Virtual or Blended School: Viable Short-Term Education Options
With more school choices than ever before, many families are redefining what constitutes a successful K–12 education. Today’s parents can select from traditional bricks-and-mortar schools, private or charter, and technology-based learning options. They may even combine methods, switching schools and educational methods to meet their children’s needs as they change. While some decide to use a virtual learning method permanently, other families choose online school as a short-term solution to a child’s changing needs.
A “DIY” Approach to Education
The idea of choosing from a menu of options to create a cohesive educational experience that is customized to fit each child has enormous appeal for parents. It’s a trend that prompted education experts to dub these families “Generation DIY,” for their do-it-yourself approach to education. Over the past decade, parents and students have embraced the options of fully online schools, making online learning and, more recently, blended learning environments one of the fastest-growing forms of education in the U.S. today.
Full-time virtual schools deliver education directly to students in their home via the Internet. Students work with certified teachers online while a parent oversees progress in the home. With blended learning, students get a mix of in-person and online instruction—all from certified teachers—plus have 24/7 access to their lessons online. Both of these school options utilize curriculum aligned to state standards. And, as public schools, they are tuition-free.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Education Options
Digital learning can meet the needs of all types of students and families. Some students find a perfect fit in full-time online or blended schools; others attend for a few years and then go back to the traditional school.
“Students transition between online and traditional school all the time. For many kids, the time they spend in online school is exactly what they needed to succeed later.”
Students aren’t bound to one method of education or another—they can mix it up and develop a more personalized school experience. At Connections Academy schools, most students who attend for a shorter period of time (one to three years) are looking for a solution to a typical school challenge—they are advanced and want to move more quickly through their lessons, they need to catch up, or they are dealing with social issues like bullying.
Another main reason families and students choose online learning is that they simply want a different school environment—and one that offers greater flexibility in terms of scheduling and pace of lessons.
Switching Back to Local School
The Keffer family of Marietta, Ohio, needed more schedule flexibility for athletics than was possible in their local neighborhood school. Sean Keffer, a talented quad-runner racer who competes all over the East Coast, had struggled to attend traditional school, practice, train, and travel to races without missing school and/or getting behind in schoolwork. The family enrolled him in a virtual school, where he thrived academically while still actively participating in quad-runner racing. Later, with less of a need for flexibility, he opted to switch back to his neighborhood high school.
Successful Transition to College
Rochelle “Rocki” Hudson found blended learning the best option to meet her needs. Before enrolling at Nexus Academy of Indianapolis, Hudson struggled in her traditional brick-and-mortar school—a chronic health issue caused her to have extended absences. Having dyslexia added to her learning challenges. With the flexibility of blended learning, Hudson attends classes on campus in the morning and then finishes up her lessons online before going to her part-time job. She will graduate this year and has been accepted to Indiana University on a scholarship, where she plans to get a bachelor’s degree in early education and sign language.
When it comes to a child’s education, one size doesn’t fit all—and what “fits” might even change from year to year and from child to child. Now, with additional options within reach, many families are embracing the school choices they have and are building a school experience that meets the unique needs of their students.
What educational choices has your family made to suit your child’s changing needs? Share your insights and ideas in the comments below.