One person cannot know everything.
Online resources give you access to
the combined thinking of teachers and
professionals in the field. You also have
access to other viewpoints, which is
important particularly for understanding social studies content. Consider a
student growing up on the West Coast
discussing the Civil War with another
student in his or her school, versus
discussing it with a student from South
Carolina. That’s probably going to be a
Online learning broadens a student’s ability to understand different points
of view, be empathetic, and become an expert at the digital age skills of
communicating in speech, text, video, and images.
Students often have personal interests
that those around them don’t share. As
a rocketry and space enthusiast, I can
tell you that I have often had difficulty
relating my excitement and learning to
many of those around me, but thanks
to my online social networks, this has
become a big part of my personal and
even my professional life. Personal in-
terests tap into students’ passions. Let
them explore them with other people
who are passionate about the same
subjects they are.
If you consider the factual knowledge available online, the ability to
customize online interactions based
on interest and experience, and the
fact that socialization happens online,
a 100% online education should not
raise any concerns about social skills.
In fact, it broadens a student’s ability to
understand different points of view, be
empathetic, and become an expert at
the digital age skills of communicating
in speech, text, video, and images.
—Don W. Brown, EdD, is part of a team that develops virtual course services for 14 school districts in
the Lane Education Service District in Eugene, Oregon, USA. He teaches online courses and volunteers
as Oregon’s Solar System Educator for NASA/JPL.
But at this point in time, we humans
learn to gather information and form
opinions in conversations based not
just on what others are saying, but
on their nonverbal communication
as well. Studies on adolescent thinking reveal that students have not yet
developed the facility to read irony
or sarcasm. Other studies conclude
that most people can subconsciously
detect when another person is lying
by reading nonverbal clues. Even a
virtual conference does not allow the
development of the communication
skills that students must develop if we
expect them to collaborate with other
people in work, marriage and family,
and their communities.
Even in my own personal and
professional life, I have learned that
emails can sometimes get me in hot
water. I have realized that if I want to
express my opposition to someone’s
opinion, I need to discuss it in person,
as seeing a comment in print can be
Even a virtual conference does not allow the development of the
communication skills that students must develop if we expect them
to collaborate with other people in work, marriage and family, and
interpreted as condemnatory, while
inflection and tone of voice can con-
vey a totally different meaning.
Of course, students who have a
difficult time in traditional school,
especially socially, will often argue
for an online-only education. Given
the realities of bullying, we may be
tempted to make life easier for them.
But if adolescents are still develop-
ing intellectually, emotionally, and
socially, do we really want to burden
them with such a big choice as opting
out of school? It’s a time in their lives
they will not get back.