The Difference Between Online Public School and Emergency Remote Learning

3 min to read
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When it comes to choosing the right school for your student, the options can become overwhelming, especially when you’re considering enrolling your child in a public brick-and-mortar school vs an online public school. You may have memories of your child’s school trying to make their in-person classes work with the limited resources they had during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this emergency, many schools were not familiar with remote learning best practices and some students experienced significant learning loss. The experience of emergency schooling could have been enough to turn you away from online schools entirely.

But the truth is, the emergency remote learning many families experienced during the pandemic is not the same as the online distanced learning families experience after they enroll their child in a public virtual school like Connections Academy.

Unlike in emergency schooling, the curriculums found in virtual schools have been specifically designed for effective online learning, providing unique opportunities for students to thrive academically in an environment where families have more control over their daily schedule and can play a more-active role in their child’s education.  

What is Emergency Remote Learning

Occasionally also called distanced learning, emergency remote learning occurs when a typically in-person learning environment is suddenly brought into a digital classroom setting due to emergency situations. This shift can lead to challenges for many families and teachers who are not familiar with the structural and technological needs of effective online schooling.  

The type of online distance learning found in emergency online learning is not the same as online public or private schools, though. So, what’s the difference between distance learning and online school? We’re glad you asked.

What is Distance Learning in Online School?

While virtual schools are also distance learning options, they are not the same as emergency online learning. Online public or private schools are remote and often highly flexible with a state-approved curriculum that works well for engaging students in an online setting because it has been purpose-built for the at-home learning environment. Almost every feature of brick-and-mortar schools can be found in virtual school programs, including field trips, access to school counselors, clubs and activities—even prom!

A student enrolled in online distance learning using a laptop.

Is Distance Learning Effective?

The key difference between the distance learning in online school vs the distance learning in emergency remote school is the focus on active vs passive learning.

Active learning is when a student is actively participating in the learning process through learning activities and discussions rather than passively consuming information through videos or lectures. 

Emergency remote learning tends to be more passive by design because brick-and-mortar schools have not all adapted to the same technology and teaching methods that online schools use to keep students engaged. Without in-person tools, emergency remote learning often falls back on lectures and slides to teach students, which isn’t always effective when stacked up against all the usual distractions students face at home.

But in online virtual schools, the curriculum has been optimized for distance learning. For example, Connections Academy-supported schools use a combination of LiveLessons, group discussion boards, one-on-one interactions, and much more to keep their students an active participant in their own learning. Online schools also provide tools and resources for caregivers to adapt their homes into prime learning environments. 

Here, students and families can thrive in all the benefits of online learning vs in-person school such as:

  • Opportunities for personalization

  • Individualized academic support

  • More flexible, day-to-day schedules 

An online school student reading a book while in online school.

How to Find Out More About Online K-12 Schools

If you’re trying to decide between online learning vs in-person school, then read some testimonials about online school. You can also check out “A Student’s Guide to Getting Started with Online School”, find a Connections Academy-supported school near you to request an information packet, and even attend a virtual information session.

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