Is online learning the best solution for weather-related school closures?
Unexpected school closures are a joy for students, but not so much for teachers and administrators. Source: Shutterstock

Unexpected school closures in various countries are bound to happen thanks to factors like bad weather (i.e. haze, snow, etc.) and even outbreaks such as mumps or hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

However, in the US, online learning options have proven to be a blessing for some schools, enabling them to avoid makeup or replacement days due to conditions that prevent students from attending.

This includes the Anderson County School District 5 in South Carolina, which became the first district in the state to pilot the first eLearning programme.

According to a report by the Independent Mail, the school had an eLearning day when Tropical Storm Michael moved through the area. Instead of cancelling school, students were required to complete their lessons at home on their Chromebooks, which were provided by the district, that also work without an internet connection.

“For some students, it was as quick as 20 minutes, for many others about an hour and a half or more, and they were done with their assignments and enjoying the mostly sunny afternoon, several parents told the Independent Mail,” the report notes.

Despite its benefits, the report explains that eLearning days can burden parents and guardians to stay at home or make other arrangements.

While students can do work without internet access, their online interaction with teachers requires it. Teachers are said to be required to set aside several hours during eLearning days to allow students to interact with them, so long as they have internet access.

Bad weather can prevent students from reaching schools, but online learning can help students learn remotely instead. Source Shutterstock

Meanwhile, other schools have also enjoyed success with online learning, including the Pascack Valley Regional High School District in New Jersey.

Speaking to CNN, teacher Jordan Kohanim opined that online learning is not the highest quality education available, as there is little interaction when students are asked to read a passage, watch a video and write a response, but Kohanim made herself available to answer questions and check work, helping students stay focused until they could return to school.

Advocates for schools to complement traditional classes with online learning options say this also allows injured or ill students to continue their studies without falling behind their peers.

Conversely, eLearning may not be a feasible option for every school, including Greenville County Schools in South Carolina.

The FOX Carolina News reported that a spokesperson for the Greenville County Schools said “they are in the process of rolling out devices to students in grades three through 12, but even if all schools had Chromebooks now, students in kindergarten, first and second grade wouldn’t be able to participate.

“The district also said not every family has internet connection in the district and since ice often causes power outages, it’s not an ‘equitable or practical solution’ for their schools.”

Advocates of online learning say it doesn’t only help those in remote areas to access education with ease, but also acts as a flexible and affordable learning option for students.

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