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Virtual Learning - Obtaining a Diploma Without Entering a Classroom

Disadvantages VS. Advantages

Virtual learning -- a concept of the future -- may be coming to Hudson Valley school districts.  But what is it? 

According to New York State Department of Education, online learning is defined by “instruction in specific units of study consisting of teacher-to-student, student-to-student and or student-to-content interactions that occur solely through digital and or internet connected media” (meaning no face-to-face interactions between students and teachers.) So, as long as you have internet access, a cable or broadband network, your child can take part.

Homework is given, students have deadlines for assignments, and class credit is only awarded for completing assignments, passing tests, and participating in group projects and class discussions; accessibility to course material is 24/7.  What this means is that students will be able to obtain a diploma without entering a classroom. 

So, is this a good direction? 

Maybe so. According to Johnice McRae, Ed.S. of the Georgia Virtual School program, all their courses have highly qualified, certified and caring teachers. She adds that 77 percent of students learn at least as well, or better, than face-to-face. A sentiment echoed by the Department of Education’s report on “online learning,” that said, “on average, students receiving online curriculum performed better than those receiving traditional or face-to-face instruction.” They also found that online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting “learner reflection.”

Matching student to learning experience

The real promise of virtual education, experts say, is providing learning experiences more tailored to individual students and their unique learning style than is possible in traditional classrooms. Jane Briggs from the New York State Department of Education says in the most recent survey in 2010, fifty percent of districts report that students are taking online learning opportunities. The Board of Regents, at their June 2011 meeting, approved new regulations providing flexibility in earning credit for online and blended-learning courses. She adds, online courses can fill gaps in course offerings and widen the learning community regardless of geography, family income level or background.

One thing is clear: virtual education is a growing trend and it just might offer your child an educational boost in an overburdened educational system. It is, however, something to keep abreast of so you know if it’s a good match for your child.wise learning learning style for your child.


  • Flexibility: Virtual schools offer more flexibility for students who can’t commit to a regular school schedule.
  • Self-directed: Virtual students can work at their own pace
  • Customized learning: Learning experiences are more tailored to individual students than possible in traditional classrooms.
  • Increased access to quality education: Regardless of where they live or attend school, students have access to high quality courses and teachers. 


  • Accessibility to technology: Every student does not have access to the technology necessary to attend a virtual school.
  • Lack of structure: Some students require the structure of a traditional classroom experience.
  • Hands-on learning difficulties: It’s difficult to simulate hands on or labwork in a virtual classroom.

Dawn Marie Barhyte is a former educator who has taught at all levels.