Imagine your kids “going to school” without ever leaving the house. No packed lunches, no forgotten binders, no lost jackets. Just a day of pjs and a laptop.
For some students, that notion is no longer a fantasy as schools begin to test the concept of virtual attendance where kids participate in a full day’s worth of classes from the comfort of their own home. Or a friend’s home. Or Starbucks.
With more and more education migrating to digital platforms, some schools are starting to test the capabilities of distance learning well before college. At a high school in Park Ridge, New Jersey, the fact that every student was issued a Mac laptop last year meant that a virtual school day was possible — even if it was simply an experiment and not in response to a disaster or illness breakout. Students got to spend the day at home, attending classes and doing coursework via written lessons and real-time video chats delivered online.
The results? In student surveys taken after the event, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive: Virtual “attendance” was 98 percent for the day, better than a regular day. (Perhaps the sheer novelty had something to do with the high number? As well as a sense of personal freedom?)
While the technology opens up endless possibilities, however, it also introduces a new set of challenges: What about kids without high speed Internet that fuels all that learning in the first place? Earlier this week, The New York Times published an article about how the digital divide is putting some students at an almost impossible-to-beat disadvantage as it reports that, “In cities like Detroit, Miami and New Orleans, where as many as one-third of homes do not have broadband, children crowd libraries and fast-food restaurants to use free hot spots.”
Another concern is quality. Some fully online schools have been shown to underperform their physical counterparts, especially when it comes to providing special instruction to kids with learning disabilities.