Online schooling is not limited to just one thing. There are many ways of delivering instructional material online. One of the important distinctions to make is synchronous versus asynchronous instruction. Synchronous means “a the same time.” It can take many different forms, but it means that the teacher and the student are online at the same time interacting with each other in real time, if not face-to-face.Asynchronous means “not at the same time.” It, too, can take many different forms, but it means that the teacher and the student are not online or interacting with each other in real time.
Synchronous Online Homeschooling
There are several possible methods of synchronous online interaction. Instant messaging is one. Videochatting and audiochatting are others. There are also chat rooms, and entire software suites through which people can meet online, share documents, watch the same video, etc.
In all of these cases, there is the possibility for real interaction. Students can ask questions of their teacher as they follow along with whatever kind of material is presented, so that they can make sure they understand the lessons as they unfold. Students can also hear each other’s questions gaining insight into alternative points of view and learning from each others thoughts and approaches. The student’s world is enlarged through this kind of interaction.
There are a number of asynchronous types of interaction that could be included in homeschooling. One is email. In some programs, a student completes work and emails it to an instructor who corrects it and emails it back. Posting on a forum with other students and/or the teacher is another approach. This is another kind of strictly verbal interaction that different people participate in at different times and without direct contact.
Another possibility is streaming video. This is recorded video of either a teacher making a presentation, doing a lab or other demonstration, etc. or a recorded video of a teacher instructing a class at which the student is not present. Nevertheless, in the second case, the student may be party to other students reactions and responses to the teaching. This is similar to much of what is contained on many homeschooling DVDs, but simply accessed in a different way.
But some types of online material don’t have a person on the other side. Accessing learning games is another type of online learning, that is interactive, but without a personal aspect. Less interactive are activities in which the viewer simply chooses what to look at or listen to, but without further interactive elements, as in choosing and looking through a particular set of items on display in a museum’s online display.
Other types of online instruction can take place with online worksheets, articles, books, or other material that you print from the Internet. Alternatively in some cases the worksheets may be filled in online and graded automatically.
For any online instruction, it is important to understand the support offered. If you have a book in your hand, you have a lot of control over the teaching and learning situation. If you are, first of all, depending on the Internet functioning and second of all, depending on, for example, streaming video from the organization you are working with, a great deal of the instructional situation is out of your control.
First you need to know the way(s) in which support is offered. Is it by phone? Through live chat on the Internet? By email? Second, it’s important to know during what hours support is available. Is it a 24/7 support system? This is important because one of the facts of all asynchronous online instruction is that it can take place at any time, but it’s not going to be effective for your and your child unless you can get relatively immediate support if something goes wrong.