Online Learning is Preparing Our Children for the Future of Work
By Richard Savage
Fact: The quality of the relationship between a teacher and a student plays a pivotal role in the educational success of that child.
As Executive Director of California Connections Academy, I have seen firsthand how blended and online learning options support this relationship by allowing unprecedented flexibility in terms of where a child learns, when they learn, and in some cases, even what they learn. Our teachers engage in one on one conversations with each of their students every other week. I have often heard our teachers state that the most enjoyable part of working in the online environment is the strength of the teacher/student relationship.
And even better, the exposure to technology that schools like ours provide help to prepare our children for the future of work—a future that is increasingly location-independent and isn’t ruled by the clock.
Blended and online learning expand the definition of school choice to include true location independence for students. At California Connections Academy, we’ve learned that many of our students aren’t able to thrive within the constraints of a traditional classroom setting. Long commutes to and from school also can be disruptive for parents and children alike. Some families may be economically challenged to meet the daily transportation demands associated with a typical school schedule. Those students who are traveling long distances to a physical classroom also may experience fatigue that makes it difficult to show up as engaged learners.
What if the time and schedule requirements of a school day could adapt to the talents and abilities of our children, rather than vice-versa?
Many of our students are simply not able to attend classes in lockstep within the traditional time that we’ve become accustomed to in our society. Our programs offer an alternative that no brick-and-mortar school can offer: schedule differentiation and the attention to personalized learning that these students need.
I’ve seen many successful examples of how flexible scheduling benefits our students. Artistically-gifted students are able to balance academics with time for practice, rehearsal, and performance. Our student athletes can pursue their training, preparation, and competitive obligations without sacrificing the quality of their education. Those who are battling illnesses are able to study around their treatment plans. And advanced learners can move forward at their own pace, while students who may benefit from extra attention can receive it outside the confines of a traditional school schedule.
This isn’t only impactful on the present. The location and time independence made possible through blended and online classes play directly into a student’s potential future success. In nearly every aspect and field, the future of work is moving more and more toward the online environment. Students need the skills to effectively navigate this environment, and children who receive early exposure to the collaborative technologies and tools used in many blended and online programs will have a competitive advantage as they enter the workforce of the future.
But success in the future of work is not just about the technologies themselves. The social dynamics they are exposed to in blended and online programs allow students to learn how to think critically and communicative effectively in an online environment. The modern workforce demands that people need to be just as effective in the online arena as they are in face-to-face interactions. An online learning environment offers students the opportunity to sharpen these skills in many ways that their peers in traditional schools cannot.
The advocacy, research and funding programs for students and educators led by the Foundation for Blended and Online Learning support technology-driven learning options that provide the flexibility students need--both now to support their learning styles and preferences, and in the future as work becomes less location and time-specific and more about being disciplined and self-directed in an online environment. Programs such as our teacher grants allow classroom innovators to explore different options that free our children from the traditional burdens and demands of the brick-and-mortar classroom, preparing them for bright and fulfilling post-school lives.
Dr. Richard Savage is Executive Director of California Connections Academy and serves on the FBOL Advisory Council.