Virtual learning experiences are as varied as students. With so many reasons to complete learning online and the many ways it can be used to aid in learning, two students with identical schedules and similar needs can have very different experiences with it. The flexibility of online learning helps educators better cater to differing student needs, and is particularly well-suited to help students with complicated schedules and diverse responsibilities. Online courses provide students with more opportunities to grow personally and academically. Because it’s more self-directed, students build time-management skills, and can more easily balance school, work, family responsibilities, and extracurricular activities. Students also experience positive encouragement and engagement from virtual teachers, like myself, who are committed to their growth and success.
I had the pleasure of teaching a hard-working AAA hockey player who has been playing hockey full-time since age 16. He was determined to complete high school with good grades, but he struggled with time management. The first year I taught him, he had a hard time balancing his athletic career and school assignments, but consistently submitted strong work in all subjects. With my help, he steadied his school work the second year and was able to graduate on time. He continues to play semi-pro hockey, and I follow his career with pride. Now I am teaching a young hockey player again, and I told him about my graduated player. The young player was thrilled to hear about such a strong example of a student athlete who worked hard and achieved his goals—both on and off the ice.
Many students also have substantial family responsibilities and hold full-time jobs in addition to their school work. One of my students is the sole caretaker for his grandmother, works two jobs, and is trying hard to complete his courses so he can graduate on time. He is dedicated to completing two or three courses a term and continues to make progress toward his goal. While his academic goals remain second to caring for his grandmother, he works diligently at his jobs and to complete his schoolwork, which will allow him to grow his career opportunities and continue providing for his family.
I also work with young parents. Recently, one of my students had a baby, and several of us coached her through the pregnancy, delivery, and a colicky baby. Soon after her son was born, she was back at school working hard, and she ultimately only needed a two-week extension to successfully complete six courses as a new mother! She is still working toward graduation and to show her son that dedication to your goals leads to positive results. Her personal and academic responsibilities demand a lot from her, but she makes no excuses and works hard, pushing toward meeting her high goals every day.
I am also privileged to support students on international exchange who are completing their high school’s graduation requirements by taking courses like Economics and Government/Civics. I currently have a student working from Tokyo, and another in Brazil. I’ve also taught students who are living with their parents overseas, like my former high school student who attended an international school in India. This student needed to take specific courses to be accepted at an American university, and taking online courses helped the student do just that. These students are stepping out of their comfort zones to grow both personally and academically, and the flexibility of online learning is helping them do that.
Many students take online courses for entirely different reasons. Some students are geographically isolated and have limited course options at school. One of my students lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and has a horse named Oreo. Oreo was very hard to train, but my student stuck with him even after her parents offered her a different horse. She was so determined to help teach Oreo to be a well-mannered horse, and she brought that same determination to her schoolwork. While working hard to train Oreo, she was also taking online psychology and sociology courses to prepare for the added rigor and challenge of college work. She measured her own growth alongside that of Oreo. She succeeded when he succeeded. As he learned to behave and demonstrate better manners, she learned patience and teaching skills. As he grew into maturity, so did she. The flexibility of online learning enabled her to grow in this dynamic way, while also working ahead with her education, so she’d be well-prepared for college. I have many other students like her, who take online courses to earn college credits. These students take a full load of courses at their brick-and-mortar schools and take one or two additional courses online each term.
The best part of my career as a virtual instructor has been helping my students grow personally and academically. I challenge them daily to develop their curiosity, and to fully commit to completing proper research for school, higher education options, and life, and the flexibility of online learning allows me to reach these students in a way that works better for them. Providing instruction virtually gives me more time to work with each student one on one, and to get to know them personally while guiding them academically. I celebrate their growth and successes—large and small—in life and in academics, and as more schools and districts incorporate online and fully virtual instruction, I know so many more students will get to benefit from the flexibility of online learning.