Online school is an appealing choice for high school and middle school students, especially in the age of social distancing. There are many reasons why families choose online for their children’s education – increased flexibility, more time to focus on a sport or instrument, or emphasis on independence and self-efficacy. But are you really getting the most out of your child’s online education? Read on for five important questions you should be asking.
- What is the curriculum?
One of the most important factors in choosing an online school is the curriculum. The types of courses offered also go hand-in-hand with graduation requirements. Check to see how many years of English, Math, Science, History and Foreign Language are required to graduate. Does the school offer electives, honors, or AP courses? Inquire with an admissions counselor or school director before committing to a program. Remember to ask which credits transfer from previous schools, and if they count towards the online school’s graduation requirements. Finding out if the school is officially accredited is also a must.
- Who are the teachers?
In a traditional school students learn in the classroom with teachers. Online schools have a different model. As a parent, it’s important to ask whether the school employs their own teachers or uses teaching staff sourced from online software. Is an actual person teaching the lessons and lectures, or is instruction pre-recorded? Are the teachers grading papers and tests, or are all examinations multiple choice? How will your child get help with a difficult concept throughout the semester, and what modes of communication are used to communicate with faculty? Review these questions with school staff and think about asking to speak with a teacher at the school before enrolling.
- What kind of software do they use?
Many online schools choose to utilize outside software for their educational materials. The question is: which one is right for your child? Understand the program your online school uses and familiarize yourself with it ahead of time by contacting the company or asking for a demo walk through. Top programs include Edgenuity and Khan Academy – other schools bypass a third party and create their own systems. Make sure you have the correct internet and computer hook-up to successfully run the program from home. Whatever system your online school uses, find out and explore it in advance.
- Who will be advising my child?
Online school requires motivation, diligence, and drive on the part of the student. A strong system of advisors, learning coaches, or guidance counselors is key to your student’s success. During the admissions process, make sure that your student will be paired with a capable, knowledgeable, and personable advisor or coach. Find out how often the advisor will be meeting with you and your student throughout the year, and what kind of relationship your student will have with them. Communication and partnership are vital to a student’s success in online school and the right guidance will help your child get there.
- How flexible is the program?
You may be searching for a program that lasts the traditional school year (September – May) or something that can be tailored to fit your family’s needs year-round. Either way, finding out if a school has flexibility around length of courses, course sign ups, and course load will help you and your student understand if the school suits your individual needs. Understand if your child will be required to sign into their classes everyday Monday-Friday for a specific amount of time, or if they can complete the work on their own time and on weekends. How many weeks are individual classes, and can those be extended or shortened? Knowing these answers will play a key role in planning outside activities, extracurriculars, and travel.