Virtual schools have become a common alternative for students compared to traditional brick and mortar school settings. In a virtual program, students participate in learning and submit work via a computer and Internet connection. Though conventional schools still prevail, virtual education does offer some strengths relative to a physical, three-dimensional school.
Brick & Mortar Advantages
Brick and mortar schools provide students a traditional community environment with ample social opportunities. Students also get regular face-to-face contact with teachers and school staff, making it easier to get help outside of class. For students planning to enroll in a traditional college, a brick and mortar high school experience more closely mirrors that setting. Students also more easily learn about extracurricular sports and academic opportunities attending a physical school.
Brick & Mortar Disadvantages
Bullying, violence and peer pressure are common elements in a brick and mortar school. Even quiet, well-meaning students have a difficult time avoiding these challenges. In fact, quiet or meek students are often targets of bullies. Students worried about social status or distractions often have difficulty learning in the traditional class setting. Brick and mortar schools also struggle at times to provide enough advanced classes, quality instructors, technology and academic resources because of budget problems.
For school districts, cost advantages are a common motive of virtual education. Rather than hiring school-specific teachers, a teacher may provide instruction to students taking the same class in multiple districts. Students struggling in a traditional school environment may have better ability to focus in a virtual program. They also have greater access to advanced placement classes in many cases. Parents of students who experience bullying or who get easily distracted by class noise may turn to a virtual school to avoid having their kids drop out.
Virtual education is not for all students. An unmotivated student won't become more motivated online. In fact, he will struggle with the challenges of pushing himself to complete work without face-to-face accountability from teachers and peers. Virtual classes also require that students have a reasonable level of technology comfort. Virtual students also commonly miss out on many of the social experiences and interactions traditional students have.
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