(BPT) - Exploring learning options outside of traditional brick-and-mortar school can be uncharted territory for many parents. From wondering if the curriculum stacks up to worrying if there will be opportunities for their children to make friends, parents have questions about how virtual school works.
If you’re contemplating online school for your child, get the facts about the most common myths and misconceptions so you can make the best decision for your family.
Myth: Virtual school doesn’t have real teachers
Without seeing teachers face-to-face on a daily basis, some parents have initial concerns that their student won’t get the help they need.
Virtual school educators are real and they agree that teacher involvement is a necessity for students to thrive academically. In addition to being specially training for instruction in the online classroom, teachers at today’s online schools incorporate a variety of ways to stay involved in their students’ progress, such as real-time online classes, phone calls, message boards and one-on-one tutoring sessions.
In fact, 98 percent of respondents in a recent poll said Connections Academy schools — fully accredited online public schools for students in grades K–12 — met or exceeded expectations when it came to the teacher's involvement in their student's learning.
"Turns out, the teachers are the absolute best part of the program," says Suzan M. of Indiana. "They are dedicated, thoughtful people who return emails and phone calls in a very timely fashion. They genuinely care about my son's success and do whatever it takes to give him his best shot at learning."
Myth: There are no social opportunities in a virtual school environment
Most people think fondly back to their years at school remembering fun gatherings with friends, such as field trips and school events. Without an in-person classroom, parents might worry their students won’t have the same opportunities to interact and socialize, but that isn’t the case.
Educators today know that socialization skills are important and that when kids have fun, learning comes naturally. In addition to live online classroom sessions, online schools like Connections Academy go beyond the keyboard to offer in-person field trips and other school events to build a student community and strong socialization skills.
In addition to special events, online clubs and activities like the school newspaper or chess club allow virtual school students to connect and collaborate with fellow students across the country who share their interests.
Myth: The curriculum is not top quality
For most parents, finding a school that will prepare their child for college and/or success later in life is the most important aspect to consider when switching schools.
According to the poll, 97 percent of parents said their student's success was the same or better than at their previous school.
"When we were first considering [switching] our daughter from traditional school [to virtual school], we were very worried that the curriculum wouldn’t stack up to what we were used to," says Summer C. of Maine. "We now know that the curriculum not only compares to our local high school, but also surpasses it."
Myth: Personalized virtual education is expensive
Personalized learning options such as private school and tutoring sessions are often associated with a high price tag, but not online public schools. When first exploring virtual school options for their family, 70 percent of parents polled were surprised to learn that virtual public schools are tuition-free.
"When I tell people about virtual school, one of the first things they ask me is, 'How much does it cost?'" says Kristi A. of Kansas. "Considering the challenging curriculum and the diversity of the students and meeting their needs, 'free' isn't a bad price at all.”
Myth: You fly solo with online school
Parents often wonder what challenges or unexpected hurdles they may face when transitioning to online school, as well as the level of involvement needed to be their student's Learning Coach as they help oversee and support online learning at home. The degree to which a Learning Coach is involved in a student's learning process is a decision for each parent to make.
Despite these concerns, 96 percent of poll respondents said that Connections Academy met or exceeded their expectations for the level of support the school provided when they were first getting started. In fact, families have access to a three-part family support program designed to make the learning experience more engaging and rewarding for students and parents alike.
"The Learning Coach and student tutorials were awesome — we never felt alone in this journey," parent Alicia C. says. "Help is always an email or phone call away, whenever I felt stuck or didn’t understand what I needed to do next."
Quotations from families and data shared are from a February 2016 online poll of enrolled Learning Coaches in Connections Academy schools through the online market research panel Chalk Talk.