Reimagining Education

Parents frustrated with district virtual ed should try properly designed virtual education

Over 425,000 of Missouri’s 878,000 students are receiving their education this fall either entirely online or through a blended online/in-person plan with another 351,000 students enrolled in a district where parents have the option for distance education.

For some families, distance education this fall is proving to be a much better experience than the emergency learning provided in the spring.

For many other families, however, technology issues coupled with a lack of professional development for classroom teachers trying to convert to online teaching has resulted in a nightmare scenario leading to student meltdowns and parent petitions demanding schools reopen in-person.

A recent article in the St. Louis Magazine reveals why the last-minute rush to distance learning by districts has resulted in a less than ideal experience for many families.

In the article, Dr. Ronald Wagner, the founder and CEO of a St. Louis company called Relearnit that is focused on helping universities develop effective online programs, explains that effective online instruction requires careful planning and a unique skill set.

“Online education is not simply taking your face-to-face class and delivering it through Zoom,” he says. “There are a multitude of attributes of online education that extend well beyond a synchronous meeting. You have to take into consideration a student’s learning style, the type of content that you’re offering or trying to teach, and you have to modify it based on the platform that you’re teaching, as well as who the learners may be.

“In terms of keeping students retained online and keeping them engaged, most faculty are not trained to do that,” he added. “It can’t be 100 percent video on demand. Talking is not effective for everyone. If a student is a hands-on student, then you have to figure out ways, and you have to create learning objects, that allow the students to be hands-on.”

Springfield area parent and teacher Becki Uccello explained in a recent CEAM Facebook Live parent panel that teachers are doing their best to provide a quality education virtually, but that they have had to rush into what they are providing and have had little support and guidance on best practices.

“I saw a meme on Facebook a few days ago that teachers are building the plane while we’re flying it and I feel like that’s kind of the position we’ve been put in,” she said. “I’m doing my best to give my students the best education that I can but it does not look anything like it used to be. I’m having to revamp so much which is fine, but there hasn’t been a lot of time to do it and there hasn’t been a lot of direction from our leadership on how to do it and that’s what’s frustrating for me. I’m open to learning what I need to learn so that I can be the best I can be for my students.”

The good news is that in Missouri families already have access to free virtual learning programs that are specifically designed to provide engaging and well-thought-out virtual education by Missouri certified teachers who have been trained in virtual education.

The Missouri Course Access and Virtual Education Program (MOCAP) provides access to virtual education programs from 11 national providers each of which offers a unique varied way of providing education virtually.

Many of the MOCAP providers supply students with laptops, textbooks and other materials needed to learn from home and have full staffs of counselors and other support staff to make sure that students and parents are able to be successful learning in a virtual environment.

To learn more about the MOCAP program, get help choosing a provider, and get tips on how your child can enroll please visit the microsite CEAM created at https://www.missourivirtualed.org/

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