As technology access and tools increase all around us, the next logical steps in the education world might be virtual schools.
These are schools that students can “attend” online via their computer, receive instruction, complete coursework, and, if all goes well, graduate from. Students would never have to leave the comfort of their own homes. Many colleges and universities offer online courses and some even offer degree programs that are completed entirely online.
While these virtual schools—and several do exist—can be beneficial to certain populations of students, on the whole, I do not advocate for them.
I can see virtual schools being beneficial for homeschooled students in which they can complete a course or two online that their parents can’t provide. I would think students with severe emotional, behavioral, or medical problems might benefit from being out of the classroom and in a virtual school.
However, for the majority of the student population, I do not believe virtual schools would be best.
1. In virtual schools, students do not have in person contact with a trusted adult who cares for them and their well-being. Schools do more than just educate students. We provide eye exams, hearing screenings, free/reduced lunch programs, and simply a caring and trusted adult in the classroom that the student can turn to. A virtual school can’t provide these needs.
2. Social skills and character education can’t be taught well over a computer. Certainly, they can be taught. Students can watch videos about what it means to be a friend or how to apologize to someone after you have done something wrong. On the other hand, how to give a sincere apology is better learned on the playground or in a classroom after students have said something hurtful to each other. Character-building experiences cannot truly occur outside the context of the situation.
3. Virtual schools cannot easily provide collaborative opportunities for students. We are currently working on putting together a school-wide Cultural Fair at my school. Each class has a different country to research and prepare a performance. Students are working together on their displays and projects and are enjoying the entire process. How would this experience look in a virtual school? I’m not sure.
What are your thoughts on virtual schools? Let us know in the comments.