For some teens, going to school in their pajamas is just a fantasy. But for others, it can be an everyday occurrence. As students are using technology more and more, virtual schooling is becoming more popular. But the question arises of how effective an online school can truly be in preparing students for the real world.
Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf believes the quality of the virtual school can be a huge factor in how successful students will be. “There are some schools out there that work really hard to push students to achieve and keep students in their program, and then there are some out there that are just trying to make money,” he said.
Kettering Virtual Learning Academy
The Kettering School District has formed its own virtual school for students that, for some reason or another, can’t come into the school building for their education. They complete their school work online but will graduate with a Fairmont diploma because the school is facilitated through Kettering City Schools. “An advantage our online school has over others is that it’s in Kettering, and if a parent has a question or concern, they can call the high school and we can still provide counseling services,” said VonHandorf. “It’s a locally operated and run program.”
KVLA prides itself in the fact that it has a higher success rate than nationally recognized schools such as Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow and K12. KVLA Coordinator Kim Broomhall says the passage rate for students in the program is more than 80 percent, much higher than most virtual schools.
“Students learn in different ways,” said Broomhall, who is also Fairmont’s technology coordinator and Business Department chair. “Not everyone can succeed sitting in a classroom. Until we had programs like this, there weren’t very many options for students other than failing. We’ve had a number of success stories, which really enforces that this is a vital component for students who need a different option.”
Students in virtual schooling
Senior Ryan Beam became a KVLA student halfway through his sophomore year, and he enjoys it much more than traditional schooling. “Some kids enjoy the social aspect of school, but for me that was a distraction. If you take that out of the environment, it’s a lot easier for me to get things done,” he said.
Beam was ready to take on the new experience of online schooling, but at first his parents were skeptical. “With any online school, there are possibilities that when you move on to college it doesn’t look that great. But the fact that KVLA is still technically a part of Fairmont and you are getting a Fairmont diploma made my parents more willing to see how it would go,” said Beam. “Of course, when they saw that it was working out, they were supportive.”
Sophomore Ben Thompson chose to do virtual schooling this year for a similar reason as Beam. “I did this because I was sick of people who had to act tough to be respected and to have friends. There was so much drama in public schools that I decided to go to a virtual school where this wouldn’t happen,” said Thompson.
Thompson is part of the Ohio Connections Academy, not KVLA, but the classes are run similarly. Thompson says his grades are better, but he doubts that this form of schooling is best for him. “I need people, honestly. I want to see them in school, not their name in a chat box,” he said.
Thompson has a bit of advice to those considering virtual schooling. “I would not recommend doing it if you have been in public school all of your life like me,” he said.
Online college courses are common
In college, online classes are very common and many teachers and administrators have taken online classes to further their degrees. Most teachers agree that these online courses, along with traditional classes, are a good way to learn. Fairmont Central Unit Principal Andrew White believes this will connect people to resources that are not available in a brick-and-mortar school. “As we go forward with education in the 21st century, there’s going to be more and more online learning because people are going to want more flexibility and ready access,” he said.
Fairmont’s online Government teacher Jenny Richardson believes it’s good experience to take an online course before college. “I think as more and more students go to college they are going to see more and more classes like this,” she said.
Online schooling presents its own challenges
Whether it be just an online course or a whole online education, some people believe some students are going to virtual schools as an excuse to be lazy and not have to come in to school. But Fairmont Spanish teacher Amanda Miller, who has taken online college courses, disagrees. “There’s no way to be lazy in an online class. I think that if someone takes an online course just because they don’t want to come to school, they will get a very interesting awakening,” she said. “To tell you the truth, I think that a lot of kids who start the online program don’t finish it.”
Richardson believes students must know their level of self-motivation before taking online classes. “A lot of kids find it hard not having a teacher telling them to turn things in,” she said.
Fairmont East Unit Principal Hank Jackoby, who has taken online courses himself, believes the student must judge how successful he or she can be with virtual schooling. “No matter what you’re doing to learn, you’ve got to be in the right mindset to learn that way,” he said.