In 2020, many families have had an extraordinary experience of online learning around the world as the pandemic shut down physical schools for extended periods. All things were far from equal. Many low-income families lacked the data and devices needed to properly connect their children; while the middle class and up could make a much easier transition and better avoid learning disruptions.
Some schools were adept at putting curricula, educators and learners online; others had few ideas about online educational pedagogy and were floundering, even though they were well-resourced schools. Some parents have seen their children thrive through thick and thin, which was instructive; others were very stressed about being chosen as tutors and overseeing day-to-day learning.
Online learning and the myths that come with it
While there is relief in COVID recovery times that kids can go back to school and parents can go back to work, this experience of how the digital world has eased the challenges of the real world is there for stay.
While online and blended learning were once mostly new and untested, they are now mainstream options for today’s families with much more choice.
Free from physical geography, online school offers more options for curriculum, access to educators, and much broader learning options that can possibly take place within the walls of a classroom.
For Mark Anderson, director and co-founder of the online school, Koa Academy, it’s not about an online or physical affair, but about who is delivering relevant, quality teaching and learning that is right for you. the best for your family.
Here he busts 3 common myths around online schooling:
I will have to teach my child – “Online learning has a distinct pedagogy and online teachers have special skills to facilitate learning on the digital platform. It’s the job of the professional teacher to guide your child through the curriculum, and that doesn’t change at all in the online environment. Parents have the same role when it comes to their child’s learning whether they are in a physical school or an online school.
My child will not be socialized – “Parents should choose a school, online or physical, that aligns with their values and goals for their child’s education and school experience. Socializing at school involves intentionally creating and maintaining a high-engagement environment. There are physical schools that do well at this, and others that don’t. The same goes for online schools.
Qualification is not equal or as robust – “Online schools offer the same recognized programs and degrees as physical schools. Like all aspects of our lives in these times of rapid change, schooling and higher education are transforming and being disrupted by better ideas and improved tools. As parents, we are challenged to keep abreast of these developments and to recognize that our child’s future upbringing and education will and should be different from what we have experienced. The world has changed and continues to change rapidly and dramatically, and it is the role of school to prepare our children for the real world they will encounter in adulthood.
Digital learning, fully online or blended, has always been where the world was headed. COVID hasn’t changed direction, it’s only picked up the pace. Technology in education has the potential to solve many deeply rooted BIG problems in education – accessibility and equity, quality and relevance. Anderson adds,
“We also need to properly consider that we are educating generations who are digital natives. We want to prepare them to participate and succeed in the real world – that’s what education is all about, no matter the era. Well, the real world for this generation, and those to come, is a world that encompasses a significant digital realm.
Their education must include instruction, guidance and experience on how to be a responsible digital citizen, because their reality and professional future will not be limited to the material world. An online or blended learning approach is entirely appropriate and beneficial in these times, and it is a benefit for families to have this range of choice when making decisions about their children’s education.
There has been a view with the easing of COVID restrictions, that online schools will not be sustainable. It is true that some will not, especially those who stick to a more traditional vision of education. However, the rise of the digital realm that permeates all aspects of our lives means that online and blended learning will be an increasingly important feature of global education – from early childhood through higher education.
In Anderson’s view, parents considering online school options should adopt the same level of judgment when considering any other learning options for their children.
Here are Mark Anderson’s t’sips for parents when choosing an online school:
Align yourself with your family values – “Think about what you want for your children in terms of their education. If social-emotional learning is important to you, research high-engagement online school options. If experiencing a school community resonates with your family values, then look to online schools that are active in building community online and offline. Learn about the school’s values and find the one that best matches your family values.
School Financial Security – “This rating is no different than how you would rate any of the physical private school options in South Africa. Pay attention to the planned scaling to determine if it is a a sustainable business model Make sure fees don’t increase too quickly Consider the financial ramifications if there are physical campuses involved.
Do due diligence – “Making appointments with school leaders and meeting them face to face – digital meetings are also real connections. Just because a school is online doesn’t mean it has to be opaque. You don’t sign up for “a platform”, you sign up your child for school. Ask your burning questions and track referrals.
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