Schools in Wisconsin and around the country went through a major transition and learning curve this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, many schools are currently in the process of figuring out a plan for the fall semester.
Most of those learning plans will likely involve a virtual component.
Wisconsin Virtual Learning Executive Director Michael Leach says there are “pros and cons”‘ of online schooling, depending on how each student learns best.
“Some of the pros of online learning is that it’s a pretty flexible model and that students can learn anytime and anywhere for the most part. It also offers students the opportunity to work at their own pace,” said Leach.
Although many students like the challenge of online learning, others need more structure. Leach says learning virtually is not for everyone.
“Unfortunately last spring, a lot of people didn’t have a choice, and they were thrust into this online learning model,” said Leach. “Sometimes students who don’t have the independent motivation or the ability to have a structured schedule on their own, it can be a challenge for students to try to maintain connection to their learning and their peers.”
Shorewood School District Superintendent Bryan Davis tells WTMJ’s Melissa Barclay that their schools have decided on the Virtual Plus learning model for the first quarter of the fall semester.
“That will look like synchronous learning opportunities for our students four days a week, and (an) asynchronous day on Wednesday’s for us to have some time for teacher collaboration and to check-in with students beyond class.”
Davis says they are always concerned about learning gaps with a new type of model, but he’s confident with the plan they have in place.
“Our Virtual Plus model is going to really make sure we are targeting students that need some extra support,” Davis said.
Colleges and universities are also figuring out their game plan for the fall semester and not all of their methods look the same.
Laura Bray, the Vice President of College Advancement and External Communications at Milwaukee Area Technical College, says they have decided on a mix of online, virtual, hybrid and blended learning models.
“We’re going to have online and virtual options for about 60 percent of our classes, and then we have certain courses that need the mix of both face-to-face and virtual learning, which is about 10 percent. We also have some classes that really need full in-person (instruction),” said Bray.
Classes that would need to be at least partially in the classroom include firefighter and police training, machinists, manufacturing, and classes for healthcare workers like nurses and respiratory therapists.
Bray says she has a special hope for students and staff coming into this year.
“I think that this whole situation is teaching us a level of empathy and compassion for other people and if someone is going through a difficult time. There are so many people that are in a similar boat,” said Bray. “Faculty, staff and students at MATC can reach out to each other right now and feel that support through this time. Students can really count on their team at MATC to see them through this.”