In the blink of an eye, the coronavirus profoundly changed how our nation’s children are educated. When schools abruptly moved to remote learning in March, it would have been impossible to imagine that millions of children across the country would spend their fall once again learning in front of computer screens.
But I see a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. I’d even go so far as to predict when we get to the other side of this crisis, we will see remote learning as an integral part of our nation’s educational fabric.
As a 20-year veteran of tutoring and teaching high school and college students as well as the founder of an e-learning platform used by a wide range of students nationwide, I have seen first-hand the advantages of virtual learning and its potential to circumvent some of the roadblocks common in a traditional learning environment—and even help ambitious students of all backgrounds get ahead.
One of the most obvious benefits of online learning is that it encourages students to learn at their own pace. In a traditional classroom setting, all students are given the same, pre-set amount of time to take in information, leaving faster learners bored and with time to daydream, while others struggle to digest the information. Often, these students leave the classroom feeling confused or even embarrassed.
Online learning removes these artificial time-clock barriers, freeing up students to learn at their own pace, re-watch lessons on particularly challenging topics, or move on to something new depending on their individual needs.
Digital learning also forces students to reflect upon and understand their personal learning styles. Do I like to work in the morning or the evening? Do I prefer doing math or English first? Does it help if I take notes by hand or on the computer?
In a traditional classroom, the answers to these questions are often decided for students by adults in the classroom or at a distant administrative office. In contrast, online learning removes these 20th century structures, freeing up students to explore and discover what works best for them. The freedom to help guide one’s education is a powerful tool as they move on to college where time is less structured and independent study is essential for success.
Helping students understand their personal learning pace and effective study habits also builds life skills, such as time management, setting and honoring a schedule, and meeting deadlines. This might be the first time many students have been expected to execute these skills on their own, often deferring to schedules and priorities set by others. Online learning helps to build independence and the ability to chart one’s own path forward.
Remote learning offers more unstructured time that older students can use to begin planning ahead for the college admissions process. Think about it: most students first learn about colleges online anyway. An e-visit done right might include a virtual campus tour, the opportunity to sit in on a recorded lecture, a detailed scan of class offerings, and independent reviews by students, alumni or outside experts. Getting excited about certain dream schools and understanding early on what it takes to get in often helps students chart a strategic path forward.
For some students, virtual learning can also free up time to discover and pursue their own interests. Teenagers – in their normal lives – are often overscheduled and overworked, going straight from school to extracurricular activities, work obligations or family commitments to dinner to homework to bed (and they’re likely not getting the recommended 8-9 hours of sleep, either). Free time is not the enemy, even if our culture is obsessed with productivity. Online learning done right can actually promote unscheduled time that is vital for the creativity and passion it can inspire.
As millions of students start their fall semester in front of a computer screen and away from the classroom, they are likely building their aptitude for online learning and cultivating important skills that will help them succeed in life. COVID-19 has upended people’s lives and destroyed the traditional educational model for now. The question is: can we convert this sudden and revolutionary change in the way kids learn into a newfound opportunity to help students build real-world skills, take stock of their interests, or take a much-needed deep breath?
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About Winward Academy – Winward Academy is one of the world’s leading innovators in the online education space, providing web-based academic support that enhances students’ knowledge, confidence, and competitiveness in middle and high school academics and in college applications. We help thousands of students every year by providing personalized, comprehensive ACT and SAT test preparation and extensive math curriculum support. The Winward Academy learning platform honors over 40 years of education and cognitive psychology research, incorporating proven techniques that promote effective learning.
Winward Academy’s unmatched reputation is wholly attributable to our students’ exceptional success and to the trust earned among students, parents, and schools around the world.