For some Louisiana students, virtual school was the norm before COVID-19

Originally published in The Daily Advertiser – March 27, 2020

Every weekday, 16-year-old Logan Voisin logs in to his computer to take geometry, English II and other sophomore-level courses. This isn’t a response to statewide school closures or the novel coronavirus. This is Logan’s norm, and that’s paying off right now.

As many students across Louisiana are having to figure out online platforms or take complete breaks from school, Logan and others who attend the Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy are carrying on as always.

Gov. John Bel Edwards closed schools for a month with a proclamation March 13 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. While some students are trying virtual learning for the first time, students at the Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy already were adapted to remote learning classes and their experiences offer insight for other children.

The virtual academy is a public K-12 school that serves hundreds of students across the state through virtual classes. Certified educators teach during live sessions that students log in for, and students can ask questions via microphone or chatbox. 

“It does function like a normal brick-and-mortar school, but it’s online and the student is at home,” said Maryanne Smith, who is in her second year teaching with the virtual school.

Smith teaches English II from her home computer in Ruston and posts assignments on an online platform called Blackboard.

“You have to have a really firm foundation in the content to teach virtually,” Smith said. “You have to be explicit, concise and direct.”

Live classes are recorded for students who cannot attend due to medical appointments and other reasons, or for students to review before tests.

Outside of live classes Smith plans, she grades and communicates with students and their “learning coaches,” or parents. Despite all the other changes in everyday life, Smith and her students haven’t been impacted as much by the state’s closures of schools in response to coronavirus.

“One really good thing about virtual education is it really hasn’t changed,” Smith said. “There was no big shift. We were able to maintain instruction.”

There was a slight change in scheduling, but otherwise, day-to-day operations look the same.

“We’ve been able to offer that sense of normalcy for our kids,” Smith said. “While there is so much chaos and unknown it is reassuring to have schooling and stay at home.”

That’s something Logan and his dad, who live in Houma, are appreciating right now.

“He’s still able to do his schoolwork,” Kenneth Voisin said. “It makes me feel secure in the system to know he won’t be losing months at a time.”

The Voisin family chose virtual education after years of homeschooling to give Logan more interaction while maintaining flexibility.

“I’m able to move around,” Logan said. “Say a hurricane happens. I just grab my computer and go. If I have internet access somewhere, I can still do my school.”

As others around the state are shifting to online instruction, Logan recommended students work to be self-driven. It’s a skill he’s had to hone over the last few years as he shifted from working with homeschool books to the virtual academy.

“Think of it like college,” Logan said. “Get used to working for yourself.”

To learn more about Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, visit https://lavca.k12.com/

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