How Cyber School Can Support Diverse Learning Styles
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to learning, so there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to educating our children. Every child learns differently, which requires varying forms of delivery to ensure each child receives an education that meets their individual needs. The way we choose to educate our children will have a lasting impact on them throughout their lifetime.
There are many adults who believe they hate learning or that they aren’t good at it based on experiences from their K-12 education. This is very sad and it just isn’t true, because humans are built to learn! Oftentimes, what this really means is that their experience as a student didn’t match their learning style, and they never discovered how to embrace their individual learning differences. This goes for students who struggle academically and also those who need an additional challenge to stay engaged. Each student is unique. Learning can absolutely be fun and enjoyable for everyone!
Learning Styles Theory
Learning styles are considered to be one factor contributing to a student’s success in their educational endeavors. Students flourish when they are taught in a style that matches their learning strengths. In addition, already confident students can be stretched to grow when taught in a style that doesn’t match their learning preferences. With this in mind, knowing your child’s individual learning style and ways to enhance their learning experience can improve their confidence and overall success.
According to psychological theorist Howard Gardner, humans have “multiple intelligences”—that is to say, we each have unique strengths and ways of approaching different tasks. When we approach this theory from an educational perspective, we are presented with various “learning styles” or ways that students approach the task of learning.
So, by now, you’re probably wondering—what are the different learning styles? According to the VARK learning styles model, learners can be broken into one of the following four main learning styles:
- Visual Learner – visual learners learn best when they can see or imagine what they’re learning. This is accomplished through viewing diagrams, charts, and visual aids to support what they’re learning. It’s helpful for a visual learner to post diagrams, charts, and photos around their learning environment to support learning and retention of information. It can also be helpful for students to supplement their classroom learning by watching educational video demonstrations of key topics from class.
Teachers at PA Virtual Charter School incorporate the use of visual aids into their online classrooms. For example, in Mrs. Goodwin’s Physics class students learn about diffusion and thermodynamics via the support of PhET simulation tools.
- Auditory Learner – auditory learners are active listeners. They learn best when information is presented through audio/video clips, lecture, and group discussion. It’s helpful for auditory learners to have ample opportunity to listen to what they’re learning, whether this is listening to the teacher, watching supplemental videos, or apps to support the classroom instruction.
For example, in Mr. Davis’ history class students study the Bill of Rights and debate on how they are interpreted by major political parties and people in the 21st century versus when they were drafted. In a PA Virtual online classroom, students can debate using tools in Blackboard Collaborate such as live text chat, the classroom microphone, and the whiteboard.
- Read/Write Learners – read/write learners understand better through reading visual text, writing, or taking notes. A read/write learner can be supported by encouraging them to take notes during their classes, to read and highlight key facts, or to outline information to help them study later.
Students who are self-motivated and learn best through reading or viewing materials on their own will find the asynchronous format at PA Virtual Charter School preferential since they can learn at their own pace.
- Kinesthetic Learner – kinesthetic learners learn by doing. They like to get actively involved in projects and participate in experiential learning. They may not enjoy listening in a classroom or watching presentations because they want to be involved in the process. The virtual school environment can be a great opportunity for kinesthetic learners to actively participate in their education. A great way to support kinesthetic learners is the use of interactive websites and apps that get students involved in hands-on activities or games that allow them to gain a deeper understanding of what they’re learning.
At PA Virtual Charter School, students have the option of both synchronous and asynchronous class formats. This provides them with more flexibility during the day to participate in physical activities and take breaks from long periods of sitting. Additionally, in many classes, students have the opportunity to participate in hands-on lab activities, which encourage them to be active participants in their education.
Importance of the Learning Environment for Each Student
Determining your child’s learning style is an important step in helping them to love the learning process and reach new heights in their education! While knowing your child’s preferred learning style is important for understanding what strategies and learning experiences will be best for them, it’s also important to think about tailoring their learning environment to meet that preferred learning style.
While attending an online school, you can have an active role in determining the best learning environment for your child. It’s recommended that you set up a dedicated space within your home that is for schooling—similar to a home office, but it doesn’t have to be a separate room. Many students complete their schoolwork at a dedicated space in the dining room or other common area of the house. While setting up this space, it’s important to consider your child’s individual learning style. You can use this to your advantage to ensure your child is afforded all the necessary support resources to effectively learn. For example, if you child is a visual learner, you could post charts or diagrams related to their classes in their workspace for studying.
At PA Virtual Charter School, students have the ability to schedule classes both synchronously (in a live online classroom) or asynchronously (self-directed). This flexibility provides students with a sense of control over their learning and daily schedule—they can choose a synchronous format for some classes and an asynchronous format for others. While asynchronous classes are more self-directed, they are still taught by a PA-certified teacher that your student can reach out to with questions or for extra help. The asynchronous class format is a great option for students who feel more self-motivated in some subjects as opposed to others.
What’s the Best Fit for Your Student?
Attending an online school allows you to work with your child to design a learning environment that meets their individual educational needs. You know your child better than anyone else. You can utilize your insight and understanding of their needs to design a workspace in your home that meets those needs. Of course, the cyber school model isn’t for everyone—just as the traditional classroom isn’t for everyone. You may find that the traditional classroom is the best fit for your child’s learning needs. At the end of the day, the most important factor in choosing the best educational environment for your child is just that---you’re choosing the best educational model to meet your child’s unique needs.
If you find the brick and mortar school isn’t the best fit for your child, attending an online school will allow you to create a learning environment specific to your child’s individual learning needs. PA Virtual Charter School works with families to help them meet each child’s needs. Each student has a PA-certified School Counselor to help them design an academic plan, discuss post-secondary plans, and support social/emotional development. Whether a student needs additional support or more of a challenge, PA Virtual Charter School strives to ensure every student reaches their academic potential.
Interested in learning more about virtual charter schools? We invite you to check out The Ultimate Guide to Attending a Cyber Charter School in PA. This guide will answer your questions and paint a clearer picture about what a cyber charter school experience would look like for your child.
About the Author: Crystal Widmann is a PA Virtual Guidance Counselor for students in grades 9-12.