Really remote school should continue, partially, forever

Maybe we should't go fully back to to physical classrooms

The virus has forced many schools to close and students to go to online learning. There are a lot of different approaches. Some schools have gone for Kahn academy style learning, with students watching videos of top teachers and using their time with their teacher for more one on one teaching. Some schools have fairly full days, others have the students in virtual class a small fraction of what they did in school.

As the push comes to open up, but greatly reduce class size in order to allow sitting far apart in class, some have proposed having students not go to physical school every day. You might go just 2 days out of 5, rotating with other students to keep the class unpacked.

They say never waste a good crisis, and this one might present some opportunities to rethink education, even after the virus goes away.

Students all learn at different levels, but in most schools it is necessary to put students of many different levels and abilities together in one class. It's not like the days of old rural schools, where everybody from grade 1-6 was in the same classroom with the same teacher, but it's not the best thing for all students. More advanced students have to put up with a pace that bores them or doesn't challenge them as much. Other students may find the classes too challenging -- or may benefit by being challenged by material harder than the teachers thought they were ready for.

In the online world, students don't have to join one class at a local school. Students could be gathered together in classes from anywhere in the world that it's also school-time. They could have some classes with their global classmates and other classes with their local ones.

As such, the global classrooms could be tailored so every student is at a similar level, ready to be challenged and learn well from the material provided. If it's judged a student is having too much trouble in a class, or to little, it's very simple to switch them until they find just the right level. (Of course, students will try to cheat, and some will deliberately seek an easier level, so care must be taken.)

In addition to doing a program just right for them, students would get experience of a much more diverse world, with other students from many places, all at their level. In the modern online world, they can easily make friends with these students and keep those friendships through life. Ideally, if time zones allow, they should get friends from other countries and cultures, and certainly other subcultures within their own region.

Students having difficulty can be more easily given more resources if they need it and there is budget. And they can get access to a global network of people ready to deal with their learning problems. At the same time the brightest students can find themselves quickly moving years ahead of where they might have in regular school, with losing their local social circles and friends of their own age.

Every student could also spend a few weeks out of their time zone as an "exchange student" to truly broaden their experience.

If the student/teacher ratio averages are kept the same, this all costs the same, and could be worth doing long after the virus is over.

The easiest way to do this would be to have a student take 1 or 2 of their subjects in a remote class, and take the rest in their local class. It would also be possible to take the same subject both locally and remote, though covering different areas within that subject, since coordination would be difficult. In most cases, though, the local teacher could assist with problems with the remote class.

Remote class could actually be done at school, by adapting some rooms to have small cubicles and computers and even a supervisor, for kids who can't spend even 15% of their time at home.

Some kids would possibly end up going more remote. There are the "gifted" students who may be wasting their time in the local school, and who get value from it only in learning to socialize with those around them. There may be special needs children for whom physical school attendance is a burden and who need more and better attention. While few should go all-remote, some students may benefit from a different mix.

Never waste a good crisis.


Are there places where virtual school hasn't been an option for several years?

California has offered it since 2002.

It's usually not a very good option for most families, especially prior to high school (and by high school most kids probably don't want it as they've made lots of friends in the prior years and want to go to school with them). But for a small minority of families, it can work well.

Usually it's also available part time, so you can use it for certain classes where your local school doesn't have enough students to be able to offer it. And if you're doing it part time, you can take the remote class right from the school.

It's basically everything you've described, and it has been here for over a decade. It's not particularly popular, though. We are social creatures, and virtual doesn't cut it.

The California virtual academies and others like them are not quite this. I think the students should remain in physical school for most classes, but take a couple of subjects with people from outside their state, and at their level, and with a platform that helps them socialize with the other students. It's not so much about the teacher (though that's important) but the interaction with the other students, and the level of material tailored for them.

I don’t know about the California program, but the ones I’m familiar with do let students take a couple of subjects with people from around the state. They could do more to let them socialize, but socializing virtually doesn’t come anywhere close to the real thing.

That’s probably a large reason why these programs still are not very widely used (though they will be somewhat more widely used this upcoming year, as the traditional schools are going to be a mess whether they are run in person or online).

Combining with people from other states would be difficult, as most funding for schools is not federal, curriculums are not federal, etc. For those states with vouchers, you can do it, but many states don’t offer vouchers.

It’s a neat idea in theory, but I’m not sure how popular it would be, and I’m not sure how you’d implement it.

Maybe the feds could contract it out, and they could cut federal funds going to the states in proportion to the number of students from that state that enroll. No way it’d pass in Congress though. Probably not a single Democrat would vote for it (they love throwing more money at the worst schools), and it might not get a majority of Republicans either.

With that said, public schools shouldn’t exist, and if they didn’t this would probably be a lot easier to implement well. As usual, collectivism is the problem.

Add new comment