This morning education leaders and policymakers joined for the Student Panel at the International Association for K-12 Online Learning’s (iNACOL) annual Virtual School Symposium (VSS) in New Orleans. Students candidly shared their insights and experiences learning at online and blended schools across the country.

What made you want to go to your online or blended school?

“I just love the ‘ummphh’ of coming to school,” said one student and gathered applause from the audience.

“I felt that they met my academic needs as a scholar,” said another student.

“[The teachers] are nice and kind — they’re really cool,” said the youngest student on the panel.

“I like that I could stay at home and work at my pace,” said a student who was previously home schooled.

“I chose online school because I was severely bullied,” said a high school senior, “and online school helped me become myself again. It helped me become a nerd again.”

“Connections academy really wanted me to do well,” said another student. “With the help of the teachers, I went from really bad grades to straight A’s. You’re also teaching yourself. It’s hard, but it’s also easy.”

What are the perks of online and blended learning?

“College is possible because we were able to use those resources,” said a student who emotionally told the audience he’s one of the first in his community to graduate high school and gain an opportunity to go to college.

“Since most of it is on the computer, there’s a link to anything,” said one student. “It’s like saying, ‘Hey! There’s an app for that!'” He added, “This is a double negative … but you can’t not know it.”

“[Teachers] really want to help you,” said a high school senior. “They want you to be the best you can be.” She added that she typically didn’t want to go to school, but with online learning she can simply walk downstairs and do¬†school.

“Blended learning has given me a good footing and step ahead” in becoming versed in math and science to reach a goal of becoming a forensic scientist, said one student.

Students also mentioned the following benefits:

  • No textbooks, but rather up-to-date learning materials
  • Constant connection with the teacher via email, messages, etc.
  • Accommodation¬†for learning disabilities
  • Relief from bullying, social problems, etc.
  • A higher success and graduation rate despite past community outcomes
  • Self-paced learning
  • Adaption to learning styles and interests, like game-based learning
  • Immediate feedback on learning assignments due to the integration of technology
  • Learning anywhere, anytime

How would you describe your online and blended learning experience in one word?

  • Phenomenal
  • Growth
  • Clairvoyant
  • Individualized
  • Independent
  • Life changing
  • Inspirational
Online and blended learning is re-enchanting these students with learning — a feat that traditional classrooms fell short. The teachers that stay in close contact with them online via email, phone, and more ensuring their success, interest, and courage to overcome challenging assignments. These kids are an inspiration.

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