Updated: Sep 4, 2021
Author: Katrina Oliver
With the relatively recent prevalence of digital technology, never has information and educational opportunities been so readily available. While most students still attend school the traditional way by attending a physical location, online schooling is quickly gaining in popularity. There are lots of great reasons why a family or student would choose to make the switch to exclusively digital education.
The traditional school day lacks any kind of flexibility. Students are expected to be present starting at an early hour and remain until the mid-afternoon, with their entire day scheduled down to the minute with each subject area being given a specific block of the day's time. However, with digital schooling, this kind of inflexible scheduling isn't a concern.
Online learning allows students to mostly set their own schedules. They can take breaks as needed throughout the day to help maintain their efforts, and they can focus on the subjects that most need their attention. Rather than only devoting a single 50 minute block of their day to math, an online student can devote several hours of their afternoon to learning a challenging new mathematical concept when needed, and make up for the lost time in their other subjects the next day by reallocating their time appropriately.
The public schooling system is notoriously difficult for children who are disabled or neurotypical. Even when children are given accommodations or special instruction, it's rare for them to get the help they need to be on the same level as their typically developed, able-bodied peers. When these students are denied the assistance they need, often they fail to reach their full potential, not out of a lack of ability but a lack of access.
Online schooling can be a game-changer for these students. Students can easily have their schedule and environment adapted to best suit their needs when the only requirement is access to a computer. Children who struggle with ADHD or autism can set up their environment so they can move and be comfortable throughout the day, enabling them to focus much better than sitting in a stiff chair. Children who struggle academically can spend more time going at their own pace with tutors or rereading over past material to help them keep up. Children with physical disabilities who need to spend a lot of time at therapies or doctor's appointments can easily rearrange their schooling schedule to accommodate those appointments, rather than having to miss out on instructional time.
One of the major struggles of large classroom sizes in standard education is that it fails to adjust for differing levels of learning taking place within the same classroom. In a typical science classroom, one student might be advanced enough that their time in class is boring and understimulating, which leads them to be frustrated and feel resentment towards the subject. Another student might feel like the pace of the class is far too quick and they never have time to ask questions or get clarification, causing them to fall far behind the rest of the class in content knowledge and fail the class.
Both of these students are better suited to online schooling. One of the great gifts of online schooling is that in each subject, students can go at their own pace. They can take as much or as little time as they need to learn each concept before moving on to the next one, setting their own pace to meet an appropriate level of challenge without boring or frustrating them. This is especially great for students who are very strong in certain subjects but struggle in others, such as a highly advanced reader and writer who has problems understanding math. That student can work as far ahead as they like in their literacy work while taking the time to work slowly and carefully through their math work to ensure they thoroughly understand each concept before moving on.
4. Greater options
The curriculum of a typical classroom rarely strays far outside of a given norm. While students can take certain elective classes to learn more about more niche subjects, it's rare for a history classroom to introduce many concepts outside of a very limited view, or for an English class to assign a new book that isn't commonly instructed. Because of this, students don't get a chance to explore new options or follow their own interests as a subject of their study.
However, with online learning, options widen considerably. If a student is interested in studying the history of ancient Roman culture rather than spending extra time working through early American history or would rather read a modern book over Great Expectations, they can make those decisions with their family. In fact, not only is that an option in online schooling, but there is an incredible amount of curriculum and study material available online for them to work with. Students can follow their own passions and enrich their learning far beyond the limited scope of knowledge offered by the curriculum in public education.
5. Time management skills
In a traditional education model, students have every detail of their time managed for them. The only task they are expected to manage on their own is homework, but even that is regimented with specific deadlines and homework hours. On some larger projects, students may even have the steps to completion managed for them, with due dates for things like having outlined their project, completed the first draft, or finished with revisions.
With online schooling, children are much more in control of their own day and managing their own time. While they may still have certain deadlines for projects or assignments, how they get there is entirely up to them. When doing online schooling, students learn critical time management skills that will be a massive boon to them in the real world. After all, it's rare for a professional adult to have their projects managed down to the minute. Adults are expected to know what their tasks are, have a sense of how much time and attention each task will task, and manage their time accordingly to make sure that everything gets done in a timely manner. This kind of skill is often a difficult one to learn for new adults, who have become acclimated through years of public schooling to have their time and attention managed for them. Students who participate in online school rarely have this problem, as they have spent their educational years practicing this skill carefully.
6. Technical literacy
Being able to adeptly use digital technology is as critical as any skill one could have in the modern world. In the 21st century, it's rare to see a workplace that doesn't heavily rely on platforms like Slack, Zoom, Google Suite, Basecamp, or Dropbox to share information and communicate with team members. Students who have spent their time in the traditional education system largely rely on low-tech methods for their work, and spend less time working on digital platforms. This kind of lack of familiarity with new technologies can cause a steep learning curve when entering the professional world for the first time.
However, this is not the case with students of online learning. Online students spend most of their time each day working on digital platforms, communicating virtually, and gaining a sense of fluency with technology. This prepares them well to transition seamlessly into the professional world and adapt to modern professional technology platforms.
7. Personal accountability
Most modern students simply perform the work that is placed in front of them, with no sense of agency over their own learning experience. Rarely if ever do they have the opportunity to guide, create, review, or reflect upon any part of their own learning. This kind of atmosphere lacks a sense of personal accountability for students, who aren't being encouraged to step up and take responsibility for their own education.
With the opportunities that online learning presents for self-guidance, students take on a much greater sense of personal responsibility and accountability for their own learning experience. This can include things such as choosing their own subjects of study, making their own schedule, evaluating their own needs, and analyzing their mistakes to learn from. This system puts much more trust in a student's ability to take charge of their own education and asks them to rise to the challenge. Students of online learning graduate with a greater work ethic, critical thinking, and personal responsibility.
While the world of online learning is relatively new, it's also an exciting new frontier that presents a wealth of opportunity for the young learner. Far beyond what is possible within the confines of the traditional educational model, children have the chance to grow up as self-possessed accomplished individual.