Can virtual schools benefit primary and secondary students?
Not every student can make it to a classroom. Time, location, and life commitments can make it difficult, especially for aspiring students who are also working full- or even part-time. Virtual schools are one answer to these difficulties. They're not just for mature-age students looking for new professional qualifications or pursuing an interest, either – they can help K–12 students and schools too.
What is a virtual school?
At its heart, virtual learning is digital. It uses online technology to deliver lessons, training and other educational resources to students for whom face-to-face teaching isn't available or practical. And it supports many different modes of instruction, from independent self-paced learning for students in remote locations through to highly interactive lessons where the student is in regular, real-time communication with teachers and other students.
Virtual schools and K–12 institutions
Virtual schools offer several benefits to K–12 students, teachers and institutions. They can provide:
Assisted learning: Virtual schools can provide unique ways to help students needing assistance. For example, virtual lessons that use game-based scenarios and visual presentations for students who have trouble staying focused or engaged in a classroom with other students present.
Advanced teaching: Virtual classes can be ideal for students who want to take more advanced courses outside their regular daytime classes.
Distance learning: Virtual schools can provide digital learning content to students who can't travel to a physical classroom. This might include rural-based students and students with mobility issues.
Cost savings: Beyond the cost of a computer and internet connection, virtual schools are usually cheaper to run than traditional K–12 schools.
Virtual schools can also improve teaching quality by giving students access to near-infinite range of learning resources. These include online videos, digital libraries and virtual communities where students can connect and collaborate with local peers, as well as students from other countries and cultures.
Learning, relationships and virtual schools
One of virtual schools' potential downsides, in comparison to face-to-face teaching, is a lack of social interaction and difficulties creating a keen sense of being in a classroom for a shared learning experience. However, social media, video chat, collaboration platforms and even virtual reality technologies can put the student in a learning environment just as rich as a 'regular' school. Importantly, they can easily cultivate the strong relationships with teachers and students that make learning so much easier and more effective.
More and more students will make use of virtual teaching technologies and smart educational institutions of all types and at all levels will investigate how best to supplement their existing, real-world teaching strategies with some virtual assistance. After all, learning never stops, especially for those who must teach.