Challenges People Face When Online Learning

So you think you can do that? So you think you’re ready to take those online classes?

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A few months ago, our foster-adoptive mom, Phyllis, took her six foster children to Sign on the Dots in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to learn more about hosting their children’s future adoptive family. (They’ve always wanted to be a family, but didn’t yet know how.) We sat with Phyllis and her husband, Terry, outside a large room filled with tables filled with laptops, printers and windows on computer games. Inside were people from all ages (from kindergarten to 80) who took time off of their busy day to teach a group of people where to order pizza. While the “Welcome” session was available for anyone, the work required to become a partner, or adoptive team, of our family was strictly for those who were accepted into our foster-adoptive community. In other words, what’s involved in opening your home for a child who is currently in foster care is a long — and nerve-wracking — road.

Online learning is not new. But in this day and age, it’s important to learn. During their Visit.Com visit, Phyllis and Terry were excited. “It’s been a process,” one of our foster kids, Alexander, said. “My teacher sent me online, but it was a lot of legwork,” said Sydney, 7. Both were excited about what they thought was a waiting list for the next semester of elementary school when their state-sponsored placement work experience kicked off. But they weren’t alone. There were kids whose tables stood for poster age, and kids from the early 2000s. And a lot of empty chairs. We gave teachers a hand with answering questions and trying to calm nerves while we waited. The lesson of the day was to have empathy. While online learning is expanding the opportunity for connecting with groups of similar people, offline people — and their passions — hold a key to real learning.

Luxury online learning programs like lynda.com are all the rage, but there are still many who choose to learn offline. We are entering a time when we will likely be able to take most, if not all, online courses. By 2020, 90 percent of jobs will require an in-person online test, according to LearnABot.com. With increased education availability in this world of instant gratification, online learning will become even more ubiquitous, probably leaving us with no choice but to go with what our inner voices are leading us with.

We share this story not to dissuade people from online learning, but to build up a bridge to the offline world. As online learning becomes the mainstream, it’s important to consider whether the person next to you is ready for a life change — the effect of this could be the opposite of what you hoped for, or the opposite of you, especially when it comes to nurturing children. We recognize that online learning will always become more prevalent as technology continues to transform our world. But its strengths — increased communication among people in the same space, self-advising, quick and efficient online courses — can also be seen as a downside. Online learning is really a powerful tool in the toolbox of professionals. We recommend that you use the opportunities presented to you online, but to ask questions and make sure that you find the teacher who feels like your coach and your mentor. The teacher who will show you through their lessons, their work and their challenges what it will take to become an expert and a good friend. As we love online learning, we can’t help but wonder how our kids will respond as technology becomes even more ubiquitous.

We will continue to advocate for foster and adoptive care. Because for those who cannot provide an education for themselves, we hope that more children are matched with loving homes where they can thrive. We hope that by sharing our stories and how online learning compares to offline, we can help all students learn a lot.

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