Making the decision to leave a traditional learning environment for an online school can seem daunting. Although an online learning environment offers students many advantages, families can feel overwhelmed choosing an online school that works for them. Here are questions every family should ask when considering an online school:
Is the School Accredited?
When a school is accredited, it is officially recognized by an outside, independent organization as credible, ensuring that the school provides an acceptable level of quality education. USPA is accredited and all courses are NCAA approved.
What About Flexibility?
Online schools vary when it comes to flexibility. Some schools follow a traditional school model and require students to log in at certain times each day and students can be penalized for turning in assignments past their assigned due dates. Other online schools like USPA allow for more flexibility, providing a student centered education which allows students to log in and do their schoolwork at any time during the day or week. This allows students the ability to tailor their academic schedule to work around music lessons, sports competitions and time spent with family. USPA courses are designed to allow students to complete a certain percentage of their school work each day/week giving students more flexibility.
How Are Students Supported?
Parents should investigate what kind of support is offered to students so that students are given every tool to be successful in their academic journey. Along with a stellar online academic teaching staff, USPA offers a unique Learning Coach experience to our students to ensure academic success. Students are assigned a Learning Coach upon joining the school and this LC meets with them regularly to offer support, mentorship, encouragement, as well as help with pacing to keep students on track. Learning Coaches are an integral part of the USPA experience and they develop strong relationships with their students.
USPA teachers offer one on one Zoom meetings to students who need help as well as schedule office hours so that students can drop in and ask questions. USPA also offers regularly scheduled Zoom “classrooms” allowing teachers, learning coaches and students to gather in groups to study, socialize and build community.
How Do Online Classes Work?
Online courses are usually structured similarly to a traditional classroom style. At USPA, students watch and listen to prerecorded instruction provided by teachers and take notes just like they would in the physical classroom. Videos can be paused, rewound and video transcripts are provided for each lesson. This gives students the advantage of being able to go over concepts or rewatch a lesson if they are having trouble, unlike a regular classroom setting where a teacher will move forward on material. Guided notes are also provided and students can use them to highlight important concepts. Students answer questions within the lessons to ensure comprehension and understanding. Each lesson also provides assignments and quizzes which must be completed before a student can move on to the next lesson. USPA teachers review student work and leave both written and verbal feedback throughout the course.
What Technical Skills Do Online Students Need?
Students should have basic computer skills and be able to use a keyboard and mouse, be familiar with a word processing program and be able to send and receive email. USPA’s learning platform is intuitive and easy to use and students are given an in-depth orientation before starting their course work. If students have technical difficulties, they can reach out to their teachers or learning coaches for help or make use of the “student support” function within the online platform.
What About Honors or AP?
Parents should ask whether an online school offers higher level courses. USPA offers online honors and AP courses for students who are looking for more rigorous coursework. Teachers and learning coaches work together with students and their families to create a plan that best suits the student.