think it’s going to be really important at the end of this school year to talk to all of our stakeholders – our parents, our students, our teachers – to find out what has really worked,” she said. “I think time will tell.”
Shay said the district will determine what has worked best for students and faculty prior to making decisions moving forward with virtual learning.
Thus far, the district has received both positive and negative feedback involving virtual learning, she said.
“Just like with everything, it works really well for some students and then for other students – and I think that applies to every level whether it’s elementary, middle or highschool – for some students, it’s much more difficult to get motivated when there’s nobody there with you,” she said.
Shay said it all depends on the student, how the student learns, and what kind of support they have.