TeachersWhat is your opinion of virtual schools at the middle and high school level?

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mrs-nelson's profile pic

mrs-nelson | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I believe secondary distance learning is best accomplished as a hybrid of both virtual and face-to-face learning.  We think that utilizing a teacher from within our school to run the virtual class/es would be a good fit.  Students do need our support, encouragement and expertise.  We all have that top 20% that would do fine completely on their own.  But most students would benefit from a teacher available when they need assistance in their own time and pace (which is the MAIN reason I believe in distance learning: students working at their own pace).   I agree with holding at least two lab classes per week, having diverse office hours and being available via e-mail, text or discussion board after normal school hours.  This sounds much like what we all experience at the next level...college. 

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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For the incredibly organized and self-motivated child, this type of instruction may be great, but I teach a lot of students (seniors!) who are still actively learning how be more organized, more motivated (to some degree), less procrastinating, and less self-absorbed.  The independent nature of the most virtual learning is probably the greatest challenge.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Before I switched professions and became a teacher, my younger son spent a year in a cyberschool, in 8th grade.  It was a disappointing experience for him and for me.  He became an almost total recluse, and the curriculum was not at all challenging.  I realize that curricula vary and that I should not judge the entire concept on one particular experience.  But it is difficult for me to see how learning can be individualized much in this milieu, and I do believe quite strongly that all learning must be individualized to some degree.  I also agree with those who have mentioned the social aspect of a school on the ground.  Monthly field trips are no replacement for day to day interaction with one's peers in real time and space.  Once we enrolled my son in a "real" high school, it took him a while, but he became a social person again. For me, this was a profound learning experience, showing me what kind of teaching I did not want to do.

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In my opinion, I think that students miss the human component in a virtual classroom setting. If students could succeed on their own, would we have seen more success with students instructing themselves out of a textbook?

Certainly there are simulations on computers that can better describe certain phenomenon where simple verbal explanations cannot compete, however, the human component makes things more memorable to students, especially when there is classroom discussion. And somehow, the humor and vibrancy of the realtime classroom is lost when posting and reading comments online.

For some students, it might work very well, but for the majority of students, I would think it would not be engaging and memorable enough. Combining some virtual learning with the more traditional classroom might be just the thing.

 

mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Virtual schools for all middle school and high school students? No. As in most areas, either/or, "one size fits all" isn't a good approach. Perhaps Ben Franklin was correct, and moderation is the key, after all. When there is a good fit (subject/student/ particular class), virtual instruction can be very effective in helping students achieve mastery of subject matter. However, the development of some skills requires person-to-person instruction with immediate feedback.

What bothers me most about virtual instruction is that it eliminates a very important kind of feedback, the human factor. A teacher's obvious excitement and joy when a student struggles and succeeds is invaluable feedback; staying physically by a student's side and coaching him/her through a learning process is invaluable feedback. An encouraging smile is invaluable feedback. There is a certain mystery in learning that cannot be programmed. Finding the most effective balance between virtual classes and traditional student/teacher instruction should be the goal.

trophyhunter1's profile pic

trophyhunter1 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I agree with many of my colleagues above...this sort of distance learning has its purpose.  For instance, the school where I work only offers French and Spanish for foreign language.  However, on KYVS, German, Japanese, and Latin are also offered.  Students may also choose to take AP courses that we do not offer on campus, or other types of classes such as credit recovery.  Virtual schools could help students catch up on credits or advance themselves in order to satisfy a need to learn and be challenged which may not be offered in their current on-campus experiences.  Virtual school can also be an amazing aide and help to home-school programs.

On the other hand, Virtual school require immense self-discipline and organization skills.  This is sometimes lacking in middle and some high school students, therefore causing frustration.

I have no problem with virtual lessons online, but, not as the only way for students to learn. There has to be some interaction in person to help with socialization which is something you cannot learn online. I think kids today are already pretty isolated with XBox, computers and all the other stuff that keeps them from actually interacting with other people in the same place and at the same time. So, my opinion is that if someone is prevented from attending regular school due to health concerns, then this is a great way to stay connected. But, if a student does not have these issues, traditional school is still best.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I agree with many of my colleagues above...this sort of distance learning has its purpose.  For instance, the school where I work only offers French and Spanish for foreign language.  However, on KYVS, German, Japanese, and Latin are also offered.  Students may also choose to take AP courses that we do not offer on campus, or other types of classes such as credit recovery.  Virtual schools could help students catch up on credits or advance themselves in order to satisfy a need to learn and be challenged which may not be offered in their current on-campus experiences.  Virtual school can also be an amazing aide and help to home-school programs.

On the other hand, Virtual school require immense self-discipline and organization skills.  This is sometimes lacking in middle and some high school students, therefore causing frustration.

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Virtual schools certainly have their purpose. I've taken some via college courses. Personally, I prefer the opportunity to meet the instructor and other students face-to-face. The interaction is more synergistic. However, in some cases the virtual class enables students to participate in classes they might never have had a chance to take otherwise.

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rskardal | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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When I was young, we took classes by IITV, which is basically a camera feed from the teacher to the students and vice versa. I did not like it at the time, though I will admit that I was part of a trial group. It's not the greatest to be part of the learning curve if you are a student. Since becoming a teacher, I've done quite a lot of teaching using online learning communities and have found it more versatile that I would have expected. I have not taught at a virtual school, but given my OLC experiences, I would really like to try it.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I have taught at a virtual school since last year, and I teach at a virtual university.  I think that the quality of the school depends on the curriculum and how the school is organized. I teach at a charter school with a solid, completely virtual curriculum.  This is different than a school that tries to use regular curriculum and just have teachers and students interact online. 

Teaching online can be challenging, but it is very valuable for some types of students.  Students who are independent workers, especially those who are gifted and trying to get ahead, thrive in a well-designed online classroom.  Students who are bedridden, athletes, performers, rural or have other difficulties attending school regularly are also prime candidates. 

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When I taught in an online school, the biggest problem was that a lot of the worse students were using it to try to make up credits that they'd already failed.  This meant that we had a lot of the students who most needed help and most needed direction and who had the hardest time learning by reading.

In that case, an online school is really bad.  It's one of the worst possible set ups for kids who aren't self-starters and who don't read well.  I suppose that second part might be changing now with more people having broadband and that might improve things (if the school has the resources to tape the instructors giving lectures that is).  But online learning is clearly not for everyone.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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It really depends on how you look at schools in the first place.  I tend to think that most real "learning" takes place outside of classrooms and in the interactions students have with one another.   But I also think it is really valuable for them to interact face-to-face with adults, etc., so the increased isolation of cyber schools isn't necessarily a good thing.  In terms of learning content/mastering standards though, it is at least as valid in my mind.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I see this phenomenon as more of a neutral force that can be good or bad, depending on how it is used. E-learning, done well, definitely promotes mutual teamwork and communication between different students, and a variety of technologies allow for forum postings, instant communication and shared assignments. However, at the same time, virtual is and will never be the same as being in the real classroom and being able to share your ideas at that moment with other learners.

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howesk | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Of course, extra curricular activities can be experienced in other places besides school... YMCA, church, community centers, so I suppose it could be argued that students can gain social experience elsewhere...

howesk's profile pic

howesk | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I think there has to be something lost in virutal schooling. Part of high school is learning how to interact socially with peers and elders and gain responsibility for your actions. Through elementary school, parents are generally more involved. In middle and high school, though, it becomes more important for students to make their own choices and decisions not just in academics, but in everything they do during the school day. I think some of this is lost with doing all school work independently at home.

On a solely academic basis though, I'm not sure. I'd love to know if any professors have encountered students with online education versus traditional education would be able to compare.

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