We all see the world through filters created by our life experiences and thinking. These filters create our perceptions of reality. Sometimes our perceptions closely resemble reality; other times, we need to adjust our perceptions to become more realistic in our thinking. Variations in perceptions about virtual learning have become more prevalent as we encountered our own experiences in virtual learning. You may or may not have these 5 perceptions; however, knowing what perceptions are out there can be helpful for anyone in the world of education today.
Perception #1 - Virtual learning is easy.
For some, this is absolutely true! For most, this is a misperception. To be able to learn in a virtual environment requires some degree of self-motivation and focus. Other factors include individual interest in the topic being learned, the way the individual learns, and the relationship with the teacher. Each student has a different combination of factors that makes learning “easy” for them. The key is to know your learners.
Perception #2 - Virtual learning takes less time.
Again, for some, this is absolutely true! For many, it depends on the methods needed to learn and the methods used to guide the learning. The time it takes to learn something is also tied to whether it is considered “easy” to learn. Another reason to know your learners!
Perception #3 - Learning virtually can be the same as learning in-person.
This all depends on what is to be learned and the depth and breadth of learning to be achieved. In-person learning offers some aspects that cannot be duplicated online, even when utilizing an online meeting tool with video and audio. For example, some labs involving expensive lab equipment and collaboration between group members may be simulated in an online learning environment but may not result in the same level of learning in all aspects. Some in-person, group learning is challenging to replicate without being in the same physical space. This fact, however, should not halt online learning for all topics nor remove the option to learn virtually for all learners. Know your learners AND how the learning target is best learned.
Perception #4 - Virtual teachers don’t work as hard as in-person teachers to achieve the same learning goals.
This is false - period. While there are different types of virtual learning opportunities, there are also different circumstances involving virtual learning. Teaching in a virtual world is different from teaching in-person. We should not compare these two methods of teaching as it is like comparing apples to oranges. They are simply not the same thing even though they are both fruits. Whether virtually or in-person, knowing your learners and what they need to reach the learning targets is critical. Learning what learners need to reach the learning target in each environment requires different “work.”
Perception #5 - Learning at home isn’t really learning.
This is false. Learning can happen anywhere at any time. COVID mitigation efforts pushed learning into homes everywhere across the nation, the globe. While not all children learned what educators wanted them to learn, they were still learning something.
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (n.d.),
“Learning is 1: the act or experience of one that learns; 2: knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study; 3: modification of a behavioral tendency by experience (such as exposure to conditioning).”
The perception of what educators view as learning (specific programs of study) may not have been happening in every home during COVID mitigation efforts, but learning was happening. While the overall statement of “Learning at home isn’t really learning” is false, more focused statements may be true. We must be careful with our words to ensure our perceptions are not all-inclusive when inclusivity is not representative of the entire group.
All children can learn. Learning happens anywhere at any time. When these two thoughts become part of your belief system, a virtual learning environment can exist. In some instances, the best environment is a blend of virtual and in-person. What remains to be determined is the learning that should occur and the best method for learning for the individual child. What do you think? How can you utilize the tools and resources we now have available to create the best learning experience?
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Learning. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 18, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learning
A passionate, dedicated educator with over 20 years of educational experience, Dr. Aiko Malynda Maurer has been transforming education as a school leader for the past 10 years. First as founder and former CEO/Principal of the HOPE for Hyndman Charter School and now as the Chief Executive Officer of the Central PA Digital Learning Foundation, Dr. Maurer is leading the organization on a journey to create the Ideal Virtual Learning Experience for every learner. With experience in traditional school districts, brick and mortar charter schools, and cyber schools as both a teacher and a school leader, Dr. Maurer also networks, guides, and coaches other school leaders through the process of transforming education in their schools as the Director of Innovation, Incubation, and Development of the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8.