Does Cyber Learning Prepare Students for College? [Alumni Perspective]
After attending PA Virtual from kindergarten through senior year, I transitioned to a brick and mortar college. While I did experience an initial learning curve, I discovered that I was well-prepared to succeed in a different educational environment. All the skills that have contributed to my current success came from my cyber charter school education. Today, I want to tell you about four skills which are unique to online education that geared me and my classmates towards success in college.
A standard college class meets for three hours during the week, but a substantial portion of learning occurs outside of the classroom. Students are expected to read textbooks, create studying mechanisms, complete assignments, work in small groups on projects, and write papers throughout the semester.
While at PA Virtual, especially during my high school years, I was encouraged in my classes to learn on my own. My teachers, through office hours, email, and other tools, were always there to support me whenever I needed. However, the cyber model helped foster independence and ownership of my learning.
Similarly, I have had to take ownership of my learning in college. Professors have different teaching styles, and the basic act of learning the material is ultimately my responsibility as a student. They offer office hours and can be reached by email, but I am expected to use available resources to figure a lot of things out on my own.
Fellow PA Virtual graduate Micah Young has shared a similar experience.
“Cyber schooling prepared me for college by allowing me to be an independent learner in a way a traditional school could not,” he said. “I was able to complete assignments at my own pace throughout the week, and I learned to budget my time and value efficiency in my work.”
Micah Young, PA Virtual Class of 2017 Graduate
Despite being in a brick and mortar setting, college has a significant number of online learning platforms and electronic submissions. Through my time at PA Virtual, I developed the ability to navigate these platforms.
As a former cyber charter student, I have a developed knowledge of how online platforms work. Finding the correct tabs and checking the right boxes often frustrates my classmates, but I have transferred years of Blackboard navigation to my college’s online platform. This decreases my stress levels, the time I spend navigating online portals, and the number of simple mistakes I make.
Cyber charter school students not only have a better understanding of educational websites, but they also have a more complete grasp of computer programs. PA Virtual educated me with Microsoft programs, and those same programs are used at my college. Because I used these programs daily at PA Virtual, I know details about formatting and designing that many of my classmates are just learning about now. Years of working with a computer has led to less stress and confusion in my college experience.
Every college student’s schedule looks a little different. It could be made up of classes, homework, studying, meals, gym time, sporting events, work, student-teaching, or other responsibilities. To be successful in college, students must be able to manage their time effectively. Without time management, you might miss turning in a simple assignment, or find yourself staying up late often to finish your school work.
PA Virtual students learn how to manage their time effectively through the cyber charter environment. For myself in middle and high school, I worked especially hard during the week to ensure a responsibility-free weekend. I understood that working now meant having fun later, and that crucial skill transferred with me to college.
PA Virtual alumnus Patrick Barry, also from the class of 2017, has found this to be true, as well.
“During my time at PA Virtual, I took an English AP course to provide me with insight regarding what a college course would be like,” he said. “The amount of assignments I received and the expectations regarding the quality of my writing was like nothing else I had experienced in high school. Additionally, when I later attended Immaculata University, juggling an average of six classes per semester taught me that it is easy to become confused and lose track of assignments amid the chaos. However, learning the essential skill of organizing my assignments and completing them in order of when they are due has prevented me from ever turning a project in late.”
Being able to determine an order for completing responsibilities can make a big difference in time management. After years of practice at time management and prioritization, PA Virtual students have an understanding on how to best accomplish their responsibilities.
PA Virtual graduate Maggie Shive said, “Being a student in PA Virtual taught me a lot of vital skills that I've taken into my college experience, but one of the biggest ones is knowing how to advocate for myself. When I was in high school, if I was struggling with a particular subject or lesson, I had to be proactive and seek out my teachers to ask them for help either via email or by visiting their office hours. The same goes for college, so I'm thankful for the practice when I was younger!”
Maggie Shive, PA Virtual Class of 2016 Graduate
The beauty of the cyber charter school model is how students can become both independent learners and self-advocates for their education. The flexibility offered in this model gives students the freedom to learn at their own pace and to simply try. At the same time, that flexibility helps students develop the courage to advocate for themselves and their education.
I am incredibly grateful to PA Virtual for setting up myself and countless other alumni for post-graduation success. It can seem difficult to connect the dots between cyber charter school and brick and mortar college. However, I hope the personal testimonies of myself and other alumni illustrates some of the benefits of this educational model. Being a cyber charter school student does not mean sacrificing success in college. In fact, it can give you the skills and knowledge to succeed.
For more information on how cyber schools students prepare for college, check out our blog post: "Do Cyber Students Go to College?"
Interested in learning more about how cyber school works? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Attending a Cyber Charter School. This guide shows examples of curriculum, includes an extensive comparison of all cyber charter schools in PA, and will help you decide whether a cyber model might be a good fit for you and your family.
Special thanks to Micah Young (2017), Patrick Barry (2017), and Maggie Shive (2016) for sharing their PA Virtual experience.
About the Author: Alexis Dingeldein attended PA Virtual for all of grade school and graduated in 2017. During her time at PA Virtual, she wrote and self-published six novels. She is currently at Geneva College studying business and writing.