I Used To Think That Online Education Was The Enemy—But I Was Wrong:
A public school enthusiast turned online homeschooling devotee
Confession: I am a former public school teacher, and I loved it.
Back in my days of teaching in the public school system, we had a professional development day. During this particular program, online education experts came to teach us about “the future” of education. They said that eventually thousands of students could be taught by one expert teacher, eliminating the need for local educators. One day, they said, we may just become facilitators, graders, and monitors. This idea instilled fear in every single one of the teachers. Would we lose our jobs to an online program? For me, this was the day that online education became the enemy.
One day, three years later, however, I ran into a dear friend at breakfast (Excelsior German teacher Susan Gleason) who invited me to apply for a French position teaching homeschoolers online. I was eager to dip my toes back into teaching French after having left my job with the school system a year earlier due to budget cuts. I warily took the plunge, still feeling unsure about the idea of teaching foreign language online. The whole thing felt very counter-intuitive to me. I had a lot of questions that some of you may have as well.
How does the online learning environment work?
Modern technology, despite its flaws, is a beautiful thing. There are several programs that allow students and teachers to meet together live, at the same time, and in the same online classroom. For example, Excelsior Classes uses a program called Zoom where students and teachers can speak to each other through microphone, see each other through video, and interact though chats and annotation tools. There are also options for small group work during class. Essentially, it feels like you are in a standard classroom.
Also, most online programs have a “dashboard” where students can visit their class page any time they want throughout the week. This allows for efficient communication. Teachers can share homework, additional resources, and important announcements. Students can submit homework, participate in class discussion boards, and take assessments. Students and parents can easily see what needs to be accomplished and teachers are instantly aware if work has been completed during the week.
Is it actually effective?
YES. As stated above, we have all of the benefits of being in a live classroom environment. Many online programs have limits on class size which is a definite advantage in any classroom. I have found that, in my online classroom, students actually have more time to practice their language skills, both written and orally, than in a traditional classroom. Also, because of the small class size, online homeschool teachers can cater (as needed) to the needs of specific students. Finally, I have found that the expectations are higher in the online environment. Almost 100% of the time, students rise to meet those expectations, making them well prepared for college and beyond.
Why would anyone choose a once-a-week class over the every day regularity of a traditional classroom?
An online classroom is efficient and effective. I spend 45 hours a year with my online students as opposed to the approximately 125 hours a year I spent with public school students. Some major differences to consider include:
- There are little to no behavior issues in the online classroom. With no disruption, learning flows smoothly.
- In online education, there are no interruptions to the weekly schedule or class time. There might be a rare occasion where class is rescheduled, but a class will never be canceled and the learning time will never be infringed upon.
- More material is covered in the online environment. I currently teach the same classes I taught in public school. I go through almost the entire textbook in my online classes. In public school, I was lucky to get through half. Students simply leave online classes having learned more.
On a final note, I feel that online homeschool teachers themselves are effective. When the teacher is solely focused on giving your child the best education possible, the education your child receives is more meaningful. Online homeschool teachers spend their days focused on their classes, their subject matter, and their students. Students reap the benefits of that attention. In this kind of environment, everyone wins.
So, will I ever go back to teaching in traditional school? No (hopefully). Why? Because I love online education even more. Maybe you and your homeschooler will too.
Sarah Lehtinen has always been a teacher at heart! In her French classes, she wants her pupils not just to be students of language, but also of the world. She feels that global citizenship is one of the best lessons she can teach through language. Sarah enjoys trying new restaurants, yoga, ballet, coffee shops, and hiking. She is married to Simon, a fellow French speaker. They reside in Charlottesville, VA. Sarah teaches French III for Excelsior Classes.