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Digital Learning: Difficult or Easy?

JC Booth Middle School students proved in the 2019-2020 school year that they perform in different ways when learning virtually.

There is no black or white when it comes to how students work digitally. Some students may thrive, others may struggle, and some may work just as well virtually or in-person. No two students are alike, just as no two learning processes are the same. “If you’ve got a student who does well with their time management, is self-motivated, or has good support at home, then I think they can be every bit as successful virtually as they are in a classroom. I do worry [about]…students who struggle with material, need extra help or have a hard time staying focused, and doing their own thing,” Ms. Williams said.

A lot of students learned last year that they’re not very motivated when they’re left to do Virtual School…Hopefully, they’re in a situation where they’re able to come to class,” Mr. Thompson said. No in-person instruction means students are left to their own devices to get their work done. Without any sort of structure, students can easily receive lower grades because of lost communication with their teachers, falling behind on work, not knowing where to access learning resources, or other issues. Students that are not technologically savvy may face confusion with every virtual assignment.

On the other hand, some students may flourish in a virtual learning environment. “I think some students…thrived last year when we moved to virtual. I had kids who struggled with paying attention in class and taking care of assignments…But, when we got into the virtual world, and they were able to work at their own pace and do things on their own, it was like whoa, who are you and what happened?” Ms. Williams said. Certain students prefer to learn in unstructured environments, where they can work on assignments at their accordance.

During the 2019-2020 school year, some students took virtual learning as an extended summer vacation. As a result, the transition between the last school year, and this school year may not go as smoothly as planned. Students may have to work harder and put in much more effort to catch up. “I feel like we may see some gaps in learning because the students didn’t take the time… [to] do their job at home…They didn’t realize or didn’t want to admit, that at some point they’re going to be responsible for knowing that material that came out,” Mr. Thompson said.

“Last year, we kind of started one way, and then things had to shift once we learned some things along the way. Whereas now, we have those things in place, so I think as teachers we have a better idea of what we need to deliver and how we’ll want to deliver it.” Mr. Thompson said. In the 2019-2020 school year, virtual learning hit students and staff like a bus. This year, teachers have more programs, training, and knowledge to support students that don’t work well when learning online. With virtual learning improvements, it may be easier to stay on track and earn good grades. 

“I will say this, though, for Fayette County: because of that strong virtual plan that we were able to put into place, I think we’re in better shape than many other districts are across the state, so we’re proud of that.” Dr. Barrow said. Virtual learning may work for some students and not for others, but it is vital to be flexible in this new normal. 

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