By: Felicia Foleno on August 18th, 2020
What to Expect When Enrolling Your Child in a Cyber School
Cyber schooling is proving to become a more popular and convenient option for families in the 21st century. Virtual education allows students to learn from the comfort and privacy of their own home. What does this mean for the parents/guardians of the students? Enrolling in a cyber charter school can be a huge transition from a traditional brick and mortar school, not only for the student but also for the parents/guardians. So what exactly should you expect when you enroll your child in a cyber charter school? In today's post, we'll explain some things you can expect when enrolling your child in a cyber school.
Utilization of Technology
One of the main aspects of a cyber charter school is the utilization of technology. Now more than ever more schools are using cyber technology to educate students. As the use of technology continues to grow and change, it can feel intimidating. Although you will need to feel comfortable using technology, you and your student do not need to be technology experts to learn how to navigate the cyber learning environment.
Students will attend virtual, live classes each day on their laptop using tools such as a webcam, microphone, chat box and digital learning platforms. Therefore, parents will need to be available during the school day to support their students and provide guidance as needed. Parents should also frequently check their parent email account for school communications from teachers and principals. Often cyber schools have social media accounts such as Facebook that parents can use to increase involvement in the virtual school community.
At PA Virtual Charter School, every newly enrolled family will participate in a two-week orientation program that helps students and parents transition to the online learning model. The parents and students will be assigned an Orientation Teacher who will continue to provide support to the families for the remainder of the school year. In this two-week orientation, both students and parents will actively participate. They will use the school-provided laptop to learn about the online systems used at PA Virtual. They will learn about the organizational structure and academic programs. This orientation will help with the transition to the cyber model.
With cyber schools using technology for learning, there can sometimes be glitches or system errors due to things that are out of our control, for example, power outages. These glitches can cause the system to go down for some time. These disruptions aren’t frequent but they are possible, so it’s something to be aware of and to consider when looking into a cyber school. Cyber schools are equipped with technology teams who are available to provide support and work diligently to ensure that everything flows smoothly for students and parents.
A lot goes into making sure cyber schools equip families with the resources needed to participate in online schooling. If you have all of the necessary tools in place, distance learning won’t have to be a challenge. The teachers are given an array of resources and web-based learning tools that equip them with what is needed to provide students with a great education.
Students at PA Virtual will be provided with curricular materials, which include laptops, a printer/scanner, books and other supplies that are at no cost to the family. Some of the supplies include, but are not limited to, recorders and tambourines for music and clay, rocks, and test tubes for science. If you have a student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan that need related services, cyber schools will provide those services to your child as well. Students in special education will also receive resources and tools if needed to accommodate and support their IEPs and goals. This might include assistive technology devices.
The use of your home internet is the main source of access for online learning. Therefore, cyber charters provide an internet stipend or reimbursement to help enrolled families with offsetting internet costs. Each cyber charter school has different policies so be sure to check with the particular school you’re researching to find out the specific amount offered for internet. Cyber schools also offer extra assistance such as online office hours for teachers, tutoring for students and academic support teachers.
Parent Involvement as a Learning Coach
In the cyber school setting, the parent/guardian often plays the role as the Learning Coach. The Learning Coach is in the home during the school day to assist the student with completing their daily tasks. This role doesn’t necessarily have to be filled by the parent, but it will need to be a responsible adult that is at home and available to help the student during school hours. The Learning Coach is responsible for making sure the student is staying on track with assignments and coursework throughout the school year. They will also need to be available to communicate with teachers as well as keeping track of their parent email account. As students get older and learn to work more independently, the Learning Coach will begin to play less of a hands-on role.
The role of the Learning Coach is a big time commitment. The Learning Coach will serve as the “eyes and ears” of the school, monitoring their student’s activity and keeping them on track. If you are feeling overwhelmed about this role as a parent, most cyber schools offer support services. PA Virtual has a Parent Education & Engagement Department, which provides partnerships between the parents and PA Virtual Charter School. They provide learning sessions, mentoring and other resources that help parents navigate their roles as Learning Coaches.
Flexibility in Schedule
Sometimes both parents and students need flexibility during the school day. Students might be active in sports, drama/theater, or an internship. Some students might need flexibility to attend medical appointments. At many cyber charter schools, flexibility in class scheduling is an option to help accommodate student needs. At PA Virtual, both synchronous and asynchronous classes are offered to students at all grade levels. Students taking asynchronous classes don’t attend a live class at a scheduled time, but they do complete assignments through email responses, discussion boards and collaborative documents. The asynchronous path offers students the opportunity to work at their own pace and complete lessons and assignments on a customized schedule. At PA Virtual, all students are asynchronous on Fridays, which allows students to attend outings after they have completed their schoolwork for the day.
Online education allows more flexibility for students and parents because they are working from the comfort of their own home. Cyber school students no longer have to wake up early, find something to wear and wait for a bus or commute to school each day. There is more time built into student schedules so they have time for other activities and commitments outside of school. In cyber school students do not have to worry about cancellations and interruptions due to inclement weather or other crises that might arise causing unexpected school closures. Online learning will always be available and easy for students to access.
Multi-Purpose Rooms in Home
Committing to cyber education for your student also means committing to a place in the home where your student can work each day without distractions and interruptions. Students will need a dedicated workspace in the home where they can attend school each day. While learning can happen anywhere, it is important to give your child a quiet place to attend school with all materials and resources set up and ready to be accessed each day.
Cyber students have several different places in the home that become their permanent school. Some students work in the dining room, living room, or even the kitchen. The location depends on what is best for you and your student. Be mindful that this should be an organized space for your student. You can try out different areas of your home to see what works best.
While attending school at home, it is still a good idea for your child to have a good daily routine. Ensuring they have a tidy and organized learning environment will help to keep routine and consistency in learning. Also, make sure your student is comfortable where they are learning. Students should not be slouched over on the couch using their computer. A table or desk will be the perfect setup for successful online learning.
Cyber education has proven to be a successful and great alternative to brick and mortar schooling for many students. There might be some expectations you have about cyber schools and other things you might not have considered. It’s really important to research cyber schooling to determine if it will be the best fit for your family. You can reach out to current students and parents who are attending to give you an idea of what to expect. PA Virtual has a Facebook page that includes members of the school community. This would be a great place to start reaching out to families to learn from and possibly build relationships with. If you’re looking for more information about cyber schools, check out our Ultimate Guide to Attending a Cyber School in PA.