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Virtual School Success Factors

In a recent article titled “Tutors and Virtual Schools: How Can They Help?” (November 2, 2012) I summarized several ways tutors can help students improve their chances for virtual school success. As a former virtual – hybrid schoolteacher where students attended online classes three days a week and received face – to – face instruction from teachers the other two days, I noted several important factors that led to successful virtual school transitions. This article covers four of these areas to help parents make the virtual school decision.

1. Adult supervision. Adult supervision is key to virtual student success! Typically, a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult, signs a document stating they will serve as the student’s “learning coach” (or similar label). Learning coaches are responsible for making sure students attend online classes, complete daily assignments, turns in their completed work on time, and follows any written curriculum or pacing guides. Virtual students need supervision from parents and/ or learning coaches while completing all schoolwork.

Parents should consider this time commitment when deciding whether to enroll their child in a virtual school. Student’s potential for success decreases dramatically if middle and/ or high school aged children are home unsupervised during the school day. Some parents mistakenly believe they can leave older children alone during the day while they work. In nearly all cases, students procrastinate their daily schoolwork and fall behind quickly. Before enrolling your child in a virtual school, make sure that you (or other trusted adult) can be present throughout the day. This will ensure your child has the best possible chance for success.

2. Extracurricular activities. Virtual schools provide plenty of opportunity for students and their families to meet and socialize. Some schools have athletic teams, academic clubs, and other extracurricular activities. Families should investigate these opportunities and encourage participation in one or more. This will ensure regular peer contact and encourage healthy social relationships.

When considering a virtual school, ask for a list of school - sponsored activities, clubs, and field trips. Review the list with your child and ask that they try one or more of them. Also, look for family activities and make plans to attend. These are great opportunities for parents to meet, network, and pass along tips for helping their child in certain subjects.

3. Child’s development level. Consider your child’s development and maturity levels. Parents know their children best. Mature children who accept responsibility easily and have no trouble following through with homework and chores easily adjust to virtual learning environments. On the other hand, children who struggle with anxiety issues or who have difficulty seeing tasks through without repeated parental intervention may have a longer adjustment period. In this case, parents should talk with their child about the upcoming transfer and review their own expectations as well as school policies to ensure a successful transition.

4. Parent’s technological knowledge. Today’s students are technologically savvy – especially middle and high school students. Many pre – teens and teenagers have multiple electronic devices such as smart phones, mp3 players, and laptop computers. Social networks like Facebook are used to pass along technology tips for both pro and anti – social purposes. Most students will have no problem adjusting to new educational and communication software virtual schools require. In fact, this may entice students to transfer to a virtual school.

Parents should consider their own technological knowledge to gauge their ability to supervise virtual students. For example, do you know how to find your child’s search history on your internet browser (i.e. Google Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer, to name a few)? Do you know how to use parental security software installed on your computer and how to prevent tech-savvy students from bypassing it? Do you know which keyboard shortcut keys to use to view all open windows on your computer? (Students sometimes use these shortcuts to quickly hide windows they’re using to browse the internet or watch YouTube videos instead of doing schoolwork.) If you need technology assistance or training, virtual school administrators and teachers are more than happy to help. Allow yourself enough time to fill any technology-related knowledge gaps you have before transferring your child.

A growing number of virtual school options exist in the U. S. Parents considering virtual school enrollment for their child should be mindful of several things to ensure student’s academic success. Parents (or adult learning coaches) must supervise students and directly assist them throughout the school day. This helps ensure students get the help they need to learn all academic content included in the school’s curriculum. Clubs, sports, academic teams, and field trips provide opportunities for important peer interaction and parent networking. Parents can help their children make a successful transition to virtual schools by talking with them ahead of time to reduce anxiety and prepare them to take more responsibility for their schoolwork. Virtual school administrators and teachers are great resources for parents who would benefit from technology training and assistance.

I hope you found this article helpful. Please take a minute to leave a comment, Like this post on Facebook, or Tweet the post via Twitter using the buttons on the right side of my blog page. If you have questions about whether a tutor is right for you, or if you would like advice for your unique situation, feel free to E-mail me using the “E-mail Jeff S.” button on my WyzAnt tutor home page.