Digital Delay
A lesson from an Imperial onliner

Before I began seventh grade, an announcement changed my world: Imperial Academy would start accepting online students for the new school year—specifically for grades 7-12. My parents almost immediately enrolled my older sister and me. I had attended public school since first grade, so the chance to experience something different was exciting. I entertained thoughts of getting out of school at noon and frolicking outside for the rest of the day. To me, online school meant “easier than public school.” I was excited about how little time I could spend on schoolwork rather than focusing on the opportunity to attend IA.

IA ran a bit differently at its inception—ten years ago!—compared to now. Today, the 7-12th grade IA classes are live. The online students (called “onliners” rather than “brick-and-mortar,” which I hope someone illustrates) have webcams and microphones so that they can participate and interact with the other students and the teacher. However, in the early days of IA, none of my classes were live. Each class was recorded and posted a week later.

It was a drastic change from the structured schedule of public school. Instead of a classroom, I did my schoolwork in our dining room. Instead of being surrounded by classmates, my only schoolmates were my sisters. And instead of a whiteboard, I sat in front of my computer. I had class recordings to watch, quizzes to take online, and assignments to scan and upload. I didn’t have a teacher standing in front of me to ask questions, or to prompt me to take a quiz or read a textbook. It was easy to let things slip without the regimented schedule I was accustomed to.

And I did let them slip. I got behind in one of my classes, and continued my descent into the hole that I had dug for myself. After being a day behind, it was easy to get two or three days behind. And then a few days turned into a week. I’ll just make it up later, I thought—until an email landed in my inbox from my teacher. Uh oh. It was more serious than I had thought. I hadn’t turned in any work for a week, which I had not mentioned to my parents. Small oversight. Needless to say, neither my teacher nor my parents were pleased. I made up the work I hadn’t done, and I was grounded from some activities I had been looking forward to.

Excuses filled my mind for why I had allowed this to happen, but the bottom line was that I was taking my education for granted. I didn’t value IA or the effort the teacher had put into the class. Instead of putting my whole heart into learning, I had squandered the time. I knew school was important, yet I didn’t prioritize it.

The next year, school went more smoothly. All of my classes were live, and it was easier to keep up. But there were still some technological glitches. For instance, sometimes the Internet was slow, and the live classes would freeze. Other times, the Internet would go out completely, so I would have to work on something else. Not being in a physical classroom magnified the importance of staying focused.

Maybe you don’t have the best attitude toward your education. Maybe, like I did, you know that your education is important, but you’re just not valuing it—not taking homework seriously or tuning out in class. If I had continued my half-hearted efforts, I wouldn’t have been able to attend IA anymore. I learned that truly valuing my education meant treating it like a gift—because it is! So few get the education that we receive in the Philadelphia Church of God, and even fewer have the opportunity to attend Imperial Academy and Herbert W. Armstrong College. There are more than 7.4 billion people on Earth and less than 200 full-time students in AC and IA combined. This education is indeed rare.

God commands that we do everything with our whole hearts, and that we listen diligently and apply what we have been taught. We must realize how valuable instruction is and then pursue it (Proverbs 23:12). Education never comes from half-hearted effort—or from demoting schoolwork to your “low priority” list. As students, our primary job is to learn and to pay attention to what we are being taught.

The education we receive at IA, AC, pyc, Sabbath services, and countless other ways is unlike anything in this world—and we’re all receiving an education from God’s teacher’s college. Go after it wholeheartedly.