PATRIOT — This school year, the Southern Ohio Digital Academy (SODA), an online education platform for K-12 students affiliated with Gallia County Local Schools, has seen an increase in students – and also in new challenges and solutions.
SODA has been a program for five years in the school district, and this year its enrollment increased by 100% of the previous year’s enrollment. With this dramatic increase, there were more challenges for students and parents adjusting to the program.
“It’s been a challenge. We’ve had to act with patience,” Bridget Cox, an online teacher with SODA, said. The pandemic “has forced parents to take on a different role,” she added. “Its really been a challenge for everyone. It’s changed the profession and how we educate.”
According to Rochelle Halley, an administrator who oversees SODA, many parents and students did not want to return to a traditional classroom setting because of the spread of COVID-19 and questions about safety protocols. After the first quarter of this school year, many SODA students returned to traditional in-person classes, though many continue to learn online.
The influx of new students has been the biggest change SODA has faced since the pandemic began, but other adjustments have had to be made to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Usually, SODA offers job shadowing and requires face-to-face meetings three times a quarter for enrolled students. To minimize the spread of COVID, which as of Feb. 2, has killed 11,336 Ohioans according to data collected by the Ohio Department of Health, both job shadowing and in-person meetings were halted.
More teachers from Gallia County Local Schools work with SODA this year to handle the higher enrollment, and teachers have gotten more innovative with how they educate by utilizing different online tools, like Google Classroom, Lori Bevan, SODA’s online learning coordinator, explained.
Some families have had internet issues, which have complicated online learning, and for first-time online learners, adjusting to the digital platform can be difficult.
“It’s definitely a learning curve for students and parents with technology and getting familiar with the program,” Cox said.
Families considering enrolling in SODA or other digital learning platforms should consider “intrinsic motivation” to complete online school, Halley said. “I think it’s really important as they’re making these choices that they keep these things in mind. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. You need to be really informed before you make that choice, but if you are informed and it’s a good choice for you, it’s a good program. It’s rigorous.”
SODA is based in Patriot, Ohio.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.