The hybrid form of education where eLearners and in-person students share a classroom teacher is now a thing of the past, due to a May 21 Brevard Public School Board vote.
This year's choices, starting on the first day of school for students on Tuesday, Aug. 10, are either Brevard Virtual School/Florida Virtual School/Florida Cyber Charter Academy, or heading to school in person, where masks are now optional rather than mandatory.
Sister-school students in Viera and Cocoa shared what it was like this past year to be in the classroom and at home learning from the same teacher. It was a necessary experiment that addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, but it had both weaknesses and strengths. Analyzing it can help parents, guardians and students.
“Having eLearning in the classroom has made school inefficient,” said Viera Charter School's Avery Johnson, now a rising ninth grader. Many in-person students mentioned frequent classroom distractions as teachers would have to idle them or set them on a task while the teachers addressed eLearners, often contributing to behavioral problems in class.
Many eLearners reported difficulties hearing teachers, especially if muffled by a mask, combined with a reluctance to ask for help because they felt uncomfortable calling attention to themselves in front of in-person students. The eLearning option became such a challenge to some students by midyear that Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered eLearners who earned a D or F back to the classroom. Or parents/guardians could sign a waiver allowing the student to stay home online.
Teachers for the most part took the hybrid setup in stride, along with so many changes along the way. That didn't mean they liked it. Many teachers were unable to contact some of their eLearners for the entire semester, and often found students reluctant to participate.
“It's like having two jobs and getting paid for one,” said Cyril Morrow, a teacher at VCS sister-school Cocoa High School, for grades seven through 12. “You are working with students who are in front of you, and often you must give a separate lesson so eLearners can understand, since they are not in the same room as you. Assignments, too, might be given and received in a different manner. It’s more work and stress, but we are all in this together and we will get through this together no matter what next thing comes at us while we are still reeling from the last thing.”
Some students flourished as eLearners. Teachers noted that students with a high level of maturity, focus and motivation did better than their eLearner peers.
“I love eLearning because I can do my work anywhere, right on my phone if I need to,” said CHS student Kailey Spurlock, who earned straight A's all year. “I have no problem with my grades because I jump on my work as soon as it is assigned.”
What is the best school setting for my child: in-person or virtual?
If a student is mature and self-motivated, they likely did well as an eLearner and will do well as a virtual student. If they are easily distracted, have mental health issues that might have been aggravated by the isolation and anxiety so prevalent during the pandemic, or simply need more support, in-person learning might be the option.