The pandemic ushered in an entirely new way of life for students: remote learning.
Students went from the classroom to their own homes, watching their teachers provide lessons from their computer screens in order to stay safe during such uncertain times. Remote learning was originally supposed to be a temporary fix, but many students spent over a year attending online classes. Some of these students saw their grades drop due to a lack of hands-on learning, while other students thrived with more independent work. This highlighted the fact that there are many students who do not fit into the mould of traditional school teaching and that there is a desperate need for a solution for these students.
After the pandemic, 42% of teens stated that they would prefer to attend high school virtually. 37% reported a desire for a hybrid model, but only 19% of students preferred a fully in-person school. Teens and their families report many different reasons for preferring a virtual learning experience, the most common reasons being a safer environment that led to less bullying, more family involvement in the learning experience, and providing a more flexible schedule. 60% of Americans believe that the traditional education system is failing today’s students - so what is the solution?
Professionally designed virtual schools offer a new learning design that fits the online model that teens prefer while also teaching the skills and lessons that students need to succeed. This new way of learning provides the flexibility that families prefer with virtual learning and is more time effective with online learning taking 40 to 60% less time than online formats. Virtual learning models also led to better performance in their students than face to face schools and are more future-focused with 1 in 2 faculty members believing online education is the future of learning.
Virtual schools are seeing great success in their students because they are providing the skills that students need via an accessible and comfortable model online. The most in-demand job skills in this day and age are analytical thinking and innovation, active learning and learning strategies, and creativity. Virtual schools push for students to learn new relationships between facts, question everything to discover the unknown, and change their focus in order to overcome new challenges. These focal points of their education model train students for the skills they will need in the workforce and lead to overall better performance.
One of the fundamental aspects of professionally designed virtual schools is the focus on deeper learning without grades. Grades often foster an ineffective relationship with school because students put in just enough work to earn their desired grades. This changes the focus to grades rather than the information that students are learning. Grades also create stress and higher stakes with 80% of students believing their parents care more about their grades than their happiness. Instead of grades, professionally designed virtual schools focus on descriptive feedback and mentorship in order to help students improve rather than giving letter grades. This fosters better behaviour in students both in school and at home and leads to better motivation in students to learn.
Some students still benefit from hands-on learning, and the best part of these new virtual schools is that many offer in-person classes and lessons, but they are optional meaning that students can choose to go if they think they will benefit but will not be punished if they choose not to attend. This in-person element provides strong social engagement for the students that need that aspect in school but does not force it onto students who do not feel comfortable in the social environment that school can have.
The beauty of online school and hybrid modelling is that there are many different ways that the curriculum can be modelled in order to fit all students' needs. Some students need more hands-on and project learning, while others thrive with independent work. Some students really need social engagement in schools while others can feel anxious or nervous in that environment. Professionally designed online schools provide a safe learning environment for all students no matter their needs while also providing the skills that they need to succeed in this new post-pandemic world. Students are our future, and it should be our highest priority to ensure they are receiving the best education they can.