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Some SC students say virtual learning is the best option for them

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 7:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - While some students had trouble learning virtually this past year, others thrived.

The South Carolina Whitmore School is a public charter school that has been teaching students online since 2011.

The school says students come to them for a variety of reasons: some are teen parents, others want to finish high school in two years, and a couple are even training to compete in the Olympics one day.

Educators and students say leaving a brick-and-mortar school behind isn’t for everyone.

Olivia Medeiros will graduate in 2022 and started attending SC Whitmore about two years ago, and has since been able to maintain a job, be active in student government, and keep up with her coursework.

She said being able to watch lessons at any time and arrange one-on-one lessons with her teachers makes it easier to keep up with it all.

“It really depends on your motivation and the discipline you give yourself,” Medeiros said.

Many parents have said they worry that a year and a half of taking classes online has deprived their children of social and emotional learning.

For recent graduate James Roets, Whitmore was the only high school experience he ever knew, and he had no problem making close friends from online interactions.

“The advantage, the main one I’d say, is you have a lot of time for how you want to approach people, you can type out your message, take your time with it. Whereas if you are in person there are advantages because you can see them in person and gauge their tone of voice and stuff,” he said.

Roets said it is often easy for people his age to make deep connections online because they are already spending a lot of time on their phones and on social media. In fact, he met two of his friends from the virtual art club for the first time at graduation.

“I added them on Twitter and Discord and we sent messages regularly, a voice called, whatever. And that’s just how it worked...you get to talk to people a lot and the become your friend,” he said.

Director of School Counseling Kim Dunbar said virtual learning also gives students a chance to learn time management and self-discipline.

“So many students may have a job, or sports or other things, and they don’t have a bell ringing saying go to class or do the assignment. They need to come up with that schedule,” Dunbar said.

Math teacher Jason Rowe said for students going back to learning in person after a year of online, parents should check on their students more frequently because the shift in routine can be jarring.

“Once you get used to turning in your work at 3 o’clock in the morning, it can be hard to turn it in at 9 o’clock in the morning. So I noticed a lot of students have a hard time getting back to that schedule,” Rowe said.

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