Virtual School, Another Public School Option?

What is a Virtual School?
Is virtual school another public school option or another type of schooling all together? In most cases when one talks about a virtual school or online schooling they are talking about a type of public schooling that takes place in a non-traditional environment, with most of it being online. A virtual school may also be referred to as a cyberschool. Not all online classes are accredited and may not lead to a degree, diploma, or anytime of viable certificate that will help further one’s job prospects. Virtual schools as a whole are considered part of the public schools systems and are accredited and designed to provide students with a degree, diploma, or other type of certificate proving they have received an accredited education that is as valuable and as “official” as any other public school education.

With the Internet technology that is now available, a virtual classroom is not only possible, but in fact very efficient. Students that can’t attend a regular public school because of health issues, traveling, or for any other reason, can get personalized instruction, listen to lectures, have all their homework evaluated and graded by a professional teacher, all without stepping foot inside an actual public school building. For younger students, most virtual schools with require that a parent/guardian, or other responsible adult is directly involved in making sure the student is getting the assignments, completely and submitting them in a timely matter, and doing the work on his/her own. Class sizes range greatly, anywhere from 25 to 200 students in each section.  Students will do a lot of work on their own but may also have opportunities to work in groups via a wide range of online platforms.

What is the cost of attending a Virtual School?

Most virtual schools are free or have minimal material fees involved, because they are part of the public school system. This makes them a viable option for many families that are unhappy with the public school environment but can’t afford to send their child(ren) to a private school or charter school because of tuition, materials, uniform costs etc. There are both advantages and disadvantages to virtual schooling and it will be an individual decision on whether or not cyberschooling will work for you. One of the biggest disadvantages is that it may be hard to stay focused. When a student is left to his own, especially at home or on the road where there tend to be a lot of other distractions around, this can be a problem. Other complaints are that the student does not get adequate socialization, but like homeschooling there are many other opportunities for socializing outside the traditional school setting.

Selecting a Virtual School 

Finding a reputable online school can be difficult but thorough research will help. Verify the schools accreditation, history, reputation, teacher and admin qualifications before you apply. Compare costs, curriculum, and expectations before making a decision. Make sure the student has the chance to talk with the teacher beforehand to make sure they are a good fit and have the same goals and expectations. The more you know before hand the better success you will have. Talk to the school district or state school board to find out more about the virtual school and the experience that others have had.  If you are looking at a particular program like the Connections Academy you can look for reviews from parents or students that have been involved in the program previously to find out the pros and cons.

Virtual school may not be the best for everyone, some people need the motivation of a classroom and peers, others do better when they are not worried about keeping up with the rest of the class or being compared to other students or being put on the spot when they may not know the correct answer. There are many situations in which a virtual school could be an excellent option, weigh the pros and cons and reevaluate often to make sure the student is getting the education he/she needs and desires.