The Challenges and Benefits of eLearning in 2020

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High school can be difficult and stressful at the best of times. Unfortunately, 2020 and COVID-19 have ramped this up into an even higher gear. Students have had to balance the already difficult job of keeping up with their studies and university applications with the impacts of the pandemic. Most students the world over have had to study from home, with resulting technological and educational issues.

Working from home requires high speed internet, something lacking in many parts of the world, and many schools’ eLearning applications are somewhat creaky.

Below, we’ll look at the challenges facing students in the 2020-2021 school year and how private virtual schools (such as Ontariovirtualschool.ca) offer eLearning solutions to help students cope with the shift online.

The Stresses of the New Normal

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For many, the new shift online is causing stress. Many students suffer from the social isolation resulting from quarantines and social distancing, impacting performance in their studies. On top of this, students must still apply to university.

The impact of the pandemic on university applications appears to be uneven; some universities are experiencing soaring applicants, while others are seeing their student numbers in freefall. The road to university is just as challenging as in the best of times, and the pandemic has rendered a lot of educational institutions less effective at providing support to their students. Students have a lot to deal with in 2020!

Unlike what stereotypes of remote learning often suggest, virtual high schools can also be remarkably responsive, responding to student and parent queries right away. eLearning also fosters collaboration among students, allowing students to form their own peer-based study and support groups. Many well-designed programs encourage extensive collaboration and teamwork, allowing students to develop the social skills to complement their academics.

Collaboration is a key soft skill (more on those below) that will make any student a sound candidate in the work force or when pursuing an advanced degree. 

University Entry Requirements Aren’t Changing

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To get into top programs, students need very high grades, and the pandemic isn’t changing that fact. For example, the University of Toronto in Canada says that an average in the mid to high 90s is recommended to be a competitive applicant for its Engineering Science program. Yale, one of the most selective colleges in the US and regularly topping university rankings, only accepted 6.3% of applicants for its class of 2022.

Oxford University’s yearly engineering cohort is in the low hundreds, and that’s not from a lack of applicants. Competition for places in math and science courses in particular is fierce, and if students want to be successful, they have to develop strong skills in the fundamentals as soon as possible.

Math and science courses have a reputation for being difficult, complicated and only suited for academically gifted students. Many students struggle with staying up to speed with the curriculum. Students that struggle with particular concepts can easily fall behind and struggle to catch up.

The Benefits of e-Learning

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When students have the opportunity to study at their own pace, taking as much as a full year to complete a course, they have a better chance of truly mastering the material and achieving a better letter grade. When students harness e-Learning to tackle coursework at a slower pace, they can be sure that they won’t be outpaced.

Learning through a virtual school also allows students to study remotely, spending less time commuting to and from school, and more time studying their subjects.

For students who require lots of teacher supervision, virtual high schools offer the same support as do traditional schools — only remotely. Schools like Ontario Virtual School believe that constant communication is the best doorway to support, which is why their teachers hand back most assignments within two days and provide ample notes, opening the space for discussion should students require more feedback.

Teacher support is key to student success, and eLearning platforms allow teachers to oversee learning arcs, and watch out for any lags in progress, with many schools implementing built-in triggers that warn teachers if students haven’t logged in or submitted work.

The right virtual school will also provide a robust guidance department, where accredited guidance counsellors form student success teams to track student progress separately from the support systems provided by the teachers.

With teacher support available remotely, students are motivated to set goals for themselves and cultivate soft skills such as self-direction.

The Importance of Soft Skills

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Generally, online learning brings with it a suite of soft skills that are truly essential, regardless of educational or career goals. By taking direct responsibility for their progress, students are introduced to self-directed learning. This will become one of their most important skills, whether they continue to university, or enter the workforce and seek to stay abreast of developments in their field.

Online learning promotes soft skills such as initiative, which encourages students to develop and act on new ideas and create their own opportunities for learning, while also helping build a capacity for innovation and a willingness to take risks. It also teaches skills like self-motivation, which encourages students to assess and then reflect critically on their own interests, needs, and strengths. It also helps them identify strategies and opportunities to achieve goals.

Remote Learning is the New Normal

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Even after the COVID pandemic subsides, many students are going to continue to study from home. Just like the promotion of remote work, remote learning is rapidly going to become a part of how students learn. Some students suffering from pre-existing health conditions may simply have no other choice than to receive their education online.

Others may choose to supplement their studies at a physical high school with lessons from online schools. A hybridized approach may be beneficial to reaping the benefits of both delivery styles. Others might choose to tackle every course online.

With the right teachers, and a solid infrastructure behind them, eLearning can be a powerful method to gain experience in the skills that are exactly what admissions officers at elite universities are looking for.

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