Every week, a parent calls me for guidance on preparing a child for the ACT and SAT, I recommend some online options, and the parents stops me and says, "My son/daughter won't study online." The parent would then ask me to schedule private tutoring sessions with one of our instructors. For years, it has bothered me how quickly parents would dismiss the ides of their child getting anything out of studying online. And now I've had enough. We are thinking about this all wrong.
The tipping point for me might have been becoming a parent myself and watching my 3 year olds learning simple math on the iPad or learning their letters on my smartphone. Maybe it was sitting in one of our online classes and watching how many students participated in the chat box with the instructor and answered the poll questions as they came up on the screen:
Every student gets to answer every question! Anonymously!
No anxiety raising your hand in class with the fear of actually being called on. No embarrassment when you are wrong. Maybe it was the realization that any student who missed an online class could watch the recording on-demand. Maybe it was the epiphany that students need to learn how to learn online since they will be forced to learn online in college and post-college. Maybe it was the experience taking a few online classes myself and being amazed how much I was learning, how fast. (Read my article on Coursera here. Haven't heard of Coursera? Read this article now.)
Whatever it was, this message has crystallized in my mind:
Parents! Your kids can learn online.
They like to learn online. And they need to learn how to learn online. Fast. Because education is going to change. Quickly. Those who are self-driven and who can learn things efficiently online will have massive advantages.
And before you choose a local, in-person class over an online class, ask yourself:
- Will the in-person class be recorded so your son or daughter can watch a class that is missed?
- Is there a chance that a disruptive student will make it harder for your son or daughter to fully concentrate?
- Might there be other distractions in the classroom that might distract your son or daughter?
- Might your son or daughter have an easy time concentrating at home in a comfortable spot?
- Who is the instructor? Do they tutor students for the SAT and ACT full-time or do they just teach 1 or 2 SAT or ACT classes a week?
- Is it always going to be possible to drive your son or daughter to the class?
My point is not that online learning is always better than in-person learning. Nor is my point that online learning is better for every person, in every situation. No, it's not. But it should not be dismissed so quickly. And every parent and every students has to give online learning a try. And another try. And another try. Because learning online is not going away. It is a skill that must be developed if you want to control your own destiny.
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