What Schools in the Future Might Look Like

Statistics about America’s current education system paint a grim picture.  Over 6 million students are chronically absent from the classroom in the US every year.  University freshmen only retain 40% of what they learn in college preparatory classes from high school.  Perhaps even more disturbing, teenagers today are 5 times more likely to suffer from a mental illness than teens of prior generations.  As a result of these facts, 60% of Americans believe the traditional system is failing today’s students.

Thanks to conditions caused by the pandemic, millions of American students have tried out online learning.  While the planning and implementation of virtual school was difficult for many districts, it has led to some positive results.  Students and teachers were able to avoid deadly disease during COVID-19’s early stages.  57% of students have more positive feelings about online school than they did before the pandemic started.  A professionally designed virtual school can have all the benefits of online schooling without the snags traditional schools ran into during lockdown days. 

Both students and families see many benefits from online learning.  Virtual school offers a more flexible schedule to its students.  Students who have been the victims of bullying find a safer environment online, where bullying incidents are noticeably fewer in number.  Families concerned with current curriculum culture wars have more involvement in their child’s education when they enroll in virtual schools.  Online schooling is also more time effective, taking 40% to 60% less time than traditional schools to teach the same material.  Imagine how many more subjects a student can cover with their extra time!

Another advantage of online schooling is its newness.  Traditional schooling is hard to make rapid changes to.  Current physical schools value conformity and compliance.  Meanwhile, the modern job market wants to see people with innovative ideas, a creative spirit, and the initiative to try new things.  Fast paced changes in technology require people to learn and relearn several times throughout their adult life.  One way online schooling can cultivate this mindset is by implementing project-based learning.  Students engaged in hands-on learning are 1.5 times less likely to fail. On average, their exam scores improved by half a letter grade. This form of active learning allows students to build critical thinking, cultivate their creativity, and improve their knowledge levels.  Student-led, project-based curriculums lead to higher graduation rates, increased student motivation, and improved interaction between teachers and students.  

Virtual schools can also experiment with a feedback system that goes beyond grading.  Right now, many students put in just enough work to earn their desired grade.  The learning they achieve in school comes secondary to their performance evaluation.  Grades cause stress and higher stakes for students, with a depressing 80% of students believing their parents care more about their grades than their happiness.  Going beyond a letter or number grade would involve teachers giving descriptive feedback on student work.  This could encourage self-reflection and help the student connect their learning with future goals. Grades are exchanged for mentorship.