Is Virtual Learning a Substitute to Traditional Schools?
When speaking with parents, this is one of the most common questions we hear. In short, the answer is no, virtual learning is not a substitute to brick and mortar schools; virtual learning is an alternative. In some cases it can be a superior form of education – for the right student, if you choose the right school. There are certain advantages which virtual schools offer that traditional schools do not.
Cyber Charter Schools are Public Schools
Many parents are surprised to learn that most cyber charter schools are in fact public schools, which means they are tuition-free! Like all public schools, most virtual schools include real-time instruction delivered by certified teachers. Also like brick and mortar schools, attendance is tracked and reported to the state and mandatory health forms are collected. Students enrolled in cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania must also participate in state standardized testing, including the PSSA and Keystone assessment.
Cyber School Students Socialize Too
One of the perceived drawbacks to online education is a lack of opportunity for students to socialize with one another. However, most cyber schools offer plenty of opportunity, and in some cases, more opportunity for socialization than their brick and mortar counterparts.
Since cyber schools generally receive criticism for the potential of a lack of student involvement, many tend to go above and beyond by offering students a plethora of both common and unique clubs and activities such as Student Council, National Honor Society, Broadcasting Club, Journalism Club, and more. It’s important for both parents and students to know that if there is a sport or activity that your cyber school does not offer, your local school district is required to allow you to participate in their organizations. Therefore, if you wish to participate in your local public school’s musical or on your school’s baseball team, the district is required to allow you to do so. Many cyber schools also organize field trips multiple times each month in different regions to give families a chance to mingle at an educational location, like a museum or zoo.
The Structure of Cyber Charter Schools Gives Families Flexibility
The flexibility that cyber schools offer families is typically a big draw. Parents and students may have an opportunity to decide whether they’d like to work asynchronously or synchronously with the rest of the class.
Students who choose a synchronous schedule participate in a typical classroom environment, albeit online. Synchronous classes are conducted just as they are within traditional school buildings, but with a few additional advantages:
- Many students, regardless of age, find cyber schooling to be less stressful because they are more comfortable and relaxed working in their own homes.
- Being able to start the morning without rushing to dress and catch a school bus can make the entire day flow better.
- Students do not need to rush to lockers and carry armfuls of books across a school campus in order to make it to their next class before the bell rings.
- Students can calmly move from one classroom to another with the simple click of a button.
Like synchronous students, asynchronous students work with PA-certified teachers who will produce lesson plans or pacing guides with assignments and activities. However, asynchronous students are not required to report to class at any particular time. The flexibility this form of education offers gives families more freedom to organize their time, and many students feel more productive as a result.
Increased productivity is noted in students who take advantage of a flexible schedule to better accommodate extracurricular activities. For instance, quite a few students who are in Olympic training or who are playing semi-professional sports are enrolled in cyber charter schools so they can have the flexibility to complete their educational requirements without interfering with their outside activities.
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You are in Control of the School Environment
Many students benefit from the cyber environment because the typical distractions of a brick and mortar school, such as hallway encounters in between classes, interruptions from other students etc., can be kept to a minimum. While a math teacher is solving a math equation on the whiteboard, students do not have to endure another student tapping their pencil or whispering in the back of the room. Parents present during their child’s school day have the advantage of knowing exactly what their child is learning and are in an easy position to help determine their child’s day-to-day educational needs. Parents and teachers work as partners to help ensure student academic success.
Parent Involvement is Critical in the Cyber Model
Most cyber charter schools are designed with parents in mind. Online education asks that a parent or a designated adult act as a partner in their student’s education. This teacher/parent partnership is critical to the success of a virtually-educated student. Parents are responsible for ensuring their student is logged on and attending classes each day. They help monitor their student’s progress simply by asking questions and checking online activities.
Cyber school teachers post lesson plans and assignments, which makes it easy for parents to track their child’s progress. Gradebooks are also available 24/7 so that both students and their parents are always able to know what their current grades are for any given course. Both parents and students should also keep in mind that they are responsible for keeping the school equipment (laptops, printers, etc.) safe and for using it properly. Although most cyber schools offer a stipend to cover each family’s cost of internet service, it is the family’s responsibility to keep the service consistently running in their household to ensure that student learning is not interrupted.
Virtual education should not be looked at as a substitute for or last resort to a “real” school, but rather an option available to those who feel it would be the best fit. Education is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Not all students are able to learn and perform their best under the same circumstances. Students have a right to seek out the educational conditions that will help them become academic and social successes. In many cases, the best fit is a cyber charter school.
Do you want to learn more about cyber charter schools? We invite you to attend one of our upcoming online Open Houses! We are a PA cyber school serving students in grades k-12 across Pennsylvania.
This online open house will be much like an open house you would attend at any other school. You will learn about our curriculum and teaching methods, you will get a peek inside our virtual classroom and see how it works, you’ll get a hands-on demonstration of the technology we use, and of course you will get to meet other parents and staff here at PA Virtual Charter School.
To RSVP to our open house, click the button below.