There are many people who have never used a textbook. They don’t know what they’re missing. They just don’t get it. The thing is that many of these people are actually quite smart. They’re well educated and talented, and yet they’re still sitting in a classroom in far off suburbs or even in the middle of nowhere.
Remote learning, or online education, is the use of technology to provide education to learners who are not in a traditional classroom setting. It is often thought of as providing a superior educational experience in comparison to traditional education. Remote learning has been around for quite some time, yet it has recently been making a comeback, especially in urban areas that don’t provide easy access to traditional education.
The cost of a college education continues to rise, and student loan debt is now at a record high of $1.4 trillion. For some, it’s just not worth the cost.
It’s no secret that the term distance learning is synonymous with frustration for many families who have been dealing with the horror stories of Zoom classes and the pandemonium of Google projects for over a year. But for others, the Pandora’s box of distance learning has opened up a powerful new vision of what learning can be. Thousands of students are now realizing the untapped potential of traditional teaching methods.
Remote control options have reassured parents of children with chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Some have even argued that e-learning can play an important role in removing – or at least not exacerbating – existing health and education inequalities in black and brown communities. Although the demand for distance learning is declining this fall thanks to a drop in cases and the successful introduction of a vaccine, you know where the legendary Pandora myth ends.
Now that distance learning has made its appearance, there is no going back. Whether it’s concerns about the new COVID-19 options or a simple preference for homeschooling, a new group of parent activists is already fighting back against school districts that waive distance learning options for families who want them and have a multimillion-dollar claim: Who can parents turn to for quality distance learning this fall? This is a serious problem that seems to have been overlooked by large school districts that plan to abandon virtual learning programs next year.
In New York City, where academies for gifted and talented students, bilingual programs, school district and non-school district schools, special education schools and fine arts schools abound, there are no distance learning opportunities this fall. The same thing happens next door in New Jersey, where students have to return five days a week. Chicago schools will be open full time, with limited exceptions for distance learning; students without medical clearance are out of luck. Even in states like Massachusetts and Connecticut, where educational opportunities abound, virtual opportunities are limited this fall, despite parental interest.
Advocates like Lakisha Young, co-founder and executive director of The Oakland REACH, a nonprofit that works with black families in Oakland, California, on education issues, question whether students should be expelled from school after more than a year of homeschooling. I am concerned that we are forcing children to go back to school when their parents don’t want them to, without a real plan on how we are going to improve things for them personally. Lakisha Yang. But the real issue isn’t just access to remote options this fall, it’s access to quality options.
Oakland families can take solace in the fact that the state still offers distance learning plans to families who want them, but these options have been criticized for pushing students with poor results out of the classroom and for not being held accountable for results. Parents should not settle for distance learning programs that tick a few boxes but do not provide students with a quality education. However, while schools have been forced to redouble their efforts to implement distance learning and strive for better results, district interest seems to be waning daily. Who helps families bridge the gap? Indianapolis, a city with a long history of school choice, is taking a new approach to distance education.
All Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) students who want to learn remotely this fall must enroll in one of the district’s virtual charter schools. And while reformers are often skeptical of these virtual schools because of their power, some claim that they can reach places that other schools cannot. If this is indeed the case, they may end up in a real treat. And since distance learning is the only option for virtual academies, their leaders are practically forced to make sustainable choices. These are schools that want to be around for the long haul, not just survive from year to year until the pandemic subsides.
For parents, it may be better than what cities like Miami and Houston have to offer in the fall: Distance learning for the families who want it, but with no guarantee that such programs will be set up permanently. That’s why Indy’s approach may offer some insight into what the future of distance education will look like – if, of course, virtual charter schools can finally shake off their bad reputation and meet the demands of parents. But the root of the problem actually lies deeper than that. Where there is no vision, people go under.
If traditional systems fail to capitalize on what they have learned over the past year – that is, if they continue to see virtual learning as a new struggle for survival rather than an opportunity to thrive – other options will emerge. This article was first published on Project Forever Free. Photo insta_photos, Adobe Stock-licensed.There are still a lot of parents who want to give their children a little more hands-on learning experience as they grow up. As a result, many schools are expanding their virtual learning programs—often guided by a smartphone app that can communicate with a student’s phone or tablet. But, as this recent article at the New York Times points out, many families aren’t happy with the current state of such programs – they often require parents to leave their children in the classroom for long periods of time, and don’t give enough attention to the hands-on side of things.. Read more about will virtual learning continue after covid and let us know what you think.