Virtual learning opportunities abound in several school districts

Posted on Tuesday, 4/30/2013 3:20 pm

There was a time when going to school meant attending classes in a physical space. Fortunately for many students, those days are in the past. While receiving instruction from teachers in person is still important, there is no denying the benefits of being able to learn in a virtual classroom. 

As more schools embrace modern technology and all it has to offer, virtual learning options are sure to increase.

Michigan school district goes virtual
Currently, high school students who are interested in taking classes online can do so in several Michigan school systems, including the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, the Ravenna Public Schools and the Whitehall District Schools, according to the Muskegon Chronicle. Now, the Muskegon Public Schools district plans to offer a virtual program of its own.

The idea behind this form of online education is not to give students a break from school, but to provide those in unique situations with a chance to receive the education they deserve. Everyone from kids who were expelled to those who have medical conditions can take a seat at a computer and continue their schooling from the comfort of their own home.

"It's just another avenue for kids to get an education," John VanLoon, superintendent of the Ravenna Public Schools, told the news source. "Full-time online is not for every student."

In Michigan, there are a total of 7,850 students taking advantage of school districts' online programs. A total of 823 of these individuals are dropouts, while 79 were expelled. Still, as long as these individuals have virtual schools to turn to, there is hope that they can get their academic careers back on track.

For the Muskegon Public Schools, going virtual is a way to target students who left school or are not able to attend for different reasons. From Superintendent Jon Felske's perspective, having the online option could be a way to boost the district's graduation rates in the long run.

Children literally become virtual students
Many educators nationwide have seen the benefits of providing their pupils with tablet computers or student software. At the First Baptist Academy in Florida, fourth-grade teacher Tammie Mihet has turned to Microsoft's Xbox gaming console as a way to engage her students, The Associated Press reported.

Using the Xbox and other software, Mihet has helped her students create virtual avatars for themselves, which they drop into animated newscasts and discussions. As fourth-graders report the news on various topics, such as the early history of Florida, they are boosting both their academic knowledge and their technological skills. At the same time, they are also just having a lot of fun at school.

"I love the power of technology, how it gets the kids to look at knowledge in a whole new way," Mihet told the news outlet. "They are very tech-savvy. They come into the classroom knowing this."

Based on just these two examples, it is clear that going virtual has some clear advantages.

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