9 TIPs If Your Virtual / Blended Learning Options Are Not Working For Your Child
Did your child feel lost in school this year with your school’s Covid-19 Virtual or Blended Learning options? Although students, parents and teachers have been resilient, many outstanding classroom teachers are struggling with adapting to the virtual learning environment. And, many students are disengaged and unmotivated.
Here is why:
1. Classroom teachers have had little training in effective virtual learning strategies. Plus, they are expected to teach in the classroom one day, and virtually the next. Teachers have turned to social media group chats for advice. According to a recent article in Education Week, the most common questions teachers ask are:
How do I use this virtual tool?
What do I do if my student has technical difficulties?
How do I get students to login?
How do I get students to turn in assignments?
My school is not assigning grades. How do I assess students without grades?
2. Many parents have lost their jobs, especially in the restaurant, entertainment and travel industries. High school-age students are now working full-time in order to contribute to the family household income. This results in little time to go to school.
3. Parents who are working may have their older children helping their siblings with their schoolwork. This too results in little time to complete their own schoolwork.
4. Many families do not have space to set up a quiet “classroom” at home. Students are likely to be distracted going to school in their bedroom or living room.
5. Students find it hard to stay focused on the teacher during live lessons. Let’s face it. Would you rather watch the kitten playing on a friend’s bed, or listen to the teacher explain a new math concept?
Is your child struggling?
Are you looking for a solution to keep your child’s learning moving forward? Virtual learning is not new. There are hundreds of accredited public and private schools that specialize in virtual learning.
Public Virtual Charter Schools – As the name implies, these schools are public schools, which means they are tuition-free. There are seven states that do not have charter school law: Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia. However, if you live in any other state, chances are you will find several options. K12 is one option that offers grades K -12, making it an easy choice for families with children in elementary, middle and high schools. Another option is Connections Academy, also serving students in grades K – 12.
Most have open enrollment, and they are likely to have space available.
Private Virtual Schools – Private virtual schools, such as Whitmore School and Laurel Springs School, charge tuition. The tuition is typically between $1,000 to $16,000 per year. Many private virtual schools are grade-specific: grades K – 8, or grades 9 – 12. However, there are also many schools offering grades K – 12.
Most virtual schools have open enrollment and flexible schedules. This means that students are not required to log in for live lessons at specific times. These schools are a great choice if your child has other time commitments. The advantage is that school can be completed around a busy schedule, medical appointments, family travel, or work.
OK, so 2020-21 blended learning is not working for your child.
Now what? Below are 9 TIPs for choosing the right virtual school:
1. Research independent reviews
Let’s face it. A virtual school may have a beautiful website, but what do the students, parents and graduates say about their experience at the school? Use an independent research site for honest and verified reviews of the school to get a realistic perspective of the school. Click here to open Consumer Affairs Best Online High Schools reviews.
2. Is the school accredited?
Unfortunately, there are online programs that are not accredited. You may pay tuition and end up with a valueless “diploma”. Look for a school that is nationally and regionally accredited. Here is a list of few regional accreditors:
CITA – Commission on International and Trans-regional Accreditation
NCA – North Central Association – Cognia (formerly AdvancED)
SACS – Southern Association of Colleges and Schools –Cognia (formerly AdvancED)
NWAC – Northwest Accreditation Commission – Cognia (formerly AdvancED)
NEASC – New England Association of Schools and Colleges
MSA – Middle States Association
NCPSA- National Council of Private School Accreditation
IB – International Baccalaureate
3. Does the school offer an individualized one-to-one approach?
Accredited schools offer a rigorous curriculum. As a result, your child will graduate well prepared for a career or college. That is the goal – right? Be sure to ask if the lessons are computer generated and computer-graded, or if there is meaningful feedback from the teacher. Multiple choice lessons may sound easy, but independent studies have shown that students retain knowledge better when they engage one-to-one with teachers. With Whitmore School’s self-paced mastery learning approach, students and teachers develop a strong relationship. As a result, students are solidly engaged in their learning.
How large is the school? Is the school small enough to offer your child the personalized attention you are looking for? Mega-schools may offer hundreds of courses and have glitzy websites, but that may not be as important as finding the school that will support your child’s learning style.
4. Can students enroll mid-year?
If your virtual options are not working for your child, you probably need a solution right now. Can your child enroll any time of year, or just in the summer or semester break? Look for a school with open enrollment where students can start anytime. If your child needs to catch up for lost time, will the school allow your child to turn in work on the weekends?
5. Are the teachers qualified?
Teachers are the key element in your child’s online learning. A qualified teacher should hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and be knowledgeable in and passionate about the subject matter.
It is important that your child can develop a rapport with their online teachers. Ask if a teacher will interact with your child in every lesson. Do the teachers provide constructive feedback and encourage students to delve deeper into their learning?
6. How long has the school been open?
Online learning is in big demand. Students and parents love the flexibility online schools afford. A quick search on the Internet will reveal hundreds of online schools. Be careful – new schools are opening and closing all the time.
Choose a school that is tried and true. Accreditation and longevity are a good indication that your child will graduate and be qualified for college admission or be well prepared to enter the work-force or military service.
7. What about college acceptance?
A reputable online school will provide you with a list of college acceptances. Even if your child does not plan to go on to college, this is a good indicator of the quality of education.
Learn more about Whitmore School College Acceptances.
8. Are there additional fees?
If you are considering a private online school, does the tuition cover all costs? Are all course materials available online, or are there additional fees for books and lab materials? Are there additional fees for ordering official transcripts to be sent to colleges?
9. Unusual circumstances?
If your child has unusual circumstances, be sure to ask if the school can accommodate these concerns. Is your teen a dancer? Singer? Artist? Does your family travel? Does your child work?
Most private online high schools offer a flexible school schedule. You make your own schedule that fits your life. However, many public online charter schools require participation in scheduled “Live Lessons”. Students who travel or live in a different time-zone may find it difficult, or impossible, to meet this requirement. Be sure to ask.
Taking the time to research the best online school for your child can be time-consuming, but enrolling your child in the online school that best fits his or her needs is always worth the effort.
Whitmore School, accredited by Cognia (formerly AdvancED), offers four Diploma Programs for students wishing to enroll full-time to earn their high school diploma. Additionally, students looking to get back on track to graduate on time, can enroll in individual courses. Students enroll and begin any time, work at their own pace, and may take up to 12 months to complete their courses.
Written by: Ellen Ray, Principal, and parent of Alina, 2009 Whitmore School GraduateSee all blog posts