top of page

Learning online - Misconceptions vs Perks

My nine-year-old daughter attends an online school. Yes, even after Covid-19. There, I said it. Let me wait a few minutes for all the waves of judgment to settle down!

Every time we share this news with our friends or family, there's a lot of surprise and shock, which is very understandable. The arena of online learning is still very new, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Yet, there are also many misconceptions surrounding the entire process. The system has many flaws (just like anything else on earth), but there are also ways to make it work.

Misconception # 1

'Oh, she must be spending a lot of time in front of the screen. Won't that make her addicted to devices? Not to speak of the strain on the eyes...'

All very valid points. However, if you have been to a school these days (not the one nostalgia brings up now and then), you will realize that screens are a part of the brick-and-mortar classroom too. Teachers use Youtube videos to explain many concepts. Substitution usually means playing a child-friendly movie in class.

Whether we like it or not, screens are here to stay. As parents and teachers, it is our responsibility to see that it does not get out of hand. Like with other elements of our society that can cause addiction (alcohol, TV, video games, and more!), regulation is key. It also depends on how active/passive the screen is. Watching Netflix is passive, learning a skill through a video is active. So long as the engagement with the screen is active, it is good. Discretion is important, along with frequent breaks to look at the grass or to blink, of course.

Coming to addiction, I see it more in adults. I'd be happy to discuss this point in detail if you can show me one adult who's gone to bed by 10 PM this last week, without scrolling through <social media of choice>! These are problems that we need to reflect upon as a society, but they are not limited to online learners alone.

Misconception # 2

'Poor thing, she has no friends, all cocooned up at home. Must be affecting her social skills.'

This is also something that homeschoolers hear often. However, having friends or not is dependent on personality and access to activities. I had just a couple of friends while I was growing up, even though I went to a 'proper' school with many children. Our child sees children her age regularly during extra-curricular activities and outings. She enjoys meeting new people because that is in her nature, not because she was taught how to.

It is also important to remember that meeting children only of their age or with similar interests is not a natural state. This is seen only in schools, where cliques exist for this very reason. In real life, we interact with humans of all ages and with varying perspectives in life. If the purpose of education is to prepare you for the real world, isn't this better?

Misconception # 3

'How do they conduct exams? Must be multiple-choice only, right? Her writing must be poor.'

Quite the contrary! My daughter's school makes her write the Q&A after every chapter, they also do elaborate projects for concepts (requiring minimal inputs from parents) as well as spoken and listening assignments for languages. I do not remember such a variety of learning activities back when I was in school. The exams have a mix of both MCQs and long answers.

For those of you wondering if students copy freely on these tests, the answer is no. It all boils down to the parents laying down the ground rules. In a way, it helps to demystify the concept of an exam. After all, the performance in one test cannot be an indicator of a year's learning and neither should be. If there is an exam, there will be ways to cheat. The choice to resort to unfair methods is always in our hands. You learned not to copy in a test even when the teacher wasn't looking because your parents instilled that value in you, it's the same here as well.

Now that we have cleared the air of the misconceptions, let's look at some of the unique perks that online schooling offers!

Perk # 1

Increased financial and personal freedom

When you are not spending on uniforms and transport, you end up saving quite a bit of money which can be reinvested in the child's future. This can also help to get them learning experiences which would otherwise be unaffordable, like a special painting course or a trip to a historical place.

Perk # 2

More time and better monitoring of the child's learning

My daughter spends inordinate amounts of time playing dress-up or building castles in the mud. She gets a lot of free play, just exploring nature, birds, and art. We also get more time to just sit and talk with her or play a board game. She does not have to be a slave to the clock and can enjoy more mindful moments during the day. All this would not have been possible if she'd been in a school 6 hours a day. I see her academic progress very clearly. I understand her struggles better and can help her out with them.