My Take on Online Learning
by Briana Livelsberger
As this school year has gone on alongside a pandemic, there has been an influx in articles about the downsides of online learning. There are articles that say online learning is detrimental to a child’s ability to understand and commit information to memory as well as other issues with learning. There are articles that talk about how it leads to social deficits. And I have no doubt the validity of these articles. Some students have a harder time paying attention in class and online learning may make it more difficult for them. In addition, the brick-and-mortar schools that are scrambling to go online have had questionable results. Some teachers haven’t given students much to challenge their students to learn. So I understand why online learning is disliked right now. But I also must say that there should be a distinction made between online learning institutions that have spent years working on creating courses that suit online learning and brick-and-mortar schools creating curriculums without knowing what will work best for online education. There is also a difference between brick-and-mortar schools that had questionable online learning before the pandemic and those that are rushing into online learning because of the pandemic.
From 6th grade through to high school graduation, I attended an online school. I mentioned in previous articles that I went to an online school because of my autoimmune disease and the medications I used to treat it caused me to get sick easier than my peers. I missed a lot of classes because of doctor’s appointments or because I got sick or I was trying to avoid getting sick. Online school, however, allowed me to miss less school and get more help from teachers. Interestingly, I was also more social than when I was trying to make brick-and-mortar school work. There were online clubs, group projects, and school emails, all of which allowed me to get to know and become friends with peers. I even went to my junior and senior prom, as well as my graduation in person, because my school had rented out places to go to.
Online school was also the first time I was challenged in school. When I went to brick-and-mortar school, I was bored with the lessons. I was an A student without needing to put in much effort. In order to make up for this, I would find ways to make things interesting. For example, in 4th or 5th grade, we were learning about Native American tribes (though not in great detail). Around the same time, my grandmother was sent a bookmark that had ten phrases in Lakota. Seeing my interest, my grandmother gave me the bookmark and I read it multiple times a day until I had it memorized.
But at my online school, my classes went into so much detail and provided so many extra resources that I didn’t feel like I had to seek out more information elsewhere. If it was a topic I was interested in, I could look at the extra information. If it wasn’t then I would just focus on what I needed to know for the class. It felt like my grades were earned because I worked harder for them.
There were also different curriculum options for students, that way students could be challenged at their learning level. My online school also provided more AP classes than any schools in the area and I had the option to take college classes online as well. There was also more variety in classes that I could take based on what my interests were.
The school I went to had students of all kinds. There were students who had Autism, Down Syndrome, mental illness, and chronic illness. Some students went online so that they could perform on Broadway or train for the Olympics. Others were there because they wanted to skip a lot of grades easily or because they were bullied at their old schools. We even had people from juvenile detention centers, allowing them to get an education. And the teachers knew how to engage everyone and how best to help students who were struggling. Since we were all attending that school for different reasons, I was able to interact with a diverse array of students.
It’s easy to say that online learning is horrible, but I am proof that online learning can be awesome when done well. I learned how to budget my time, how to study, and how to do research for scholarly sources. As a result, I was able to go to a good college with a good scholarship and feel like I wasn’t completely lost in the workload. I actually found my freshman year of college to be surprisingly easy. I went to an online school that knew how to teach online and prepared me for college more than any school in my area could have. So I feel that online learning has a lot of benefits. It may not be for everyone but schools that know how to teach online can navigate how to help students of all kinds. However, schools that go online when all they know is brick-and-mortar teaching probably have a long way to go before they know how to teach well online. But that doesn’t mean those schools will always be lacking compared to their brick-and-mortar teaching. With all the negativity surrounding online learning, I wanted to share my experience in the hope that it will help people see the positive side of actual online institutions and why having this option is important to keep available.