5 Myths about Virtual Schools
According to latest research from Ambient Insight, 17 million pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students in the U.S. will get at least some of their education virtually by 2015. More than 4 million of these students will attend a full-time virtual school.
Despite the growing popularity of online education, there is still some confusion regarding how virtual school works.
So here is a list of five myths about virtual school that helps demystify some of the most common misconceptions about online schooling:
Myth #1: Virtual public school is the same as homeschool
Truth: The two are very different.
Virtual public schools deliver public education in the comfort of the student’s home. Like all public schools, they are tuition-free to students. State-certified teachers deliver a rigorous curriculum that correlates to state standards and provide students with a variety of innovative learning materials and top-notch resources.
Myth #2: Virtual schools are all about technology
Truth: Virtual schools are about curriculum and instruction for students.
Many virtual schools have the basic technology to allow students to join a virtual classroom wherever there’s Internet access. But the most reputable virtual schools also take the curriculum and instruction very seriously for students—it’s not just about technology.
If you think all virtual schools are created equal, it is time to do your homework. Look for a virtual school with a track record of delivering student academic achievement and high levels of parent and student satisfaction. Other key quality benchmarks include: accreditation from AdvancED; full-time, certified, and highly qualified teachers; state-of-the-art technology resources; and community activities, extracurricular activities, and field trips for students.
Explore how technology enhances learning at tuition-free Connections Academy®-supported online public schools for grades
Myth #3: Virtual learning is essentially “teacher-less”
Truth: Certified teachers do the teaching.
Not only are online teachers heavily involved in online courses, but many report that they know their students better online than in a traditional classroom setting. They are specially trained in the nuances of working effectively in a virtual classroom and can pay close attention to tailoring instruction to match students’ needs and learning styles.
Students who attend a virtual school learn at home under the guidance of a certified teacher. A parent or other trusted adult has the opportunity to serve as a Learning Coach, and may assist the child with day-to-day learning activities as needed. In the best virtual schools, the teacher works directly with both the student and Learning Coach to develop an individual learning plan, provide instruction, and grade assignments.
Myth #4: Virtual school students spend all of their time in front of a computer
Truth: Students use textbooks, pencils, microscopes, and interactive curricula.
In the top virtual schools, the computer is a tool for teachers and parents to manage and track assignments, communicate (along with the phone), and deliver interactive curricular materials. However, students complete many assignments “unplugged,” and they spend time reading textbooks, using workbooks, reading library books, and doing hands-on science experiments—just like they would in a traditional school.
Myth #5: Online schooling limits quality social interactions for kids
Truth: Students regularly socialize and interact with peers.
The reality is that patterns of socialization for virtual learners are not so different from those students in a traditional school. Virtual students do have opportunities to interact with each other. Just like all kids, they choose to IM, text, talk to each other on the phone, go on field trips, and also socialize with adults in their schools, at home, and in the community. Many students also find that the flexibility of virtual education makes it possible to be involved in outside extracurricular activities, volunteer, or pursue their athletic or creative talents.
I know how stressful, confusing, and time-consuming it can be when comparing education options, so check out this virtual school comparison checklist for some guidance!
Are there other elements of virtual schooling that are still confusing you? Feel free to leave a comment or ask your questions below so I can help further demystify this option for you!
Editor’s Note: This blog post was updated on July 28, 2016 to reflect that Learning Coach tasks may vary by state
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