Online Learning: Socializing in the Virtual Classroom
Many families choose online school as a means to alleviate the stresses and hurdles faced in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Children in online schools find themselves liberated from strict schedules and concerns regarding public safety.
But there’s a major unanswered question surrounding online learning: are there enough opportunities for social interaction in the online classroom?
Do virtual students struggle with loneliness and isolation?
How can students establish rewarding friendships and lead sociable lives when they don’t sit in rows of peers every day? We understand how worried this makes you as parents, but don’t worry—student life in online schools can be just as fulfilling and full of social opportunity as student life in traditional schools.
Interaction with classmates encourages strong communication skills
It’s not a secret that online learners trade chats by the locker for attending class from the couch in their pajamas, but that doesn’t mean that their daily interactions with peers will disappear.
Even in online courses, students engage with each other in order to develop important social-emotional learning skills and an overall sense of community in the classroom. This may include group projects, virtual study groups, or online group chat functions facilitated by the school to discuss coursework and exchange questions.
The opportunity to connect with instructors isn’t lost in virtual learning environments either. Students may not be able to physically raise their hand and ask questions, but the online learning approach affords students the liberty of contacting teachers directly on their own time, and teachers are able to give more individualized support to the student.
A strong network of clubs and extracurriculars establishes a student community
Just because a school doesn’t have in-person sports teams, clubs, and extracurriculars doesn’t mean the students miss out on socializing opportunities through mutual interests.
The breadth of our vibrant extracurricular community spans more than 30 different online clubs and activities—so every student, no matter their strengths outside of the classroom, can find a circle of like-minded peers.
These clubs have their own schedules for virtual meetups, discussions, and events, so the more online groups your student joins, the more chances they’ll have to engage in socialization that doesn’t directly involve classwork.
We’ve offer student government for aspiring diplomats, eSports for gaming enthusiasts, multiple reading and writing clubs for future authors, and a Coding Hangout for young computer scientists. Even if you think there’s no way a certain group could form virtual bonds—like equestrians or athletes—there’s a good chance a Laurel Springs group has made it possible, and online clubs make the online education community that much stronger.
Encouraging social interaction beyond the four virtual walls
Social media platforms have become a critical tool for young people to communicate and stay up to date with their friends, especially in the age of the pandemic and long-distance friendships. Our private social media network, offered to students in 7th grade and up, allows students to further develop their friendships and connections so they can grow their Laurel Springs family outside of the classroom.
Your student may be doing all of their learning online, but not all of their socialization has to be. Even the most well-developed online school communities are not going to be 100% perfect social systems—your student might find themselves frustrated when a friend takes a long time to respond, when the tone of online communication is difficult to translate, or when lapses in internet connectivity, especially due to travel, interrupts their sole outlet to their social circles.
One of the best remedies to this problem? Don’t let online friendships be their sole outlet. Encouraging online students to maintain some connections in the physical world will help combat feelings of loneliness or isolation when their virtual village is not entirely fulfilling.
Getting involved in community theater or other local clubs, sports, tutoring, community volunteering, or faith-based functions like youth groups, and staying in touch with former classmates from their brick-and-mortar school or kids in the neighborhood are all great ways to keep a strong support network outside of school.
Even at Laurel Springs, we don’t just talk about how to learn online—we know how to have a great time with in-person events. Throughout the year, Laurel Springs students can choose to participate in regional field trips and other social events no matter what grade they’re in. Our high school students can even travel the world together in some of our courses.
We hold a wonderful year-end celebration that brings all of those long-distance friends together for graduation, prom (for grades 8–12), and an alumni get-together. These yearly festivities attract students from all over the world, so it’s the perfect opportunity for your student to put faces, voices, and presences to the friends they’ve been making for years.
Learn more about our social opportunities by talking to an admissions counselor today.
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